Monday, 22 September 2014


Reader Anna is a big fan of the Chocolate Box Girls books… so much so that she made these cool avatars for each of the main characters. Read on to find out how…

Anna says:

When I was in primary school, before I had ever heard of Cathy Cassidy's books, I saw a friend reading a copy of MARSHMALLOW SKYE. The cover looked so appealing that I went over and asked about the book - my friend told me more and I instantly wanted to read it. I couldn't find the book to begin with, but then the school book fair arrived and SUMMER'S DREAM was on sale there! I bought it and read it and loved it, and that was it, I was hooked. I managed to buy MARSHMALLOW SKYE soon afterwards and thought that was brilliant too, and now I have all the Chocolate Box Girls books and I totally love them all.

Not long ago, I decided to design and make some avatars. I used a phone app which had lots of options for designing… you could choose the types of eyes, the skin colours, hair colour and style, the nose styles, the background and even what each character holds. I have always loved drawing people, making up characters and drawing or designing my favourites characters from books, so this seemed perfect… it was a way of bringing the Tanberry-Costello sisters to life, and a perfect summer project for me to try!
I imagined the sisters in my head, based on how they had been described in the books, and then began to create them. I made Summer first, with a pink background, a pink dress and blonde hair in a bun. I gave her a white headscarf and showed her holding a heart, with a pink polka-dot background After that, I made Skye, with a cute vintage dress, plaited hair and a blue flower in her hair… she was holding paints and I gave her a blue polka-dot background… that's how I imagined the twins to be, somehow.

To start with, I planned just to make the twins, but making the avatars got quite addictive so I decided I'd try to make Cherry next. I gave this avatar black hair in bunches, coffee coloured skin, dark eyes and red flowers in her hair. She had a Japanese dress - a kimono like the one in the story - and I gave her some candles to hold. I love that the books have so much detail and description, so there are lots of clues when you want to bring one of the characters to life! It was fun to imagine and then create the images.

I did Coco next, the youngest of the Tanberry sisters. I made her with very small bunches, a panda t-shirt and a wide smile. She is animal crazy, of course, so I gave her a rabbit to hold and had her feeding the rabbit with a carrot! I gave Coco and Cherry the same background of pink hearts on a white backing. Last of all, I did Honey, who is my personal favourite. I gave Honey blue eyes with mascara, lipsticked lips, a beauty spot, a denim jacket with a wonky tie and a stripy background.

I have just started secondary school and I've also begun reading SWEET HONEY. It's an amazing book, and I know just how Honey feels learning to settle in to her new school! I will be getting more of Cathy Cassidy's fab books in the future - I am really looking forward to FORTUNE COOKIE and intrigued to know what comes next in the Chocolate Box series. And of course, I hope to design more characters too!

Anna used the FaceQ app to make the avatars

Cathy says:
Wow… Anna's imagination and attention to detail is just plain AWESOME! Do YOU like bringing your fave fictional characters to life by drawing, painting or using computer apps? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or to give Anna a shout-out on her fab creations!

Saturday, 20 September 2014


Reader Jade-Louise and nine of her friends have put together an awesome student theatre company… dedicated to raising money for an amazing charity. Read on to find out more…

Jade-Louise says:
In the summer of 2012 I lost my cousin to suicide. Since then I have always wanted to do something for a charity which works to help prevent suicide. I've never managed to do anything alone, but now I am at college studying Performing Arts, and I have met a great group of friends. I decided to pitch the idea of a charity theatre group to the rest of the girls, and they were all right behind the idea, 100%. They have been incredibly supportive and that is why we are so determined to raise both awareness and money.

'Hold On Till May' is the name for a multiple series of events set up by Reflections Theatre Company, a group we set up as part of our college course. Our plan is to raise money for PAPYRUS, the national UK charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide. Our company aims to set up some showcases - the first one just before Christmas. If this is a success, we'd like to move on into larger venues. We have lots of idea... jam sessions and even improvised flash mobs, too.

The name 'Hold On TIll May' is the name of a Pierce The Veil song which is about love but also suicide; the boy is trying to get the girl to hold on through winter and make it through to May when summer begins and life gets better. We are covering this as the main song in our showcase. It seemed like a relevant name for the project - and of course, Mental Health Awareness week is in May.

As a company, we believe that people think suicide is a taboo subject - something that shouldn't be spoken about. Of course, if people can't or won't discuss it, those who are struggling with depression and contemplating suicide will feel that they can't talk about it. So, part of what we want to do is to raise awareness so that nobody has to suffer in silence. We are trying to do this in an uplifting way, offering escapism to young people in this situation and also helping others to understand what they may be going through.

We have made a Facebook page here for our project… the more people who join and support what we are doing, the better! You can also support the project by donating to PAPYRUS through our Just Giving page… you can find more about that on the Facebook page too. The project is at an early stage… we have a lot of hard work to do, but we are all committed to the idea and full of ideas and enthusiasm. PAPYRUS does such good work and it is really worth supporting… and we will do everything we can to help them.

Facebook: Hold On Till May

Cathy says:
I love the creative thinking and determination of Jade-Louise and her friends - I really admire what they are doing and am happy to support them! COMMENT BELOW if you like their project, or to tell us of any fund-raising ideas YOU have had!

Friday, 19 September 2014


Does your school offer the chance of a school exchange trip? When reader Priya was offered the chance to take part in a school exchange to France, she jumped at the chance… read on and see how she got on!

Priya says:
I decided to get involved in the French Exchange trip as some friends - and my teacher - recommended it! It was a cultural exchange, but there was plenty of sightseeing involved and I was particularly excited to go to Paris. I had already met my exchange student, Axelle, when the French students came over here in March, but I was really looking forward to seeing her again, and almost all of my friends were going on the trip too.
The journey was amazing - we went by coach and we had to go underground on this very big vehicle which had the capacity to carry all the coaches! I go to a girls school and we combined with a local boys school for the exchange trip. It was so much fun - we had a sweet fight, played card games and told spooky stories in the blackout! My first impressions of France were that everyone seemed much more relaxed about time and driving and drinking and smoking… their health, I suppose.
I missed home a bit, and I was away for Father's Day which was strange. Axelle's house was big and I had my own room, which was great. The garden and the adjoining land was massive, but you still feel a little like an outsider in the family home - this was never intended by the families, I think it was just a state of mind my friends and I had now and then. It may have been because we couldn't speak the language as fluently as we'd have liked… we craved time with our classmates just so we could have long or complicated conversations! This wasn't hard to handle, though, and luckily it was the closest we came to feeling homesick.
I loved the excursions and my favourite place was the Eiffel Tower and the view from the top; we saw some amazing art galleries;  I also loved visiting all the little towns and villages and getting to meet new people… oh, and eating macarons! It all felt so different - it wasn't just that I was overseas, but also that I was visiting all these iconic places without my parents, but with some of my best friends instead. I will never forget any of it - the journeys, the places, talking to my French family and the fact that I got to live like a French girl for a week - it was pretty amazing.
If you get a chance to go on a school exchange, I would advise anyone to take that chance. You will get over any fears and worries - just do it, because life is short and an adventure like this is something you will NEVER forget. I loved meeting Axelle and her family. It's not often you get to experience true family life abroad, so it felt like a real gift and a rare opportunity. I thank my lucky stars I got to go!

Cathy says:
Have YOU ever been on a school exchange - or if not, would you like to? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Reader Elysce was horrified when she found out that ELEVEN local libraries in her home town of Liverpool were threatened with closure. And she wasn't about to stand by and let it happen…

Elysce says:
I am eleven years old and I live in Liverpool. My favourite thing to do in the world is read; I hope one day to become an author and that people will read the stories I have written. I have read hundreds of books and I love finding new ones in my library. I think it would be an awful thing to take books and libraries away from people. People should be able to visit libraries whenever they want to.

When I found out that the libraries were closing I was deeply upset and felt that I had to do something to stop it. I decided that something had to be done, and that's why I started the petition, in the hope that my favourite place will not be taken away. I wanted to do something more than just sign a petition so I started my own. Because it is online, people can share it around between their friends and the signatures are growing. I never thought so many people would sign, but we need more signatures so that we have a real chance of keeping those libraries open.

I love visiting the libraries in Liverpool, and my mum was happy that I spent a lot of time in the summer holidays visiting them. I also went to a two-week camp called 'Book It' and my mum has told me that the council paid a lot of money for people to go, and that they are partners with the people who organised it. What I don't understand is, why encourage children to read and spend a lot of money getting them interested in it, and then all of a sudden take it away? To me, and to many others, a library is a place that you can just come to and read and take a few minutes away from the world… and now those minutes will be gone. I decided that something had to be done, and that's why I started the petition… in the hope that my favourite place will not be taken away.

Please, please, please support and help me to stop the libraries from closing in Liverpool, I could not imagine how boring life would be if we had no books. Someone once said: 'In the library, one often finds, people close their mouths and open their minds.' I really think that this is true.


Cathy says:
I am so, so impressed with Elysce's determination to do whatever she can to keep these libraries open. To close ELEVEN of Liverpool's well-used and much-loved local libraries is no less than a massacre, so please, PLEASE sign the petition and SHARE it to your Facebook/ Twitter pages so we can gather more support show Liverpool Council that we love and need these libraries. Your signature can make a BIG difference! COMMENT BELOW to tell us what libraries mean to you, and to pledge your support for the protest. THANK YOU!!!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


We asked readers to tell us about their favourite pets… and this is what they said!

Vicky says:
Billie was brought home in late September 2007. She is a purebred Jack Russell Terrier and some people think that this breed of dog can be dangerous, but that's not true - Billie has a great temperment. Billie is my best friend; I used to read her some of my books when I was younger, and snuggle up with her. Also, I was obsessed with her ears - I used to put bobbles on them as if they were hair. Not the best thing to do, but she was always very patient! Billie has always been there for me when I'm feeling down, and I am there for her in return if she's feeling unwell. I love her so much!

Blue says:
I have so many stories of my cat Finn (named after Finn in DIZZY.) Like how he used to sit on my shoulder as a kitten or how he used to climb the doorframe to get to the shelf where he liked to sleep, and taught the other cats to do the same. How we took him for walks around town, where he'd be fussed by everyone we met; or how he purred so loudly the whole house could hear him. He purred when he ate, he purred when he slept… he purred all the time. Or how, when he was about to be put down two months after his second birthday as he was ill with a progressive bladder problem, he sat perfectly still on the examination table as I held him and sobbed. It was like he knew what was happening and wanted to reassure me he'd be OK. I don't have any pictures of us together - I only have about three pictures of him because I lost my phone a few months after he died. So I'm posting this picture, the little tub with a tree pattern and 'Finn' plaque on the lid that contains his ashes, and the forget-me-not locket with a snippet of his fur in it. I miss my baby.

Kiera says:
We got our dog Pepper (female!) in 2006, and we were all so excited - I'd never known anything like it.  When my mum and brother arrived home with Pepper, I was dying to see her. My brother has always said that he didn't choose Pepper - she chose him. I think that's such a cute way to put it, rather than saying, 'I saw a dog and it fell in love with me,' or something along those lines. Pepper has been the best dog ever, although she is getting older now. When her time comes, I will be extremely sad, but I will always be incredibly grateful for everything she has done for me!

Heather says:
My dog Ozzy is probably the best pet I have ever had. He is bouncy, lively and extremely cute. He goes for runs in the woods every day and loves to dive into refreshing, cool and sometimes swampy rivers as a way to cool down! He loves to cuddle up and watch TV, and he even likes to join in and have a cup of tea and a slice of toast! His characteristics are cheeky and mischievous but loving and friendly as well. He's brilliant!

Mary Joy says:
I got my pet rat Lucky in 2008. She was very small and soft and she got her name as I remember thinking how very lucky I was to have her! I held her all the way home and couldn't stop smiling. I'd had another pet rat before Lucky, so I had some experience in caring for a rat; Lucky had a two-storey mansion cage at home to roam about in. When she first arrived there were a few issues - she bit Mum and also Mum's cousin, and there came a point when we felt it might be kinder to let her go - to give her chance of living in the wild, so she didn't bite other people. One night we opened her cage and waited for her to run away… but amazingly, she didn't. She sniffed Mum's shoe and climbed back into her cage; she had chosen to stay with us. The biting stopped. We discovered that she was probably scared and that we'd unwittingly been frightening her, and after that we all got along much better. We also learned that you can't release a pet into the wild, not even a rat, so I'm glad she didn't go - she wouldn't have managed alone.) Lucky was dark brown with a white tummy and little socks; she was so cute when she ate her food and cleaned behind her ears. We had an amazingly close bond between us and I loved her a lot. Lucky passed away peacefully at the end of 2010, but the good memories are locked in my heart forever.

Cathy says:
Awww… so many happy and sad stories! Animals can mean so much to us… I know that mine do to me! COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to have YOUR say - or just tell us about your own purr-fect pets!


Another in our occasional series of reader's problems… this time, reader Kiara has a question for CHERRY COSTELLO…

Kiara says:
I don't feel like I fit in at school - my friends seem to be growing up faster than me and are always talking about crushes and boyfriends. I know they think I am babyish. When we went back to school, they were talking about holiday romances. I don't know why I did it, but I blurted out that I'd had a holiday romance in Wales, where I spent three weeks in the summer. I just didn't want to feel left out, but the lie has spiralled out of control and they want more details all the time. They keep asking if he's written or messaged lately... they want to see letters and texts and messages, and ask why he isn't on my Facebook. I wish I'd never opened my mouth.

Cherry says:
Lies… they start out as a kind of self-defence sometimes, don't they? I used to make up stories about my mum when I was younger, and the things I said were things I wanted to believe - but they weren't true, and in the end it all backfired on me. I think people knew all along I'd been making things up, and it got to the point where they just didn't trust me at all. I've learned from that mistake and when I moved south to Kitnor I made a fresh start and drew a line under the 'little white lies'. It feels a lot better that way.

So… how do you get out of this mess? You have two choices. You can come clean and admit that you made up the holiday romance because you wanted to be like your friends. Let them know you're feeling insecure and unsure of the friendship these days… and that you wanted to regain their attention and interest. Truth can hurt - your friends will be upset that you lied to them and their trust in you may be dented, but if you explain why you did it they might just understand.

Your second option is to tell them your boyfriend has finished things, and that you'd rather not talk about him anymore. Yes, it's another lie… but it closes the door on the whole episode and allows you to keep some dignity. Don't be drawn into discussing things - just insist you want to put it all behind you, pretend it didn't happen.

Whichever choice you make, LEARN from this mistake and stick to the truth in future… your friends won't care how many boyfriends you have or haven't had, they like you for YOU. Remember that - and remember that lies lead to trouble. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Do you agree with Cherry's advice? What would YOU say to Kiara if you had the chance? MESSAGE BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Are best friends forever? Not always, alas, but sometimes they can be. Readers share their top advice on being a great mate and making friendship last…

Samiksha says:
Loyalty and understanding are the things that keep a friendship strong. Misunder-standings lead to fights, fights lead to not talking to each other… it becomes a vicious circle. Talk to your BFF and ask her how her day has been, if she's feeling down. Listen to what she says and make her feel better. Don't ever betray her - she's awesome.

Saffie says:
Never talk about a friend behind their back; even if you're saying nice things, it can easily get twisted.

Angela says:
Always plan lots of things to do together so that you have lots to talk about… and try to make each other's lives fun! Avoid arguments and if you are in a group of three of more, be careful not to leave anyone out. If you're sharing a secret, do it with the whole group or none at all.

Merryn says:
Hang out with your friends! It sounds obvious, but this is the simplest and best way to stay close. If you're away on holiday, bring them back a small friendship gift and plan sleepovers and get togethers - I love to have movie marathons with my friends! Even if you're moving, a friendship can stay strong if you make the effort to stay in touch.

Eloise says:
Just have a good banter - talk about anything and everything! When me and my friends fall out, it's never for long and we're always stronger as soon as we make up. Remember to be the first one to apologise, even if it's not your fault - someone has to make the first move!

Lucy says:
It sounds odd, but don't spend twenty-four hours a day with them - it can be too much of a good thing and may trigger arguments! If your friends have worries and problems, pay attention and do what you can to help - give them a hand to resolve the problem or just listen to their worries. Sometimes that's all that is needed… and they'd do the same for you, after all.

Hannah says:
Don't try too hard! True friendships are about personality and having a laugh. If you're faking things to try to fit in, the friendship will never last.

Chloe says:
Be yourself. Joining clubs that interest you is always a good way to meet others with the same interests. True friends will be there through everything, because they care, but remember that in life you will make loads of friends over the years and not all of them will be forever. There is no rule for knowing which friends will last and which will not, but if you work hard a friendship you can overcome most things!

Kellie says:
Don't let shyness stop you from making new friends… be the first to talk and eat at the same table at lunchtimes.

Kiera says:
Don't overdo it! Show them how your personality stands out as an individual spark, but don't try too hard or be too in-their-face all of the time. Just be yourself - there is nothing worse than knowing that someone doesn't like you for you, but for someone you are pretending to be...

Pics posed by models: 
Top pic, photo by Tika, models Daisy and Jaz;
Bottom two pics, models Hailie, Hayley and Kathryn. 
Words: with thanks to the readers on my Facebook fanpage!

Cathy says: 
Awesome suggestions that should keep your friendships strong and true! For more friendship advice, check out my non-fiction book LETTERS TO CATHY which has lots of advice on friendship… check it out! COMMENT BELOW to add YOUR top tips for a lasting friendship!