Saturday, 28 May 2016

ANASTAZJA: A REAL LIFE ANYA?

Reader Anastazja came to Ireland from Poland a few years ago... find out how she settled in, and discover how the book ANGEL CAKE helped her!

Anastazja says:
I'm twelve years old and I live in Dublin, Ireland, but I was born in Poland and moved over here when I was just six. I could not speak English at all, but I still managed to get along OK! The move was very difficult, though, mainly because I had to live with my Nanny for a year in Poland while my parents came to Dublin. Then once they were settled properly I came over to join them, and that was much better! I got special help from the teachers to begin with and I did begin to feel more settled. I got along with everyone, but I made my first real friend, Emily, just a year ago at Scouts. That has helped so much!

The most difficult things now are things like keeping up with Dublin slang - stuff like 'Lmao' or 'I'm so hot' or the stuff that gets posted on Snapchat. I never really know how to use it and worry I will end up making a fool out of myself! I learned English from my dad, and also at school, and once I was able to read in English things have been much easier. Last year I discovered Cathy Cassidy books and I love them because they are just so teenage and so cool. I especially love GINGERSNAPS and ANGEL CAKE - well, ANGEL CAKE the most, because Anya's story is like my own story in a way! I read the book from start to finish with happiness and I collect the books now... I have quite a few!

Like Anya in ANGEL CAKE, it was hard in some ways to adjust to life in Ireland. Poland is a country that has a beautiful history and many traditions, and our own foods of course too! Dublin is different in so many ways - different history, traditions and foods. It is a busy city where there is always a lot happening - and for some reason it is always raining here! There are lots of differences really. Just like Anya though I do feel settled now and I have real friends. I am glad that I read ANGEL CAKE because it opened up the world of CC books to me, and they teach me so much about friendship and fitting in and emotions too. The books are inspiring to me. Am I a real life Anya? I don't know... maybe! You can decide...

Cathy says:
I LOVED hearing all about Anastazja's story of settling in Ireland... how cool? Have YOU ever had to settle in a different country or learn a new language? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 27 May 2016

NIKKI SHEEHAN: SWAN BOY

My writer pal Nikki has just published a new novel, the outrageously good SWAN BOY. Read on to see why she wrote it and why YOU should read it!

Nikki says:
Sometimes growing up is hard to do. The difference between being a kid and an older teen can seem as great as the difference between a pony and a giraffe; they both have four legs and are so cute they should be illegal, but would you ask a pony to feed from the leaves at the top of a tree? Or expect a giraffe to win a gymkhana? That's how I remember my life being between the ages of ten and fifteen, bouncing between feeling like a kid and an adult, which is why I wanted to write about it in SWAN BOY. (I also wanted to write about swans, obviously, because they are very cool!)

Surviving the pony/giraffe transformation can be tough enough, but if, like my main character, Johnny, other things have gone wrong in your life (Johnny's dad has died suddenly and he's had to move house away from all of his friends) you might have even more trouble working out who you are supposed to be.

That's where good friends and role models come in. I like to be kind to my characters, so I've given Johnny a few people to help him navigate his way from thirteen to fourteen. The main one is a bit unusual; it's a huge white swan. I could have given him a faithful dog, or even a rare falcon, but as well as being cool (did I mention that?) swans are associated with change, as in the story of The Ugly Duckling, and they ooze strength, grace, pride and fearlessness, which are all the qualities I wanted my character to find within himself.

So how does this happen? In the story, Johnny is stalked by the huge white swan, and then he accidentally lands the lead role in a school production of Swan lake. His dance teacher tells him to live the part and he literally begins to turn into a swan. I'm not suggesting that you should grow feathers, but if, like Johnny, you feel that you're different to everyone else, I want to tell you a secret; you're one of the lucky ones. As Johnny finds out, being different is good, but it's not until you realise it that you will really begin to fly.

Find out more about Nikki on here website, www.nikkisheehan.com or order Swan Boy here... http://www.bookdepository.com/Swan-Boy/9781780749242 The book is also available now in all good bookstores!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

CHARLOTTE: MY FAVOURITE PLACES TO READ...

Student Charlotte talks about the joys of reading, and of finding just the right place to curl up with a favourite book!


Charlotte says:
This week I decided to hop on a bus and go to Southport, the nearest beach town to where I go to uni. The weather was amazing so I really didn't want to miss out! I walked through a huge park and out to the very end of the pier, then had some lunch in a cafe overlooking the sea. Later I sat down in a little park and read a few chapters of my book, and that inspired me to write this post... my favourite places to read!

The park is a great place to read. You can sit on a bench in the dappled sunlight, lie on the grass or even relax on the swings and read as you sway. You can read in the shade or in the sun and it's even better if there just happens to be an ice cream van nearby... just try not to get ice cream on your book!

Another place I love to read is the beach. It's funny, because I am not usually a fan of the beach, but if I take a blanket and an umbrella (I get sunburnt really easily), I can happily lie for hours and read a good book. The sound of the sea in the background is just so calming. This set up is especially good if there is a shop or a food stall nearby (or again, an ice cream van!) so that you can nip across and grab anything you need, then get straight back to your book!

It's also great to read right at home! At home you have a whole array of reading choices - you can lie in bed, curl up on the sofa, even lie on the floor if that's your thing/ You've got your bookshelf right there in case you happen to finish a book and want to go straight onto a new one. There is no chance of sunburn at home, which for me is a real plus... and if you're really lucky, the ice cream van might call round. (In case you can't tell, I really like ice cream vans!)

Finally, there is no better place than a library. What place can be better for reading a book than a building FULL of them? If there is a comfy chair to sit in, that's even better. It's great to support your local libraries, and a library card is completely free so you can borrow books as often as you like without it costing you a penny. They're brilliant!

Cathy says:
Love it! Where do YOU like to read? COMMENT BELOW to tell us your favourite reading spots!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

SARAH: WHY DOES HE HATE ME NOW?

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER again and reader Sarah has a heartbreaking question for Honey Tanberry... will Honey's advice help? Read on and see...

Sarah says:
I feel like my life is over. I had a crush on a boy in my year - let's call him Joe - for ages. My friends knew, and he knew even though I hadn't said anything because he'd smile at me sometimes and wink, in a flirty sort of way. This would always send my friends into fits of the giggles, and I would go scarlet with blushing. A week ago we had a Year Seven dance to raise money for charity, and Joe asked me to dance. We were together all night and at the end we went outside for some air and we kissed and cuddled and stuff. I had to go because my mum was picking me up, but I was so happy. All weekend I was on a cloud, texting my friends and fantasising about having a boyfriend. Then on Monday I went to school and he totally blanked me, and when my friend asked him what was wrong he just laughed and said surely I hadn't thought he was serious, I was just not his type. I am devastated and I feel so ashamed because the whole of my year saw what happened and they can see what is happening now, and every day is like torture. What did I do to make him hate me so?

Honey says:
I wish I could tell this boy what I think of him, face to face. He's a user, a loser, an immature idiot who doesn't deserve you - or any girl. He knew you liked him so he took the opportunity to have a kiss and a cuddle, but he is not mature enough for a relationship. Rather than tell you that, he's acting big in front of his friends and pretending you took it all the wrong way. It wouldn't surprise me if he's been teased by his friends about spending time with you at the dance and that he doesn't have the guts to say he likes you - he'd rather turn it all into a joke at your expense. Either way, you do not need this boy. Please don't waste your tears on him, and don't feel ashamed either - those who noticed what went on will not be pitying you but thinking what a low-life idiot Joe is. You're feeling bruised and hurt right now and that's only natural, but don't let him get to you. Stand tall, brush off the hurt and show him that you just don't care, that he's nothing to you. Yes, it will be acting, but it will help, I promise. Not all boys are half-wit losers like this one... and in time your hurt will heal and you'll find someone who really cares about you. For now, remind yourself that although he looked good on the outside, he was pretty rotten on the inside... you are better off without him.

Cathy says:
Ouch... Sarah has found out the hard way that some boys can be users, but honey's advice is brilliant and should certainly help. Would YOU add anything more? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 May 2016

ELENA: CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING!

Reader Elena loves the sport of cross country running - read on and find out more about it all!

Elena says:
I first got involved in cross country running with a race at my school. I really enjoyed it, so I joined the local running club to give it a go. I now go along every Tuesday and Thursday after school, every week. The coach does a warm up routine consisting of lots of stretches to get your muscles warm - this is important so that you don't get injured. I wear my running leggings and a fluorescent jacket to run, but if I'm in a competition I wear my club vest or my PE kit. I love doing cross country because it's a great way to exercise and stay fit, and you make so many new friends. It's fun even when it's cold and rainy! I have represented my school and also my club, and also my county.

A competition can be a bit scary if there are lots of people running - there were almost 500 at the National Championships! You do get a bit nervous at the start, and you have to watch out for 'pushers'! Once I start running, the nerves go away - I usually have an upbeat song in my head, like 'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten. The races for my age group are 1500 m long, but next year I will be running 3000m races. I just try to beat the person in front of me and sprint at the end, and beat my best time. Each race is on a different course with different terrain; some have hills to run up and ponds to run through! I like running through mud, but sometimes I have to put duct tape round my shoes to stop them coming off in the mud! Really warm or really cold are the two worst conditions to run in. I actually like it when it's raining - I stick my tongue out to catch the raindrops and pretend I am in an action movie doing crazy stunts! In competition races I wear 'spikes' rather than regular trainers, which help make sure you don't slip or fall. The right trainers can be expensive, but Mum tries to get them in the sale! My ambition for next season is to either win a race or beat my friend, because she's well good!

My advice to others who want to have a try at cross country running is definitely to go for it. It's a lot of fun and there are loads of running clubs around Britain so it's easy to get involved!

Cathy says:
This sounds amazing - and a far cry from my memories of crashing about in the muddy woodlands doing cross country running at school! Do YOU follow a cool or unusual sport or hobby? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

SHEBA: LIFE ON THE EDGE...

Reader Sheba came to settle in the UK when she was nine... read how CC books helped her to find her feet...

Sheba says:
I came to Britain from overseas when I was nine years old... my family settled in a quiet, country town which was not the most multi-ethnic of places. Primary school was increasingly difficult. It wasn't actually so bad when I didn't understand the language, but I quickly grasped English and realised there were a lot of racial slurs being aimed at me by the other kids. I was angry and the teachers had no sympathy when I verbally hit back... they just didn't understand. Around this time I came across Cathy Cassidy's books, and I especially connected with ANGEL CAKE about Anya, a Polish girl settling in the UK. I'm not Polish, but I loved the book and really related to Anya because she always retained her dignity. She didn't let the snide comments of other people drag her down and she built her own world within the environment she landed in.

The other book I connected very strongly to was GINGERSNAPS. Like Ginger, I would find myself eating too much, comfort eating really, as a way of blocking out the unhappiness and this coping mechanism stayed with me all the way through until high school. Sometimes I would gorge... trying to make myself happy with food, even though hunger was not the problem. It was only as I progressed through school and my academic achievements began to be recognised that I began to see I was actually worth much more than some of my classmates seemed to think. Like Ginger, I tried very hard to forget the past. Finally, this year, I began to see that even though it can be hard, it's important to think about the past as it is a part of you... and only by accepting this can you move forward.

Gradually, over time, I began to stop over-eating. I'd been worried about this habit for a while, but my friends seemed to gorge themselves on sweets and still stay thin, and I did not. Things had to change. Very slowly I began eating healthier portions and I always felt much happier and more alert when I hadn't gorged the day before. I wanted to work towards a strong, fit body and gradually that old coping mechanism faded away. Like Ginger, I moved forward and changed my life.

I have tears streaming down my face as I write this, but I wanted to share the experiences I have been through as a way to reach out to others in the same position, for whatever reason, who may be feeling right now that things will never get better. I still get comments at school because I am keen and bookish, but I am much stronger now and I don't let it get to me. Besides, believe me... books are a far better coping mechanism than over eating.

Awesome illustrations by reader Sarah... thank you so much! And many thanks to Sheba for writing such a brave and honest account of her experiences.

Cathy says:
Sheba's story shows just how deeply thoughtless words can cut. Spiteful comments can damage our self esteem hugely, but Sheba's determination to turn things around has given her back a bright and confident future. Has a CC book ever helped YOU to handle something tough? COMMENT BELOW to tell me how!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

CLAIRE: READING IN BRAILLE...

Reader Claire is a big Cathy Cassidy fan... but she is blind, and reads the books in braille. Find out how she campaigned to get her favourite CC book translated into braille!

Claire says:
I am severely blind, which means I have no useful sight at all, just a small bit of light perception in the corner of one of my eyes. This means I cannot read any print, not even the largest sizes of print, so I have to use braille to read. I discovered Cathy Cassidy through braille books, and recently I wrote to her because she had posted about a papier mache tree fairy she had made. I liked the sound of that - I thought it might be  an all-year-round project for those crafty geeks like me and others who like crafts to try out. Cathy replied that the project could be found in the book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS, but at the time this was not available in braille. In situations like this, I have to turn to audiobooks, but 'SECRETS' is not available as an audiobook either. I asked Cathy about this, and she explained that it was a book that didn't work well as an audiobook as it relied very much on pictures to show the projects.

At this point I suggested Cathy contact the Royal National Institute for the Blind library to ask if the book could be transcribed into braille, as sometimes they describe the pictures too and it all makes sense. I passed on the contact details. I didn't think anything would come of this, but a few days later Cathy sent me the message that RNIB library had sent to her through Facebook. They had six of her books in braille, which was cool. Four days later, things got even more exciting! Another message from RNIB library arrived, saying that they had decided to transcribe four more CC books into braille, and that CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS was one of them! I was over the moon!

I felt so proud to be part of something big like this, especially with someone like Cathy Cassidy! Braille books mean everything to me; without them I would not be able to read, or would have to rely on having someone read things to me. With a braille book, you can physically pick up and hold a book, which really helps me to connect to the story and 'become' the main character. If it wasn't for the RNIB library, together with local organisations who help people with sight loss, those who need braille books would have no access to them. Please, if you are able to, make a donation to RNIB, even if it's just a small amount, or just once. If that's not possible, please consider fundraising for RNIB within your school or local community... the money you raise can make all the difference in the world to a blind person like me. Thank you!

Beautiful illustrations by talented reader Sarah - thank you!

You can find out more about RNIB and how to fundraise or donate to them here. It's such a good cause!

Cathy says:
I was thrilled to be able to help Claire find access to the book she wanted to read... the RNIB library does an AWESOME job and were so, so helpful. Can YOU imagine what it would be like to read in braille? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!