Saturday, 18 October 2014


Meet twelve year old Jake… and find out how a cool hobby led him to becoming a published author at the age of just ten!

Jake says:
Two years ago I signed my first book deal… and if you think that's strange, it gets weirder still. I have an unusual hobby; not many other people my age are interested in it, and some people think it's odd. And most people who do it are scientists who write in a way that is difficult for children to understand.

You see, I collect bones. I live in Scotland where there is the most amazing countryside and wildlife. When I was six I was out walking with my dad and found a skull; I took it home and worked out that it was from a rabbit. I started to wonder what other mysteries were out there waiting to be discovered in the woods and moors around my village. Soon, I was discovering all sorts of amazing things, not just skulls and bones. I discovered old WWII army bunkers, old deserted water mills, 150 year old pottery hidden in the ground, unexploded bombs from 70 years ago… even an ancient Roman tunnel beneath my village!

Five years ago I started blogging about my finds and my adventures. I made myself a promise that I would blog at least once a week for six months, and pretty soon I was hooked! Other people began reading my blog and sending me bones from around the world. Sometimes they were able to help me with puzzles I had blogged about. And the more I blogged, the better I got at it.

Explaining bones can be difficult, so I used lots of photographs. Skeletons can be complicated, so I explained things simply. Telling my stories in a funny way made more people read my blog posts. Soon, I got quite good at it, and newspaper ran a story about me. And that's how a publisher in London saw my blog and decided it would make a great book for children! It's strange now to walk into a bookshop and see my book, or get stopped in the street because someone recognises me. Sometimes I go to book festivals like the Bath Festival of Children's Literature - which is where I met Cathy Cassidy - and I have to do a presentation about my book and meet my readers!

Blogging has taught me a lot of things… including how to write for myself and write about the things I am passionate about. If you think something is interesting, other people will too. I've learnt that the more you write, the better you get. And I've learnt that amazing things can happen, but it takes a lot of hard work at first. And it's amazing fun as well!

You can check out Jake's book here…

and read his blog here…

Cathy says:
I was thrilled to meet Jake at Bath Kid's Lit Festival… and I was so impressed at how cool, enthusiastic and professional he was! Do YOU have a fascinating or unusual hobby? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 17 October 2014


Another in our series of inspiring mum and daughter teams… we meet Latifa from Indonesia, whose mother Tri is a diplomat….

Tri says:
I am a diplomat currently working in Portugal. Working here feels the same as working in any other country, it's just that the traditions are different from back home in Indonesia. You don't have to follow the customs and traditions, but you do have to respect them… it's the least you can do. Sometimes the weather affects things and a meeting time has to be changed… in Indonesia the weather is more… friendly! It is not easy to work at such a distance from my family. Kids whose mothers work away do have to be more independent and mature than other children, usually from a young age. They have to learn how to do things themselves and take the initiative if they're feeling ill or if there is a problem. It is a challenge for everyone in the family, but we cope with it and Latifa is managing well.

Latifa says:
My parents are always worried about me and my siblings, concerned about whether we can adapt to the different countries we may find ourselves in and if we are OK with school. When I was younger, I didn't like moving around too much. It felt like I was always being dragged about and having to adapt quickly to new situations, wherever they might take me. I had a lot of mood swings before we moved away from the UK and back to Indonesia. I cried a lot, threw tantrums… it was a very difficult time. Things are better now. My mum is pretty fluent in portuguese and so is my brother, which can be awkward when we have a holiday because they get to act as tour guides!
A lot of people don't know that we are travellers, so they kind of wonder why the younger brother can speak Portuguese and the older sisters can't!
I am living in Indonesia now and Mum is in Portugal, so that can be a challenge, but she will be home at the end of the month and I can't wait. I am very proud of my mum, and my family say I am a lot like her personality wise. I have learned not to be over dependent on her, and also not be afraid to say no when you need to, and those are very useful things I think. My ambition is to be an artist one day, so perhaps in the future I may travel back to London or visit the Czech Republic, somewhere I would love to see. I would do things a little differently from my mum, though - perhaps not move around quite so much, if I had the choice!

Cathy says:
Wow… a fascinating insight into a long-distance mum/daughter relationship which helps us see that having a high-flying parent is not always as easy or idyllic as it may sound! COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts with Latifa or to volunteer yourself for an upcoming mum/daughter feature for DREAMCATCHER!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Eleven much-loved and well-used Liverpool libraries are about to be closed, and as the council are not listening to protests or petitions, a campaign to bombard Mayor Joe Anderson with love letters to the libraries has been launched. The letters will show him how much the people of Liverpool - and beyond - care. Schools, colleges, teachers, families, businesses, individuals… we can all write letters to Mayor Anderson to ask him to change his mind.
Here is mine…

Dear Mayor Anderson,
I grew up owning no books of my own, apart from the occasional Christmas annual… but I had a library card. I went weekly to my local libraries and they opened up a whole new world for me, of imagination, possibilities, learning, life; libraries changed my life and thanks to them I am now a children's author myself.

For many ordinary people without a privileged background, libraries are education, opportunity and refuge; they are civilisation, inspiration and magic all rolled into one. They also provide support to job-seekers, advice, expertise, access to computers to those who have none. In times of austerity, these things are needed more than ever.

New figures tell us that one in three children in the UK in 2014 do not own a book of their own. Can Liverpool really mean to deny those children a chance to borrow a book, too? Liverpool is being promoted as a 'City of Reading' yet what message can the closure of eleven libraries send to the children you hope to switch on to reading? Please, please think again. Libraries are essential for a healthy community. They are needed by young families, schoolchildren and students; the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled… we all need libraries at different points in our lives. Take them away and people will suffer; communities will suffer too.

Liverpool was a 'City of Culture' long before it earned the title officially. The city's creativity and talent grows from the grassroots up via the kind of education only a library can offer. Mayor Anderson, I understand that you are between a rock and a hard place with cuts imposed from above, but try another route - please, please think again. Closing eleven much-loved and well-used libraries is little short of a massacre.

There has to be another way. Please, Mayor Anderson, don't let yourself be remembered as the man who turned his back on culture and education and closed the libraries; be instead the man who finds a way to save them. These libraries matter; we cannot stay silent and watch them close forever.

Best Wishes
Cathy Cassidy,
Children's author

Picture shows Cathy with eleven year old Liverpool schoolgirl and library protestor Elysce; you can sign Elysce's online petition here.

Cathy says: 
We have support for our campaign from over 500 authors, poets, actors, musicians, academics & creatives of all kinds, including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman and many other big names. Could YOU support us too by writing a 'Love Letter to Liverpool's Libraries'? Send your letter to Mayor Anderson at the Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool L2 3SW or email to:
Don't forget to COMMENT BELOW - and THANK YOU so very much for your support.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Ace reporter Emma is back with some top tips on beating stress… read on and let go of all those worries!

Emma says:
Stress. As a girl who just got her Junior Cert results, stress is definitely something I can relate to! That feeling of being frustrated, nervous and mentally overwhelmed all at the same time. However, through an acronym - because let's face it, who doesn't love an acronym - I completely believe that together we can manage stress!

S - Sleep: Sleep definitely takes the 'edge' off stress. Sleep relaxes our over-worked muscles and reduces our cortisol levels… and cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress. Pay attention to your dreams, too… dreams give us an insight into what's really going on in our minds, and may show us that there's a deeper meaning to our stress.

T - Time Management: When we are stressed we feel as if we have no time to get our assigned tasks done; we feel as if we have no time even to breathe. It's important to make time for yourself, even if it's something as simple as sitting down for five minutes and becoming aware of your surroundings. As a result of taking a well-earned breather you will feel more able to handle whatever it is you are going through.

R - Release Your Emotions Healthily: An effective way of dealing with your emotions when stressed is just to let go of all the negative emotions inhabiting your brain. A healthy way of doing this is talking to a trustworthy friend - or even belting out the lyrics of your favourite song! My personal favourite way of letting it all out is to go for a run while having a chat with a friend… exercise and sharing chat rolled into one! By letting your baggage go you will feel as if you've been set free/ Releasing the negative emotions allows the positive ones to come in!

E - Eating Right: When you are stressed and on the go it's all too easy to just grab a chocolate bar for a quick energy fix. However, when you're feeling stressed, comfort eating or letting your health go is probably the worst thing you can do. It has been found that choosing healthy alternatives will give you more energy for longer… and makes you feel better in general. It is also much better for your health in the long run!

S - Staying Positive: When you are stressed, it is easy to get absorbed by your misery. Let's face it, when you feel low, everything seems to go wrong and it can feel never-ending. I find the easiest way to stay positive is to keep your friends close and the playlist of your top feelgood songs closer!

S - Say No When Necessary: When you have a lot on your plate there is no point in voluntarily taking on extra assignments and projects. Why add an extra load to your plate when you can't even cope with the first serving? Even if you are amazingly ambitious and think you can handle it, resist the temptation; focus on what you are working on now and take on extra assignments in the future when you have the time and energy to give it the attention it deserves.

Until we deal again…
Emma xx

Pics above posed by model Lillie

Cathy says:
I love Emma's tips for beating stress… the last point is one I will be trying to keep in mind myself! Do YOU have any suggestions to add? COMMENT BELOW to add your suggestions or tell us if Emma's advice has helped YOU!


We asked readers to tell us about their fave Cathy Cassidy book… and why! This is what they said…

Agnia says:
At the Edinburgh Book Festival this year I bought the book SUMMER'S DREAM. It was great to hear Cathy talking about the Chocolate Box Girls series, it made it all come alive. This is the first CC book I have actually owned, as usually my books come from the library… so it is very special to actually own the book! It's about a girl called Summer who is offered the chance of a scholarship at a ballet school… something she has been dreaming about her whole life… but the hard work of preparing for the audition begins to spiral out of control until Summer finds herself in the grip of a terrifying obsession. I really recommend this exciting and addicting book!
Becky says:
I want to start off by saying that I didn't just like this book, I absolutely LOVED it! One of the main reasons I love COCO CARAMEL so much is that I adore horses just as much as Coco does, and so the first time I read it I could imagine myself as Coco. Every bit of description became a real image in head - it was a real page-turner for me. That has been the same with all of your books, especially the Chocolate Box Girls series. Coco is so determined and stubborn at times but she fights for what she loves. These qualities reminded me of how I am a bit… I could really relate to Coco's story. It has such an amazing plot and every time I read it, it never fails to amaze me!

Lauren says:
GINGERSNAPS is a superb book. It was the first Cathy Cassidy book I ever read and it definitely did not disappoint. After the first few pages I was hooked - I couldn't put it down. The book is about Ginger Brown, a once friendless girl who falls in with Shannon, a cool, popular girl; life is looking up… until she meets Sam, a saxophone playing outsider. Suddenly Ginger feels like she's drifting away from Shannon… I think Sam was my favourite character - he's so different, and you can't help loving him. The book really gets you thinking about how you shouldn't change for other people, that you should be unique and true to yourself. It also makes you see that you shouldn't judge others by the way they look, as inside they may be totally different. GINGERSNAPS is an amazing book - I'd recommend it to anyone.

Grace says:
ANGEL CAKE is my favourite Cathy Cassidy book. I discovered the book when my Auntie, who lives in England, sent the book to me. My favourite part in the book is when Anya shows Lily the rat and she screams the whole school cafeteria down… that made me laugh! My other favourite part is where Anya and Frankie see Dan wearing angel wings, because I had no idea what was happening at first! It was brilliant. I have also read Indigo Blue and I am asking for the other CC books for Christmas - I can't wait to read more!

Cathy says:
Which is YOUR fave CC book? COMMENT BELOW to tell us… and don't forget to say why!

Monday, 13 October 2014


School really can be cool… if you approach it the right way! We asked readers to share their tips on taking school in your stride…

Zainub says:
Do things with your friends - like homework, revision or projects - to make the work more fun. You can also customise some of your school supplies to make them feel more personal and encourage you to enjoy school and all that goes with it.

Lucy P says:
Be yourself and don't worry about asking others for help - we all have to do that at some point. Don't act or behave differently for anyone, and do your very best to answer questions for teachers so they know you're trying.

Emily says:
If anyone ever tries to make you feel 'uncool' for putting your hand up and doing the best you possibly can, do NOT listen to them. You'll see in the end how much further you've come compared to the ones who didn't want to learn.

Lucy M says:
Be a teacher's pet! There is no shame in being a model pupil or trying your hardest. If people tease you for it, take no notice - work your hardest and behave well and don't listen to anyone who tries to stop you.

Deborah says:
When you know something is wrong, sort it. It doesn't matter who this involves or how far you have to go - as long as you are doing the right thing, it is totally worth it.

Kiera says:
Just do the best you can! Always try your best and put effort into everything, whether it's class work or making friends. Push yourself as far as you can… nothing is impossible. The word itself actually says 'I'm possible', right? Never forget that!

Chloe says:
Do any homework the day it is set if possible - it will still be fresh in your mind. Leaving homework to the night before it's due in is a sure way to hand in something rushed or second-best, or worse still, forget completely and fall behind as a result. I speak from experience… I left everything to the night before when I was doing GCSEs and I paid the price. Now I am doing A levels and I am doing my homeworks the night they are set - far less stressful.

Aimee says:
Try your best at every subject, even those you dislike or find hard. In fact, try harder at them! Don't listen to anyone who says that studying hard is being a teacher's pet or uncool. It's your life and your future!

Sara says: 
Try your best at school but don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. You have to be educated, but it's not a prison so ask for timeouts if you are very stressed. Don't be afraid to be a teacher's pet - you'll be laughing when you get good grades and those who once laughed at you don't. Never be scared to make mistakes, because mistakes teach you more!

Sophia says:
I was always procrastinating when it came to homework, so it was a big rush when it came to handing it in and I really regretted that. My advice is to get your head down and crack on with homework as soon as you get it.

Lyra says:
School doesn't have to be 'the best days of your life' but it shouldn't be something to dread. Ask for help to sort out problems and make time in every day to have fun with friends. Make room for that alongside the hard work - life isn't all hard slog!

Pics modelled by reader Mariam T; thanks Mariam!

Cathy says:
Loving the common sense advice here… there's something for everyone to learn, and it's all very practical because it comes from YOUR experience! COMMENT BELOW if YOU have some advice to add on helping to make school cool!

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Some of you may know I am campaigning against the closure of ELEVEN lovely, much-loved and well-used Liverpool libraries at the moment. I'm asking people to write love letters to the Liverpool libraries and send them to the Mayor of Liverpool, and I asked you what YOU think about libraries, too. Here are some of your awesome and inspiring replies…

Hazel says:
I love libraries because there is always something interesting you can find, an amazing book that changes your perspective on something or takes you into another world. Libraries are places of discovery. When you find an author whose books you really like, finding another of his/her books is like finding gold. Maybe even better! I am shocked that Liverpool council is planning to shut down not one, not two, but ELEVEN libraries. It is such a waste. There are so many things that you can learn in libraries. You have so much information in your hands, and Liverpool council is taking that away. Yes we have the internet, but is it really the same? I think everyone deserves to have a library nearby, for fun and for learning. I hope Liverpool can be persuaded to change their minds and keep the libraries.

Autumn says:
The library is my natural habitat. I can't believe that Liverpool council is thinking of shutting down ELEVEN WHOLE LIBRARIES. What about the people of Liverpool? Not everyone can afford to buy books; borrowing may be the only way they can get new reading material. What about people who study there? Where else will they find peace and quiet, computers and printers, textbooks and research? Libraries are a necessity and one that no one should be deprived of.

Laura says:
It's safe to say I virtually grew up in a library! I love everything about a library; the atmosphere, the hundreds of bookshelves with books just waiting to be picked up and thumbed through, the smell of the pages, the little crinkling sound of them being turned. When I was little my grandma would take me to the library every Saturday morning with her biggest wheelie trolley and we'd spend hours picking books to read. If the council closes eleven libraries in Liverpool, how can the younger generations learn how amazing reading is? What world do we live in where the simpler and pleasurable things in life are being taken away from us with no fight back? I fought to keep my local library open and it still closed down, but if enough people fight maybe we can save these libraries? Reading is about listening to another person's voice; you hear their thoughts and feelings through the words. The council in Liverpool should listen to their people's voices, and let them be heard too.

Harley says:
Libraries aren't just about entertainment and education, they're an escape. I mean, bullies won't hit you in a library, will they? What about kids who don't have computers and can only access the learning content online? Or when the teacher says, 'no using the internet for this assignment.' What do we do then? These closures will have serious social, academic and economic repercussions for so many people. Libraries have been a huge part of my adolescence… for fun, for education and so many other reasons. I'd hate for that to be taken away from so many people. There is also the argument that closing libraries goes against our human right to education and our right to access information… rights that are meant to be guaranteed, and, most importantly, for everyone.

Elysce says:
I was deeply upset when I heard about the libraries closing and what was worse, my local library is one of the ones that is threatened. I decided that something needed to be done, and that is why I started a petition… in the hope that my favourite place will not be taken away. I have been to some of the protests and spoke at one of them, and even done an interview for Radio City. I really hope we can stop the libraries from closing because so many people care. You can sign my petition here… please do!

Marisa says:
I love my local library. I go with my sister, who is in Year Nine, and we feel at home there because it's warm and there is always something to do. We're in a reading group too. We often go after school because Mum doesn't finish work until after six, so it is quiet place to do homework. I have had books from the library that have literally changed my life, and made me see that there is a big world out there. I have ambitions and dreams that I would never have had except for the library. I am upset for Liverpool that eleven libraries will be closed. What about the people who need those libraries? Don't they matter? I thought the council was supposed to look after the people, not punish them. I hope the libraries will be rescued, because in my opinion it is the children who will suffer.

Cathy says:
Do YOU love libraries? COMMENT BELOW to tell me, or post a selfie with your message of love for the threatened Liverpool libraries over on my Facebook fanpage…