Thursday, 31 July 2014

NEW SCHOOL? NO WORRIES!

Are you starting secondary school this year? We asked some secondary school readers to offer their best tips and advice to help you make the transition as smooth as it can be…

Sam says:
I was extremely shy in Year Seven and I wish now I'd come out of my shell more. Don't worry about not making friends - there is guaranteed to be someone in you class you will get along with, and if you make an effort to be friendly you will find friends who will stick by you through everything. Just have fun and enjoy that first year - in some ways, it's the best! I did learn pretty fast not to leave my homework until the last minute - it's easier to do the day you get it, trust me!

Josy says:
Be yourself! Don't pretend to be someone you're not, but try to be confident. You won't make friends unless you make an effort to be friendly. If your friends are going to the same school, stick with them to begin with until you find your feet. Be organised - things aren't so easy-going at secondary and you'll probably get homework every day. set reminders to do it: excuses like 'the dog ate my homework' won't work anymore and you don't want to make a bad impression at the very start! Find out the school rules and stick to them… and, finally, enjoy! Secondary school only happens once and it will teach you so many things about life. You'll make new friends and your knowledge will grow!

Stephanie says:
Tips to help those going into Year Seven? It's honestly not as bad as you think! Stay calm, ask for directions if you're lost or need some help, and most of all… ENJOY it!

Cerys says:
I used to be pretty scared of making friends, but really, if you just open your mouth and talk to someone, you can make good friends in a minute!

Lauren says: 
Organize your bag the night before and check you have all your equipment, homework and books. Then you won't be getting into trouble for forgetting them - or, if you oversleep, you won't have to waste time running round searching for things.

Chloe says: 
Enjoy it! You are not the only one who'll be scared - all your friends will be feeling the same, even though they may not admit it! Everyone goes through it, so relax and have a little fun with your friends… it will all be fine!

Blue says:
Act confident, but remember - everyone else is probably just as nervous as you are! Never be afraid to ask for directions or help when you need it… nobody's expecting you to know your way around right away. You'll settle in no time and this time next year you will wonder why you ever worried in the first place!

Deborah says:
Biggest rule of all: do NOT daydream in class. The new teachers you'll have may be unpredictable and if you miss something or don't respond things can get super scary, super fast!

Laura says:
Year seven/ S1 can be a rollercoaster, but try to remain strong and enjoy the ride!

Pippa says:
1/ Be organised - pack your bag the night before and don't leave homework to the last minute.
2/ Don't whistle, hum or sing in class… very awkward if it suddenly goes quiet for some reason!
3/ Have fun and make friends with the right people, and don't worry about getting lost… you'll soon get used to it!

Charlotte says:
Getting lost is a worry, but in three or four days you'll know your way around. You WILL make new friends, and they will be just as nervous as you. Even the older ones will have to adjust to new teachers and classmates. Make a good impression - that first day will be what your teachers and classmates will think of you for the rest of the year.

Morgan says:
Don't try to be someone you're not - if you do, you'll end up falling in with the wrong people and getting out of a situation like that is harder than getting into it! Honesty is the best policy!

Cathy says:
Ooh, lots of good advice… and more to come over the next few weeks! COMMENT BELOW to add your advice and suggestions!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

SUMMER STYLE REPORT: SUNGLASSES!

In the first of our sizzling summer style series, DREAMCATCHER reporter Manda gives us the lowdown on the coolest sunglasses… which ones would YOU choose?
Pic one…
Manda says:
Trying on sunglasses is a lot of fun - and also a great way to suss which styles suit you. I actually like all of the styles pictured, but I tried on lots to get this shortlist! I think this pair are my favourites… the quirky shape makes me look a bit eccentric, which I like!

Cathy says:
I like these too… the mock tortoiseshell rims are very vintage and I love the big, round shape… they really suit Manda and make her look fab! These would look awesome at any swish holiday resort!

Pic two…
Manda says:
I like these pinky sunglasses because they are basically multicoloured and shiny - and they also double up as mirrors! Really cool and unusual! All of the styles except for the black ones are from Accessorize - they have lots of styles to try, so there's something for everybody!

Cathy says:
These mirrored pink sunnies are lots of fun… though the pale frames are not going to be to everyone's taste! The boxy shape of this pair won't suit everyone, but Manda has great bone structure and carries it off well. Who says you can't see the world through rose-tinted glasses?

Pic three...
Manda says:
There's not a lot to say about these black sunglasses except to say that they're from River Island - and that they made me feel like a celebrity!

Cathy says:
These are classics… black, cool and timelessly fab. The curved, sweeping shape is very flattering, too! Black goes with everything and suggests an air of quiet, careless sophistication. They definitely do have a hint of the celeb about them, too… step out in style and see if the paparazzi are fooled! Perfect for that summer 'red carpet' moment… or for posing around town!

Pic four…
Manda says:
The photo doesn't show these too well, but they are similar to the pink pair, except with purple highlights - and they are possibly even prettier! I really like these… they feel so unusual!

Cathy says:
The blue/purple colouring suits Manda well… and the mirrored lenses are eye-catching and different. This shape won't flatter everyone, but it looks great on Manda!


Now for YOUR verdict… which pair of sunnies would YOU pick, and why? Which do you think suit Manda best? COMMENT BELOW to cast your vote!

MY DREAMCATCHER...

We named this blog-zine DREAMCATCHER… so we thought we'd ask about YOUR dreamcatchers! Dreamcatchers were first made by the native American Ojibwe tribe to represent part of the web of the great spider goddess, to bring her protection. They are said to trap or capture bad dreams and keep the sleeper safe.

Hazel says:
I spotted this dreamcatcher in a gift shop in Sandia Crest, Albuquerque, New Mexico when my family and I were on a road trip recently. We were up on a ridge and it was cold and windy as we were ten thousand feet up above the city… down there it had been almost 100 degrees, and I was dressed in shorts and a hoody. So, basically, we went into the shop to warm up, but I am really glad we did! I saw the dreamcatcher and right away I thought you'd like it; after all, this blog-zine is named DREAMCATCHER! I had to take a picture to show you because I also thought it was the sort of thing Coco would love, because of the horses painted on it! I thought it was exactly the kind of thing she'd have in her box-room bedroom! I really liked it myself, it was just so cool, but at over $50 it was way too expensive for me. Oh well!
Kym says:
These are my dreamcatchers… I like them, can you tell? The one at the top left was a birthday present for my 23rd birthday… (yep, I have been reading your books since Dizzy came out!) The one on the top right was from a new age shop in Weymouth and the one on the bottom left was the first one I ever bought, about ten years ago in Spain. The one on the bottom right I made myself a few weeks back, to hang in my daughter's bedroom. You could say I'm building up quite a collection!
Blue says:
This is my dreamcatcher. It has a gothic style angel on it, and my mum bought it at a tiny (I literally mean TINY!) shop in Dumfries to make me feel at home after the second house move in less than three months. She knew I'd love it - I used to make my own as a kid and I love gothic stuff, so it was a very thoughtful gift. Dreamcatchers are supposed to capture bad dreams and keep them safe. I can't say if it works as a catcher of dreams as I don't really dream anyway, but it's a pretty cool thing to have all the same!


Charlotte says:
These are my dreamcatchers… I got them from a Sunday market a few years ago. I saw them on a stall, the feathers blowing gently in the breeze and I thought they were so cool - I'd always wanted a dreamcatcher. My friend had a huge collection and I thought they looked great. My mum let me buy two… rather reluctantly… and I settled on these. I'd been suffering from nightmares and I knew dreamcatchers were supposed to help, so I hung them above my bed and that night I had no nightmares. In fact, they helped so much I took them everywhere, on holiday, to my friend's house, anywhere I had to sleep away from home. These days they hang on my mirror, more as a decoration than anything, but I think they did help me beat the nightmares… perhaps it was just the thought of them, or maybe they really do have magical properties!
Cathy says:
I love these stories… do YOU have a DREAMCATCHER? Or would you like one? COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you think!

Monday, 28 July 2014

SWEET HONEY… WE LOVE IT!

CC readers spill the beans on what they think of the latest book in the Chocolate Box Girls series…

Sophie says:
I always felt I understood Honey's anger at Cherry in this series… I tried to see the story through her eyes from the start and SWEET HONEY allowed me to do that even more. Honey reminds me a lot of myself… her beloved art, long (well, was…) blonde hair, Chinese takeaways and awful maths skills are all me! I savoured this story like chocolate… I've loved the scenes in Australia, the dreams of living by the sea.  When I am older I plan to go travelling with my cousin, and we'll go to Australia and I will think of Honey's story! This book captures you, the characters stay with you forever and you find yourself thinking things you'd never have dreamed of. A book isn't just a story, it's a journey. I don't want to give anything away, but I am SOOO happy that there is one more book yet to come in the series… who could it be about? So happy I could jump up and down!

Alex says:
I have read all of the Chocolate Box Girls books now, and although my absolute favourite is Summer's Dream, I totally loved SWEET HONEY and would give it 5/5 stars! Whereas Coco Caramel was perfect for my little sister, who is eight, I'd recommend SWEET HONEY for slightly older readers. I can't wait to read FORTUNE COOKIE - just like all the others, it will be fantastic!
Phoebe says:
SWEET HONEY is the 5th book in the Chocolate Box Girls series and it certainly matches the standards of the rest of the series… in fact, I think it's even better! I was so excited to have the book and read it in a matter of hours - I enjoyed it so much I just couldn't put it down! In the story, Honey is sent to Australia to live with her dad - and begins to turn her life around. She faces the challenge of new friends and new love and has some very serious issues to deal with. I really enjoyed SWEET HONEY and would recommend it to anyone. I was amazed to find that it ISN'T the last look in the series - I am absolutely dying to read FORTUNE COOKIE now!

Chloe says:
I have just finished reading SWEET HONEY and I found it to be a book full of unexpected twists and turns, with such a bittersweet ending it made you want to read more. The book is perfect for older readers (Honey is fifteen in the story) although younger readers would still be able to read and enjoy the book too. I think it is currently the best book in the Chocolate Box Girls series, and I cannot WAIT for the sequel, FORTUNE COOKIE. I think that one will be even better…

Cathy says:
Yay… it's great to get so many positive reviews… brilliant! Have YOU read SWEET HONEY yet? What did YOU think of it? COMMENT BELOW to share your views… no spoilers, please! ;o)

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!)