Monday, 28 July 2014

THE BIG DEBATE: STANDING OUT OR BLENDING IN?

We asked readers whether they would rather stand out from the crowd or blend in - and why. We had so many interesting responses we thought it'd make a cool debate! Read on… and then have YOUR say!

Blue says:
Who on earth would argue for blending in? Rather than risk unhappiness whilst protecting yourself from bullies by slowly losing your identity, why don't we… I don't know, stop acting like bullying is totally normal and OK? Stop pretending that the victim should change and not the bully? Some people are actually happy dissolving into the background and some like standing out - and if that's a decision they have made themselves, and they're happy, great. We should be true to who we are…

Sam says:
Well… blending in is what I like. I have so many insecurities with my body and who I am… like lots of teenagers, I suppose! I sometimes feel like people judge me before they know who I am and what I'm like. I am probably one of the quietest girls you'll ever meet, but I do have my unique moments when I'm with my friends (and only with my friends!). If I don't know you or have only just met you, I will be so quiet and I might try to get away from you so I can be by myself. My room is my space, where I can be myself and be BY myself. I hate being the centre of attention or to stand out even the tiniest bit, as I worry that someone might make a joke about my insecurities, or tease me.

Heather says:
I definitely understand your point of view, Sam - I know what it's like to be judged. It's fine to be quiet - there is no ideal personality and often people who choose to stand out can be quite shy as well. That sounds funny, but it's true. Some people who choose to stand out from the crowd do so because they have been teased or bullied and are tired of trying to blend into the background and go un-noticed. We would never judge you as we aren't into stereotypes or picky about who does what. It's a free world! If fitting in is what makes you happy, that's fine - but I have lots of quiet friends who 'stand out' in their own unique ways! I would say that if anyone judges or teases you, do tell someone as it may help to get things in the open.

Sam says:
I understand your view as well, Heather - people have their own reasons for wanting to stand out or fit in. Just because someone is teased doesn't mean they have to suddenly hide away - or stand out - or do anything to change their personality. It's about doing what feels right for you. Many people stay silent about being teased, but I've spoken out about the person who targets me many times, and nothing changes. I have learnt to ignore it and I think I am the better person really for not rising to the bait and replying with something offensive.

Chloe says:
I've been shy most of my life. They say the shy people are the smart people with great ideas and confident people are too confident for their own good, but I don't think it's that simple. Being shy can be a life choice - we are all too scared to say the wrong thing and draw attention to ourselves, so we choose to hide away in the crowd. In life we all play parts; there's the person you are with your friends, the person you are with your family, the person you are with strangers and the person you are when alone. All of these people are part of us! Right now, in my personality, the shy part seems to be most noticeable, but I don't plan to leave it that way. At some point we are all going to have to pull through and be brave; every shy person has a lion inside fighting to get out!

Heather says:
I suppose you could say these things are a life choice, Chloe, because we all have free choice, but some of us just naturally fit one personality type or another. I've been standing out from the crowd from a very young age, and it can mean you are actually targeted for being different. At one point I didn't want to go to school because the bullying was so bad, but it never occurred to me to try to disappear from the radar. I won't change the way I am for others because that's not the way I do things… I just take each day as it comes.

Verity says:
I totally know what you're saying, Chloe - but I can empathise with Heather, too! I'm a bit of an in-between girl myself… it depends who I'm with. Like Sam, if I'm with my friends and I can trust the people around me, I can be talkative and just be myself, but in class, I don't say much at all and keep to myself. People act differently according to the circumstances. If I trust people I am very open, but if not I am like a closed book  - until the person who wants to open that book makes the effort to get to know me. People say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and that's true - you don't know someone until you really KNOW them, and once you do, those first impressions, the stereotype, the cover of the book if you like - that's thrown away, and the person beneath can be a different person altogether. So if a person is really shy, get to know them… the chances are they're hiding their real self away until they know and trust you more.

Blue says:
Verity (cool name!) I totally agree that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Because of my hair, make up and clothes people expect me to be loud and outgoing, but I'm actually an introvert who's happier curled up with a book and a cat than going out, and I'm only really comfortable with close friends. I don't feel I should have to change my style to fit the shy, retiring stereotype! I may act like a librarian, but if I want to look like a hellraiser, there should be nothing stopping me. Fitting in isn't only for introverts and standing out isn't only for extroverts. we should all wear what we are comfortable in, even if it's not expected for our personality type. I have social anxiety and don't like going out much, but my big army jacket feels like a shield between me and the rest of the world, and that thought calms me down a bit. Personality-wise, I may disappear into the background, but due to my distinctive look, I still have a very strong sense of identity… and that's very important for my self-confidence!

Cathy says:
I love that even though I picked five readers with different personality types, they all found common ground very quickly… and whether they like to fit in or stand out, they argued strongly for everyone's right to do what feels right for THEM. What do YOU think? Are you a stand-out person or a blend-into-the-background girl? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

THE BIG CC SUMMER QUIZ!!!

How much do YOU know about Cathy Cassidy books? Test your knowledge of the books and characters with our fun quiz! See how many you know without looking up the answers… then check the books to find the ones you didn't know!

1/ What is the name of the bully in ANGEL CAKE?
2/ In which two CC books does Mouse appear - and what age is he in each one?
3/ Which beach do the characters visit with a picnic in the book DIZZY?
4/ What is the name of Indie's class teacher in INDIGO BLUE?
5/ What are the names of the three kittens Hannah and Joey find in DRIFTWOOD?
6/ In SCARLETT, what is the name of Kian's black horse?
7/ What instrument does Sam Taylor play in the book GINGERSNAPS?
8/ What is the name of the boy Jess and Kady fall out over in LOVE, PEACE & CHOCOLATE?
9/ Which non-fictional CC book was inspired by Cathy's twelve year stint as agony aunt for SHOUT magazine?
10/ How old is Cat in the book LUCKY STAR?
11/ Where in Britain is the fictional village of Kitnor in the series THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS?
12/ What school dinner meal does mean girl Kirsty McRae end up wearing at the end of chapter one in CHERRY CRUSH?
13/ What is the name of the 'ghost girl' who features in Skye's dreams in MARSHMALLOW SKYE?
14/ What is the name of Summer's boyfriend at the start of SUMMER'S DREAM?
15/ What is the name of Lawrie's little sister in COCO CARAMEL?
16/ What is name of the fictional social networking site in the book SWEET HONEY?
17/ Which sister stirs up trouble for Shay Fletcher in the book BITTERSWEET?
18/ What is the occasion for the trip to London in the e-book CHOCOLATES & FLOWERS?
19/ What is the name of the village cafe where Summer and Jodie meet at Christmas in the e-book HOPES & DREAMS?
20/ MOON & STARS, a CHOCOLATE BOX-lined e-book out in September 2014, will be told from the viewpoint of a boy character whose mum works for a film company. Who?
21/ What kind of team is Carter training for in the book SUNDAE GIRL?
22/ What is Daizy's secret phobia in SHINE ON DAIZY STAR?
23/ What is the name of Daizy's band in DAIZY STAR & THE PINK GUITAR?
24/ What kind of animal ruins Daizy's debut as a pre-teen supermodel in STRIKE A POSE, DAIZY STAR?
25/ Which city does Daizy's class visit in the book DAIZY STAR OOH LA LA?

Cathy says:
OK… count up your scores… and check below to see how knowledgeable you are!
1-5: Perhaps you're just starting out with the books, or maybe you're a little bit forgetful… get along to your library and check out what you're missing!
6-10: You're definitely a fan… but there are a few gaps in your knowledge. Time to put that right!
11-15: Pretty good… you're an expert on the books you HAVE read, but there are plenty more to discover… make a list of which books you haven't read and see if you can up that score next time!
16-20: I'm very impressed… you've read a lot of the books and remember the plots and characters as if they're real. Keep on being awesome!
21-25: Wow… you are a real CC SUPERFAN! You probably know as much as I do… or possibly more! 

COMMENT BELOW to tell me how you did… or to ask any tricky questions that had you stumped!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

MY RELIGION: I'M A BUDDHIST...

A new series looking at different religions and belief systems… reader Laura talks about what it's like to be Buddhist!

Laura says:
I have been a Buddhist for two years - ever since I found out about the religion! I wanted to follow because I like the ethics of no killing any creature; and as I found out more and more about the religion, I realised it was perfect for me. I wasn't born into a Buddhist family, as you may have guessed, but my mum and dad have been really good about me converting. They even put 'Buddhist' down as my religion on my school papers! My friends have also been really supportive - one of them actually bought me the two little Buddhas on either side of my shrine.

I follow the teachings to the best of my ability, but I am not super-religious! I do lie sometimes - doesn't everyone? - but I also respect my religion very much. I can't go to a temple to pray as there are none close to where I live, but I do try to celebrate most of the festivals and events. On the festival of Wesak, I set off some paper lanterns from a hill nearby, which was amazing - well, actually, I did it the night after Wesak, as it was raining on the actual date! Releasing the lanterns symbolised letting go of our sins and spreading love around the world. It started raining again after a while, and I did wonder whether some of our local farmers were confused at the sight of those lanterns!

I have a shrine to the Buddha with three small Buddha statues, some flowers, some elephant statues and a burnt candle. I'm not allowed to light candles or joss sticks in my room (probably for the best as my shrine is right above my bed and my very flammable bedsheets!) so I light a candle downstairs, blow it out and bring it up. It's lit in spirit! Every night I set aside fifteen minutes to do some quiet thinking, my way of meditating. I don't believe in pushing all thoughts out of my head - our thoughts make us who we are - so I think positive thoughts instead. It really helps me to feel happier and gets my life into perspective!
Cathy says:
Wow… I love Laura's determination to follow Buddhism to the best of her ability… and it really does seem to be giving her a kind of peace and perspective in her life! Do YOU follow a particular religion? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts on Laura's choice or to tell us about your own beliefs! 
(Note on the series: you may have very different views, but PLEASE respect the beliefs of others in your comments!)

Friday, 25 July 2014

SAMIKSHA: I LIVE IN INDIA

Thirteen year old Samiksha lives in Chennai, a big city in India... she tells us about life there...

Samiksha says:
I live in an independent house at the heart of Chennai; it has three bedrooms and a terrace where I can play. There are many trees in the area so we get lots of fresh air and see all kinds of birds! I'm lucky enough to go to one of the best schools in the city. It's co-educational which means boys and girls study together, and we have smart, summery uniforms. The climate here is hot and humid throughout the year, so we need to stay cool! My school can be strict when it needs to be, but the rest of the time the teachers are really friendly, and we have a huge playground and an indoor meeting area too. My favourite subject is English - I enjoy writing essays and short stories! We have a chauffeur, who takes me to and from school.

The staple diet of India is rice, gravy, dhal, pickles and roti; dhal is a dish made from lentils cooked to a soft, soupy or porridge-like consistency, and roti is a kind of flatbread. Indian food can be spicy and tangy but not all types are. There are many vegetarian dishes as some Indians do not eat meat, but many do. We do have many international cuisines here too - American, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and many more. We enjoy western food just as much! My favourite food is roti with channa gravy, which is made from chickpeas.

We have western clothes and in the city these are worn routinely, but we also wear traditional Indian clothes, mostly for functions or celebrations. The picture is of me wearing a traditional Indian 'ghaghara'. It is made of flowy georgette fabric with pink satin roses and I absolutely love it! I worse it to a wedding - I always feel beautiful and happy wearing it! India has a very rich heritage and culture. We are a democratic country and people of many different religions live here. I am a Hindu; the religion involves many rituals and festivals and we have some really interesting religious stories such as the 'Mahabaratha' and the 'Ramayana'. Some of the important festivals of the Hindu religion are Diwali, the festival of lights, and Holi, the festival of colours.


In India we have both joint and nuclear families, and family does play a very important role in Indian culture. I think in the near future more and more people will see the importance of having a joint or extended family and work towards this. India is a very beautiful country and in places it is very developed and sophisticated. We have many beautiful and historical monuments such as the Taj mahal in Delhi and Agra in North India. The only downside is that we have a really large population. India is a mixed economy so poverty exists side by side with wealth. Mostly, though, there are many average income households!

I love singing and one day I'd like to be an internationally known singer - it's my ultimate dream! For me, it is a very proud feeling to be born an Indian - it is a great place to live. I love my country very much!

Cathy says:
I've loved hearing Samiksha's account of living in Chennai... awesome! It has made me more determined than ever to visit India one day. COMMENT BELOW to share your views, or, if you're a reader outside the UK yourself, let me know if you'd like to write about YOUR country!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

HANNAH: I WANT TO GO VEGGIE!

Another in our series of reader problems… as solved by the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS! Today COCO TANBERRY takes a turn…

Hannah says:
There are many things I don't like about this world… poverty, cruelty, war… I could go on. I would like to make a small difference by going vegetarian, but my parents won't let me - even though I wrinkle up my nose at anything, well, DEAD! How can I go veggie and still stay in my parents' good books? Help!

Coco says:
I know, right? Parents sometimes just DO NOT GET IT. They worry about crazy stuff like where you will be getting your protein and have visions of you fading away to nothing the minute you give up meat. They think it's just a phase. Well, I have been veggie for almost three years and I can tell you it is NOT just a phase, and I am NOT wasting away, and I get plenty of protein, thank you very much. Actually, the best way to get your parents on side is to show them you've done your research. A good place to start is with the Vegetarian Society who can answer all your questions, help you make the change easily and painlessly and reassure your parents that eating veggie means eating healthy! You can contact them here. Why not start by offering to cook a veggie meal for the family once or twice a week? This will show them you're serious… and it's good training for you in case you have to make your own meals now and then! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I went veggie at fourteen, after a couple of years of trying to show my mum I was serious… she got there in the end! Do YOU have anything to add to Coco's advice? COMMENT BELOW to offer your words of wisdom to Hannah!

STEP INTO SUMMER...

Do you have a fave pair of summer shoes or sandals? Or do you love to walk barefoot across the sand? We asked you how YOU like to step into summer…

Hazel says:
I got these sandals from Macy's (my favourite shop ever!) a few days ago, and I love them! They have a small heel, which is one of the best things about them…  they aren't flat, so I don't feel like I am walking on the ground, but I'm not staggering about in crazy six-inch heels either! They are really comfy as well, and equally perfect for exploring the streets of San Francisco or for strolling around a museum. They are awesome!

Manda says:
This pic was taken last summer… it was one of those sunny days when it's not too hot, just perfect, and it seemed a good idea to go out into the garden and sketch characters from Les Mis. I probably don't spend as much time outside as I should - I'm not good at the sunbathing thing, but drawing was cool! This was my first attempt at drawing anything Les Mis related and I have definitely improved since then… but I don't think I got much of a tan!

Nettie says:
My dress sense is usually described as a cross between shabby chic and hippy by my friends! The dress is from Joe Browns - everything they make is gorgeous. It's great for summer days because you don't get too hot… and the boots are my bright pink Doc Martens. They took a while to break in, but now I wear them everywhere! They are summery to me because of the colour - the bright pink fits in with bright summer colours and because the British weather is so lovely *cough*… when it rains, at least my feet stay dry!


Eden says:
I love the summer because after wearing big clumpy winter shoes I can have my feet in the sun. I love feeling the sand on my feet… it makes my feet feel soft and smooth! I like to walk on the stones to toughen up my feet and I love to feel the warm grass on my feet too. I have lots of different coloured flip-flops so I can wear a different pair every day. I love to take off my school shoes and run down to the beach and paddle in the sea…

Blue says:
Well, it's summer, and these are my feet… does that count? These are my strawberry socks, so they ARE summery, I guess. They were given to me by my mum who bought them for herself but then decided they'd suit me better. I'm standing on a patch of grass behind our house… it's not our garden, exactly, but I'm not trespassing… I'm allowed to be there. And no, I am not taking my socks off… this is Scotland, remember?

Cathy says:
Brilliant… I am a boots girl and try to hang onto them at all times, although I do have a pair of flowery canvas boots… that's as summery unless there's a serious heatwave! What are YOUR fave summer shoes? COMMENT BELOW and share the love!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

HERE COMES SUMMER!

We asked you for your favourite things about summer… this is what you said!

Daisy says:
Summer means not having any cares or worries and having fun with friends!

Lauren says:
MORE ICE CREAM!!! Also Christmas (don't panic, I live in South Africa!), pool parties, orchestra tours and a trip to Marine World if possible. And an excuse to wear sunglasses all the time!

Chloe says:
Running through fields, fun with friends, the seaside, ice creams, fairs and bonfires!

Vicky says:
Summer means meeting new friends! I met a bunch of Americans last year, and this year I hope to meet my pen-pal! Also eating ice cream and picnics in the park…

Latifa says:
Summer means endless fun and awesome fashion, Lucozade and 7Up and making the most of life!

Chloe Dawn says:
This year it will mean the end of exams (FINALLY!) and worrying about whether I've got into Sixth Form or not. Most years it means camping, barbeques, reading in the sun and not having to worry about school and homework for a while!

Chantel says:
No school! Summer means relaxing, theme parks, being wih my family, having lots of free time, going to the beach… and wishing it would never end!

Pippa says:
Summer is the BEST! I love going to the beach, having time off school to spend with my friends and going on holiday… we are going back to Cyprus for the first time in five years this summer! Summer has the best weather, and wearing hats and sunglasses and flipflops is cool!

Princess says:
Family vacations, chilling with friends, no schoolwork worries, playing out till the streetlights come on, beach trips, family BBQs, festivals and carnivals. It's the busiest and the best time of the year - fun, ice cream and a whole load of sunshine!

Cathy says:
Do you agree? COMMENT BELOW to have your say and share what summer means to YOU!