Monday, 30 June 2014

CRAFT IS COOL!

Are you a crafty girl? Do you knit, sew, scrapbook, crochet, make rag rugs? We asked CC readers to share their craft talents… 


Deborah says:
I learned how to stitch designs onto hessian in my Design & Technology class in Year 8. We started out doing lines of colour and moved onto mosaic patterns. I decided to take the idea a step further and make some pillows… I draw the design onto hessian fabric and stitch different coloured threads through the holes, following the lines of my drawing. Eventually the hessian will have vanished under the thread design! Up until now, I have given the hessian back to my textiles teacher to stuff and add a backing, but I am taking textiles for GCSE so hopefully she will show me how to do all that for myself soon! I love making pillows as they are so cute and make awesome presents. You can even make themed designs and holiday designs… and yes, even book inspired designs, like the ANGEL CAKE one!

Chloe says:
I have started to sew as a hobby over the summer holidays. I recently decided to create plush toys inspired by the Chocolate box Girls series! The ones in the picture represent Honey (the artist's palette), Coco (the horseshoe), Skye (the bird) and Summer (the ballet shoe). I am currently working on Cherry's, which will be a cherry-blossom plush. I find sewing quite taxing and demanding as it requires a lot of time and effort, but the end results always make it worthwhile!

Matilda says:
Craft is fun! I like sewing - I've enjoyed attending the fashion design courses my school has. They're awesome! My school teaches us how to sew too - we are designing and making aprons this year. last year we designed bags, as you can see in the photo… I guess that was when I really started to enjoy sewing. I enjoyed making the applique birds for my design just as much as making the bag itself! I enjoy other craft stuff too, like scrapbooking… it's fun and creative, and a cool way to make gifts for friends!
Laura says:
I first learned about needle felting from a magazine - I found an article about a woman who needle felted little sheep. I wanted to try it, so I asked a Sixth Year at my art club about it. She immediately found some fleece and started to show me; when you needle felt, you stab a piece of carded wool fleece with a long needle so that all the fibres knit together. The first thing I ever felted was a small two inch long thing that looked like a cross between a Russian doll and a piece of sushi! Very exotic. Since then I've got better and have needle-felted lots more things, like the penguins in the picture. There have been a few 'stabbing' incidents with the needle, but nothing too serious! When I'm older, I hope to have a vintage/craft shop so I am learning as many skills as I can… I love needle felting!

Cathy says:
Are YOU a crafty girl? COMMENT BELOW to tell us if any of the crafts mentioned appeal to you… or to tell us about YOUR fave craft activity!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

JADE: BULLYING RUINED MY LIFE...

Reader Jade speaks out about how relentless bullying ruined her school years and almost took her life...

Jade says:
When I was ten, we moved from Wales to the North east of England and I was badly bullied both at school and at home. One of the bullies was my own stepbrother, so I felt I could never get away from it. We moved back to Wales but the bullying continued and got worse. Some girls told me I was fat and ugly, others hated me for being smart, and boys would ask me out as a joke. Worse, one of the boys repeatedly hit and touched me. I was thirteen and terrified of school, so I began skipping meals and making myself sick so I wouldn't have to go. One day some girls followed me home, threw stones at me and posted vile notes through my door; that was the day I began to self-harm.

I got a scholarship to a private school but the bullying continued online and in person if I dared to go out to the swimming pool or the park. Things were better by the time I went to college to study A levels, but by then I was struggling with depression, anxiety and eating problems... I was still haunted by the bullying. I had to change things; I got counselling and began to develop coping techniques, and was accepted at university to study to be a vet. And then, the day before my Physics A level, I found out I was pregnant. I was devastated, and my boyfriend didn't want to know... I had never felt more alone.

Six months after my baby was born, I tried to end my life. I just couldn't stop the feelings of hopelessness, sadness and anxiety. I couldn't see a way out of the black hole I was in. I ended up in hospital for four months, and amazingly, that saved me. The doctors helped me with my baby, sorted out my medication and gave me coping techniques which are now a lifeline. Life is very different now. I have a great boyfriend, my daughter is two and I am about to take my A levels and go to uni in September. Best of all, I have ways to fight the hopelessness that sometimes threatens to take over. Writing therapy has been amazing - a way to pour my feelings out onto paper.

If anyone out there is feeling low, please talk to your parents, a teacher, a doctor, a friend. It may seem scary, but it can really help. Learn some coping techniques - the MIND website has a section on this. More than anything, tell yourself every day that you CAN do it, even though it can feel terrible, and as though it will never end. Work hard and believe - there is help out there, there IS a way through. They say sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you - that is NOT true. Those words and cruel names can haunt you. Bullies don't understand that what they think is a bit of fun can cause so much harm.

Names have been changed, pic posed by model.

If YOU are being bullied, please call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or contact Beat Bullying at http://www.beatbullying.org

Cathy says:
Jade's story is a heartbreaker. If her bullies knew just how much damage they did, I wonder if they'd feel guilty? I hope so, but sadly, the damage was done and Jade has had to battle very hard to come through. COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to show her your support, or to share your own stories of being bullied or struggling with depression.

COOL BOOKS BY VERY COOL AUTHORS...

Stuck for something to read? Check out these suggestions - there's sure to be something awesome to grab your attention!
Sarah Webb says:
I live in Dublin and I love writing for young teens, as I have strong memories of being thirteen! A lot happens at that age - you change schools, your friends go a little crazy, you're supposed to act grown up but at the same time your parents treat you like a child sometimes. I have all my old teen diaries and love reading over them and remembering what it felt like to be a teenager. I also love the emails, letters and Facebook messages that readers send, which make it all worthwhile! My latest book is called AMY GREEN: WEDDING BELLES. Amy and her crazy aunt Clover team up as wedding planners for Amy's mum and stepdad's big day… but when disaster strikes, can they save the party? It's the sixth book in my ASK AMY GREEN series; I'm working on a new series, SONGBIRD CAFE, at the moment!

Dawn Finch says:
As you can see, I've always had books on my mind... and I've been lucky enough to spend my life surrounded by them! I've always written and told stories and can't imagine anything different. Growing up, the library was always my favourite place to be; I loved being able to reach out and grab another world, and that's only possible with books. As a children's librarian I shared thousands of other people's books with young readers, and now I get to share my own too, which is completely awesome!!! My book, BROTHERHOOD OF SHADES is a ghost story set in modern London, and all of the locations in the book are real. It's about a secret organisation of ghosts who aim to protect the world of the Living from the world of the Dead! I think you'll enjoy the book, and if you contact me through my website at www.dawnfinch.com I can send you a special edition printable poster of the locations in the book, designed by the wonderful artist Amy Rose.

Lara Williamson says:
Like the character in my first book, I have always believed a little bit of hope can go a long way! That's what happened when I started writing a book; I was working on a teen mag at the time but secretly longed to write a book. It took me a few years to get the book deal of my dreams, but I never gave up hope, and that's why the book ended up with the title A BOY CALLED HOPE. It fits the story and my own feelings about hope perfectly! The book is about eleven year old Dan and his roller-coaster life. Dan's dad has left the family and Dan is determined to bring him back - but it's not easy when your dad's just not interested. Dan's friend Jo gives him a special medal that she says will make his dreams come true... but is that really possible? You'll have to read it to see!


Cathy says:
I can personally recommend these books… if you like them, do give them a try, and COMMENT BELOW to share your own must-reads!

Friday, 27 June 2014

MANON: I LIVE IN FRANCE!

Another in our fab series of readers around the world... Manon describes what it's like to live in the Normandy region of France!

Manon says:
I think my name must appear strange to you, but it is very common in France! I am thirteen and I live in a small village in the countryside in Normandy, about two hours from Paris. My home is a typical Normandy house, peaceful and surrounded by trees. The weather here is undecided, like the French! One day it is sunny, one day rainy, then sunny again! My school is right next to the village, and the hours are long - some days I am not home until 6pm. I would love to finish school at 2pm or 3pm as some students in UK do!
There are no uniforms, which is good, as we can show our style. It is not strict, or rather it depends on the teachers! My favourite subject is French - my teacher is so nice! As a hobby, I go horse-riding. I can't describe how much I love this sport! I do not compete as this might be too stressful… but I love the freedom of a good, headlong gallop! Horse riding for me, is synonymous with freedom. I like Coco from the Cathy Cassidy books because of this! I also love reading, of course!

The French are known for perfume, haute couture, wine... and food! We have many specialities, like cheese - Camembert, Brie, Saint-Paulain, Roquefort - pastries - macarons, apple turnovers, strawberry tarts - and main dishes such as pot-au-feu, ratatouille and rilettes - yum! And yes, we eat frogs too - I know, original, isn't it? If there is something that everyone loves here, it is the bread. Bread is sacred! Everyone has their preferences: crunchy, soft, traditional, sweet... and there is also pain-au chocolat, croissants and chocolatines! The bread is made freshly every morning and sold throughout the day.

I would say that the French often express themselves with facial expressions and with their hands. We are known to be 'warm blooded' - that is to say, impulsive! Concerning clothes, French style is characterised by its simplicity. A polo top, a Breton top (we call this a mariniere - a striped sailor top)  and of course the very stylish  beret are favourite French accessories. Paris is known worldwide as a capital of fashion and luxury with prestigious fashion and designers like Chanel, Christian Dior and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

France is very patriotic! We have a national holiday on July 14th for Bastille Day, and we celebrate the Festival De Cannes with all its stars and red carpet moments... glamorous! It is true that I envy especially the self-control and calm of the British, but the French are proud of their history and have a strong personality. I am very proud to be French!

Cathy says:
Wow... I love Manon's account of life in France and really admire her brilliant English! I love France too, and I'm thrilled to be returning in November for the Montreuil Book Festival. My French readers are AWESOME! Have you been to France, or would you like to write about YOUR country for DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to tell us!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

THE ART OF THE CHOCOLATE BOX...

Ever wondered how the gorgeous, good-enough-to-eat covers of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS BOOKS are designed and made? Wonder no more… artist Sara tells all. There's even a super-cool chocolate-icing tutorial to inspire you!

Sara says:
I'm a senior designer at Puffin and I'm lucky enough to design and illustrate the Cathy Cassidy books, including the lovely Chocolate Box Girls series. I have a very clear memory of designing CHERRY CRUSH, the first book in the series… I was stranded in a snowdrift in Harrogate! I'd gone on holiday and the snow had begun and I was thinking of ideas for the cover, and it all seemed to come together. I designed the hand-drawn 'Cathy Cassidy' logo and the wraparound cover with the circle cut-out and the cherry blossom and of course the chocolates… on each book, the chocolates are iced with images that are relevant to the story. I've made a little chocolate-icing tutorial film to show you how… take a look!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2qsf-bVdM&feature=em-subs_digest

I loved both art and English at school and ended up doing an art degree as there were more boys on the course than in English! Oops… possibly not the best way to choose! Once I'd qualified, I used to take my portfolio round all the design agencies and someone suggested I would do well in publishing. I tried it and I've been here ever since! If you are keen on art and design as a career, go for it… every day is different, and it's fantastic fun!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

MY PARENTS WON'T LET ME HAVE A DOG!

Another in our occasional series of readers problems… as solved by one of the Chocolate Box sisters! With your help, too, of course!

Soraya says:
I have wanted a dog for as long as I can remember, but my parents are out at work all day and say this means we cannot look after one properly. They think it would be unfair on the dog and also that they would have to do all the hard work like feeding and walking. That's not true - I would do everything! I am animal mad. I have done some research and I think a Golden Retriever would be perfect for our family. I have even found out about a dog walker in the area who could walk the dog during the day, and apparently if you get two they can keep each other company anyway. I have tried and tried to show my parents I am serious about this, but still they say no. They just won't listen to me. What can I do?

Coco says:
I understand your enthusiasm, but… I hate to say it, YOU are the one not listening here. Your parents have been very straight about this. They work all day and think it is unfair to keep a dog if it is alone all day, and I agree. Our dog Fred actually came to us from an old lady in the village who wasn't able to look after him properly any more. He had become very sad and neglected, but he really cheered up once he was able to roam around the gardens at Tanglewood and go for long walks every day, and of course Mum and Paddy are always around. Dogs need company, and get very lonely and sometimes destructive if left all day.
Using a dog walker is one solution, but it's an expensive one and the dog would still be alone a lot of the time. A better idea might be for you to help out at your local dog's home or rescue centre… there are lots of unwanted dogs there who really need some love and affection as well as someone to help clean them out, walk them, feed them, groom them. You'd find your help could make a HUGE difference to those animals. Meanwhile, why not get a goldfish as a pet, like my sister Cherry? Very low maintenance! As for the Golden Retriever of your dreams, you can get one in the future when you have your own home and family… although maybe by then you might decide that re-homing an unwanted rescue dog might be an even better option!

Cathy says:
Coco has very strong views on this - do you agree? What would YOU say to Soraya? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

SHADY STORIES...

We asked for your sunglasses selfies… and boy are they cool!

Anna says:
I tend to look like the walking dead during the summer, either wearing scary shades or with a gothic style parasol, which stands out when everyone else is wearing their tiny shorts and summery clothing. Oh, and I always get bees flying into my hair… very unpleasant!

Blue says:
Two things probably strike you about my sunglasses. They are ridiculously large for my face, but that's fashionable, right? The second thing is that my sunglasses are tiny mirrors pretending to be eyewear, and I use this to freak people out. Not being able to see someone's eyes when you're talking to them is disconcerting, and it's worse when you can see your own reflection staring back at you. The minute the sun made an appearance back in S6, I had the sunglasses on. the teachers let me because they looked a bit intimidating! Once, a psychologist came into class to talk about psychopathy and I was over-interested and asking questions about narcissism and Machiavellian behaviour, all well and good except I was wearing sunglasses. Picture it, me, grinning manically as I rave about the Stanford Prison experiment… and you can't see my eyes, just your own slightly terrified face reflected back at you. Freaky, huh?

Scarlett says:
 I got these sunglasses last summer. When I first went I tried on loads and picked these - but they're special because they are prescription sunglasses which have special lenses to suit my eyesight. When I went to pick the sunglasses up I tried them on; they seemed fine to me, as I don't normally wear shades, but the man in the shop told me they were so dark they were actually Alpine skier level, so we had to re-order them!

Kym says:
I don't have any exciting sunglasses stories… it's just that I seem to go through about ten pairs of the wretched things every single summer! I have a terrible habit of leaving them behind in places, or else chucking them in my bag carelessly so the lenses get scratched or pop out. This is not good… but sunglasses and summer go together, so I'll just have to try harder this year!





Hazel says:
These are my sunglasses - I got them for ten dollars at Walmart. Here in California you REALLY need sunglasses so they come just about everywhere with me! They have been to the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and to New Mexico, the prettiest state in the whole of America (not that I have been in many, but I am sure it is!).  I love them to bits!

Cathy says:
Have YOU got a sunglasses selfie you'd like to share? Send it here, along with a para on why you love your sunnies or about a funny sunglasses story you'd like to tell us… we'll post the best in a future DREAMCATCHER! COMMENT BELOW to have your say on the shady stories above!

Monday, 23 June 2014

FANTASTIC FRIENDSHIPS...

Do you have a friendship that's worth shouting about? These readers certainly do...


Alisa says:
I have lots of close friends, but my best friend by far is Kayla. We have been friends since we were two; we did ballet together and were really close, but then we went to different primary schools and drifted apart. Now we are at the academy together and we're best friends again! We tell each other everything. If one of us has a problem, we will always support each other no matter what! I love Kayla so much - she's like my sister from another mister!

Princess says:
I have so many friends and they are all very different from each other - but all very special to me! My very besties are Sara and Aziza, my best friends, my sisters, my heroes. I cannot describe how amazing they are but I am so blessed to have them! I don't know what I have done to deserve such amazing friends, but they are my family. A big shout out too to Zara, Umi, Zara S, Sophie & Anna!


Matilda says:
My best friend is Russel. We are always together through good and bad - we can always count on each other. We always have the other person's support, and if I am having a bad day, I know Russel will be there to listen and to help cheer me up again. It works the other way round, too! We're really close - more than friends. I'd say we're more like siblings. And, well... maybe a little more than that, too. Who says boys and girls can't be BFFs?



Stephanie-Jade says:
My two best friends Emma (left) and Stephanie (right) have always been there for me, ever since the day I first met them. Emma can be sarcastic and makes jokey insults, but she never means anything bad; she does it to make me understand things, it's just her way. Stephanie is just a bundle of joy. They have both had their challenges - as I have - and we always look after each other, no matter what. I couldn't wish for better friends.


Lauren says:
I have two best friends, Imogen and Toni. I have known them since I started secondary school and they are really amazing, supportive friends who can always manage to put a smile on my face. I tell them just about everything and they do the same to me; they always have time for me. Whenever we're together it's always a great laugh… I am very lucky to have them as my best friends. I love them to bits!


Cathy says:
COMMENT BELOW to give your best pals a shout out, or message me if you'd like to be featured in a future BEST FRIENDS feature!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

HAPPY SOLSTICE!

21st June is midsummer's day, and over the centuries many people gather to celebrate it by watching the sun come up, just as DIZZY does at a festival in my book of the same name. We talked to reader NETTIE who went to Stonehenge this year to celebrate the solstice!

Nettie says:
The Summer Solstice is the most important part of the year at Stonehenge. Each year visitors from around the world gather on the night of 20th June to watch the sunrise above the stones on 21st. It's a one-day festival with the only music being drums, horns, shakers and acoustic guitars. It's the only time of the year that the barriers are down and you can touch the stones.
It is exactly like in DIZZY… there are stalls with facepainters, vans with food and a few small stalls selling handmade items. The fields surrounding Stonehenge are filled with people sitting in groups, waiting for the sun to come up. It's very friendly but you DO need to keep safe and stay with your group… there is security to help if you do get separated. It's also important not to eat or drink anything that isn't from one of the stalls or from one of your group, just to be completely safe.
For pagans, the summer solstice is about worshipping the sun god who is at his strongest on midsummer's day... before winter draws close again. For others, it is just a powerful experience to see the sun rise above the ancient stones and feel that you are a part of something timeless. I have been once before, and a friend was going this year so I took the opportunity to tag along! Even if you only get the chance to go once, it is still an AMAZING experience and a LOT of fun!

Cathy says:
Have YOU ever been to a festival like the ones described in DIZZY? Would you like to? Did YOU celebrate the Summer Solstice? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Friday, 20 June 2014

HASSANA: I LIVE IN NIGERIA!

Ever felt curious about what it might be like to be a teenager living on the other side of the world? Sixteen year old Hassana gives us the low-down on Nigeria...


Hassana says:
I live in Lagos, Nigeria, with my brother, Mum and Dad. We have out own house, a three storey building - we live on the first floor and rent out the other two floors. The climate here is good... we don't have snow, though! In December-January we have 'harmattan' - a dry, dusty west African trade wind which lowers the temperature. I love the colder weather when you just out on a favourite pair of socks, drink hot cocoa and daydream!
Nigerians love to wear both western and traditional dress - I love to mix them both. I like to be different and choose dresses that are modest, comfortable and down-to-earth awesome. I often make my own clothes using traditional prints in western styles! In the picture to the left, I'm wearing a top I sewed myself using our traditional materials - I made the accessories myself too.
Nigerians are very religious people; the country is filled with both muslims and christians. I am a muslim by birth and still a muslim - at the moment I am still trying to fit in with the hijab (head scarf) as I wasn't used to it!
I went to a military private school so my hair was cut low, a rule for both boys and girls. Both public and private schools in Nigeria have uniforms, and because my school was a private one tuition fees had to be paid. The public schools are free because they are government owned. I
graduated from secondary school last July and was given a place at university to study Botany; however, I wish to be a paediatrician so I am applying again this year and hoping I will get a place on the course I want. There are six classes to pass before you graduate secondary school, and each class consists of three terms. The subjects are wide and range from Maths, English, Social Studies, Business Studies and Fine Art to Agricultural Science, French, Music, Religious Studies and more. Because of my ambition to be a paediatric doctor I was in the science classes. We also studied Nigerian languages like Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.
I love junk food, especially fries and chocolate, and we also eat pancakes, cereals, bread, tea, rice, beans and so on. Typical Nigerian dishes might be Tuwoshinkafa, made from rice, Amala made from cassava (yam) flour, Eba, also made from cassava, and Egusi or Ewedu soup.
Nigeria has awesome culture and tribes, warm-hearted people and plenty of tourism - we have eateries, cinemas, theatres, bars and some huge beachside hotels. Nigeria was made World Book Capitial in 2014 and we have some amazing writers, like Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and the amazing Chimananda Ngozi Adichie who wrote Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus and more.
Nigeria is the fourth largest country in West Africa and is the backbone and the strength of Africa… although it has been in the news lately for some very sad events, Nigeria is still a truly wonderful place to be.

Cathy says:
Wow... Hassana's description really makes Nigeria come alive, and I LOVE her dress designs in those cool African prints! COMMENT BELOW to have your say or to thank Hassana for her brilliant report!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

SCARED TO MEET DAD'S NEW GIRLFRIEND...

Another in our occasional series of reader's problems… solved by one of the Chocolate Box Girls. With your help, of course! This time, CHERRY tries to help…

Louisa says:
Two years ago, my mum and dad split up and Dad moved out. I know Mum was gutted but she has never tried to stop my brother and I from seeing Dad or tried to make out he is a bad person (which is what my friend's mum did when her boyfriend left). I thought we were all handling it well, but Dad has just told us he's got a new live-in girlfriend. I do NOT want to meet her. She's nothing to do with me, so why should I have to get to know her? I know she had nothing to do with the break-up, but I cannot stand the thought of Dad being with someone new, and though Mum seems to be taking it in her stride I know I would feel SO disloyal handing out with this woman. Help!

Cherry says:
I had to adjust pretty quickly when my dad met Charlotte Tanberry - and, worse, she came as a package with four perfect daughters too. I do know what you mean about feeling disloyal; even though my mum had been gone for years, I still felt guilty the first time I met Charlotte - as if I was trying to replace Mum, even though I wasn't. All I can say is you MUST give your dad's new girlfriend a chance. She's not trying to replace your mum, but she IS important to your dad and if all of you can get along things will be much easier for everyone. If you refuse to see her, you are actually forcing your dad to choose between you, and it may not end well. Even if he does choose you, he may be resentful.
If your mum doesn't have an issue with this woman, why should you? She may be great - after all, your dad likes her, right? Be brave and get to know her… don't be too quick to judge. Charlotte Tanberry is my stepmum now and one of the most important people in my life. I think the world of her, and my stepsisters too. Well, most of them! (That's a different story, but I'm working on it!)
Good luck Louisa. Let go of the fear and try to accept this woman - I bet she is just as scared as you are about the meeting!

Cathy says:
What advice would YOU give Louisa? Is it important that she gives her dad's girlfriend a fair chance? Why? What would YOU do? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

TOY STORY...

We asked readers to tell us about their favourite childhood toys... and what happened to them! 

Marjolaine says:
I have a big plastic box of teddies I had when I was little. I got Harry when I was five - he'll be a decade old at Christmas and he's full of stitches because he's been through so many 'operations' to keep his arm, head and legs from being amputated! He used to have a little brown jacket but it shrank in the wash and got lost somewhere along the way. I got him at an ice rink in France from my grandad's sister and I skated around the rink all day holding my mum's arm on one side and hanging onto Harry and the barrier with the other. He used to play Jingle Bells but I played it so many times it ran out! I still have Harry... of course I do!

Blue says:
As a child I had a purple teddy with my starsign on; also a collection of Doctor Who figures. One of the Doctors has charcoal on his face because I wouldn't let go of him during an art lesson at school; also, his foot is glued on after I made him abseil over the bannister - the string wasn't strong enough to hold K-9, a cyberman, Rose and two doctors! Currently I have a skelanimal, Kit, and a grey tabby toy with no name...

Laura says:
My teddy Cookie means a lot to me... my sister gave him to me when I was tiny. He sat on my bed for many, many years - in some sense he's my protector, and always has been. I went through some tough and scary times when I was younger but Cookie was always there with a hug; even now, if he's somewhere else, things don't feel right. I used to have tea parties and play games of Monopoly with him... OK, I used to cheat a bit! Even though I've had him so long, he isn't worn. Cookie is a connection to my sister who is now away at uni; because she gave him to me, he's extra special.

Charlotte says:
This is my teddy, named 'Teddy' (I know, very creative...) and I have had him since I was born. I took him to school on my first day of primary and I took him in again on the very last day. He'e travelled a lot, too - he has been to France, Spain, Germany, Scotland, London and much more! There is a picture of me with him when I was a baby and he's bigger than me... I hope I always have him, he's like a part of me!


Stephanie says:
I have a toy rabbit from Winnie The Pooh... he's two and a half feet tall, and when I first got him he was lots bigger than me! I think I was about eighteen months when I first got him and I used to feed him spaghetti - no sure why, but I was convinced he'd like it! As a result he's kind of orange around the mouth... oh dear!


Emily says:
I had loads of Polly Pocket dolls that I used to play with a lot! My sister and I had a whole case of little clothes and shoes for them, and some really cool things like a ferris wheel, a disco and so on. We used to fill up the washing up bowl with water to make a swimming pool for them! I also collected tiny animal ornaments, and when I left home to go to uni I brought some of my favourites with me to keep me company... they have great memories attached to them!

Do YOU have a favourite childhood toy that meant the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us all about them, or to comment on this feature!



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A SIGNING AT BLUEWATER...

Ever wondered what it's like to go along to a Cathy Cassidy book signing? Readers AMY & FLORRIE, roving reporters at the recent WATERSTONES BLUEWATER signing, interviewed a few of the queue to find out what they were really thinking…

Amy & Florrie say:
Amy: I applied to be a chocolate fairy at a different signing but there was a mix-up and I couldn't make it. Cathy arranged for myself and Florrie to be her DREAMCATCHER reporters today! We have had SO much fun! Florrie: Today has been great - I loved meeting all the readers and hearing their stories! I can't believe we've been a part of it all and I loved meeting Cathy, too!

Scarlett says:
I've read all of the books and love them, so I was thrilled to be chosen to be a chocolate fairy with my friend Georgia. I applied via the Facebook Fanpage a few weeks beforehand, and I think names were picked out of a hat! We had to give out chocolate, friendship bracelet threads and bookmarks to the queue, which was fun! Everybody seemed really happy and there was a nice buzz about the day.

Katie says:
I'm fifteen and my favourite Chocolate Box Girls book is definitely SUMMER'S DREAM because I love dance. I haven't read all of the books yet, though!



Izzie says:
I was first in the queue… I've been here since about 11am, as soon as the shop opened. Those of us who arrived early have been queuing outside, sitting down. Last year I brought along truffles for Cathy inspired by the sisters in the series, and this year I made and iced a cake to look like the new book SWEET HONEY. Waterstones came and took a picture of it and tweeted it, and Cathy said she would take it in to Puffin to show her cover designer! I was so glad she liked it!

Amy says:
I'm ten and my favourite book is definitely SWEET HONEY but I love DIZZY too! Honey is my favourite Chocolate Box Girl because you never know what she might do next - and it's amazing to find out what she's like behind the drama queen mask!

Hannah says:
I'm fifteen. I've never met Cathy before so I can't quite believe I'm here! I do chat to Cathy sometimes on twitter, though! I've read SWEET HONEY already and I think it's amazing. I am intrigued about the next book, coming in Summer 2014! I have an idea of what - and who - it's about, but I'm not going to give anything away!

Lucy & Sophia say:
Lucy: I've read SWEET HONEY and I won't give anything away, but put it this way, I CANNOT WAIT for the next book, FORTUNE COOKIE! I love that there is more to come in the series. I've gone for Honey's cool girl goth look today, because she's my fave character! Sophia: I haven't read the new book yet - I'm a new Cathy Cassidy reader. I'm reading CHERRY CRUSH at the moment… I thought I'd start at the beginning of the series because I don't want to miss out on anything!

Molly & Harry say:
Molly: Harry is my brother, and we were both so excited about meeting Cathy! We both read the books and we brought along three books each to be signed. I've emailed Cathy a few times in the past, and she always answers. Today has been great! 
Harry: Cathy asked me which of the boy characters I liked best, and I said maybe Shay… she said he was a good choice and that she could tell I was a cool boy like him! She also said she liked my name and might use it in a book one day!

Megan says:
This is my fourth time at a Cathy Cassidy signing at Bluewater. I have all the pictures still and I love the books so I keep coming back! You could say I've grown up with Cathy's books. We arrived early and were right near the front of the queue. I've read SWEET HONEY and it's my favourite now… Honey's personality fascinates me and she's just so dramatic! There are loads of surprises in the story, too!


Cathy says:
A huge thank you to Amy & Florrie, to my chocolate fairies Scarlett and Georgia and to all the amazing readers who came to Bluewater… you may be hearing more from some of them soon! Have YOU ever been to a Cathy Cassidy signing? What was it like? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

STAGE STRUCK!

Have you ever wondered what it was like to go through an important ballet audition, like Summer Tanberry? Reader Georgina knows exactly how that feels...

Georgina says:
I love ballet. I have been dancing since I was just two years old and go to the Stephanie Parrott School of Dance; I am currently working towards Intermediate Foundation and Grade Three... my exam is in June. This year has been really exciting for me. First of all I played a solo part as Jemima Puddleduck in the Tales of Beatrix Potter ballet... I even had my photograph on the front cover of the programme! That was pretty amazing! Secondly, I auditioned for a place with the English Youth Ballet. This was fantastic but totally nerve-wracking too! I had to stay calm and focus. There were over 130 girls there and some boys too, and there were only fifty places on offer - but I got in! I will be performing in the Nutcracker in Nottingham this summer, which I am pretty sure will be amazing.

I love dancing as it is a way of expressing yourself; it means to much to me. I have also made some amazing friends through ballet. Every week, we have over an hour to pass between lessons and so we have lunch together, make rainbow bracelets and sometimes we even do our homework!

Something else that happened recently was that I was nominated for a Child of Courage award, a scheme organised my my local newspaper. That was exciting! I was nominated for the Performing Arts Award because of my ballet and also because I do LAMDA (London Academy of Dramatic Arts) work. In LAMDA, you have to do exams in speaking, verse and prose (I am good at the speaking part!) and also acting.

I really love drama and I took part in the Derby Arts Festival recently with my friend; we performed a duologue together - and we came first! I also entered the speech and verse section of the festival, and came third in that out of twenty-four students. Dance and drama have helped me through some very tough times and brought so much fun and friendship into my life. They really do mean  the world to me, and I very much hope to be a professional dancer or actress when I am older!


Wow... what a talented girl Georgina is! Do YOU have a hobby or talent that means the world to you? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more, or email me here if you'd like to take part in a future DREAMCATCHER feature!

Monday, 16 June 2014

LILY & MARIAM: SHOES FOR YOU!

Another in our series of cool mums and daughters... we talk to Lily, whose mum Mariam runs an online vintage store!

Lily says:
I'm twelve and I like Youtube, video games, Minecraft, anime and manga. When mum told me she wanted to take a year off from being a writer and launch a career making vintage style shoes, I felt a bit worried - I had no idea how it would work out! Mum had been an author for as long as I could remember, but I like her new business... it brings a lot of opportunities. Then again, it gets annoying living in a house with shoes right, left and centre - especially as I just have pretty much three pairs of shoes that cover all my needs, and I am NOT a vintage girl!

The other downside is that Mum travels away to vintage fairs a lot so I don't see her as much as I used to and at times she does get really stressed out. I don't see myself following in Mum's footsteps - I'd rather be an actress, a Youtube star or maybe a baker! I think Mum's business is great but I'd love her to take a day off once in a while and maybe go out for a nice fancy dinner or go to the movies!

Mariam says:
Until recently I was a scriptwriter and author, but I wanted to try something new. The idea for my business, Born Bad Betty, began when I bought a pair of 50s style kitten heels online. They had swallows on the front, but when they arrived I was disappointed to see that the swallows were just stickers... I thought I could do better than that! I spent months experimenting with charms and trims and glue - one day I accidentally went out with glue in my eyebrows and nobody told me! The shoes draw on my favourites colours and textiles from the 50s with a dash of Rockabilly! I love the business and I love working from home as it fits around the family - my husband is a teacher and also plays double bass in a band, and Lily has a little brother, Sol, aged eight. I like that the business can be flexible enough for me to go along to a school assemblies and look after anyone who's poorly!

Lily has taught me that, although we share common traits, she is very much her own person. I try not compare her to myself as a twelve-year old - she will take her own path, and I respect that. I love Lily to bits but my message to her would be that it is NOT embarrassing to hug your mum in public... no matter how old you are!

Cathy says:
I was lucky enough to meet Mariam and Lily at a recent book signing, and I have also bought two very cool 50s dresses from Mariam's online store Born Bad Betty - it sells 50s frocks and accessories as well as awesome shoes! COMMENT BELOW if you'd love a vintage style business... or if YOUR mum has a cool job you'd like to tell us more about!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER...

Let's celebrate friendship... after all, sometimes, best friends are like the family you choose for yourself!  CC readers tell all about their fab friends... 

Heather says:
My best friend Cerys is beautiful, amazing and selfless! She makes me smile every single day and even when she's a pain in the bum I love her... I've never had a friend like her. We laugh and cry together but no matter what, we are ALWAYS there for each other, whether it's four in the morning or twelve noon.  Love you, Cerys!

Caitlin says:
My best friend Amy and I met way back in nursery; we were friends for ages, but we only got really close from the start of secondary school. We just got to know each other better and began to do everything together - it was like we were joined at the hip! We laugh together and cry together - we literally soak each other's shoulders when we are feeling down. Amy is like a second sister to me. We fight like sisters... but I love her like a sister, too. Amy is amazing. She is always by my side - and she doesn't tell on me if I drink my Capri-Sun in biology class!
Emily says:
My best friend Charlotte is amazing because she is also my twin sister! We don't see as much of each other as we once did as we are now in universities 120 miles apart, but when we do, it;s the best thing EVER. We laugh over the most random and stupid things and seem to have developed a special twin-language of simply looking at each other and knowing what the other is trying to say! I've known some twins in the past who couldn't wait to be away from each other but I think having a best friend and twin sister in one person is the best!

Livia says:
My best friend Ellie and I met at school four years ago, but we didn't get on to begin with. We bumped into each other in the playground - literally - and had a big fight over a couple of bumped heads. After that it was war - we'd play tricks on each other, putting toads in each others bags and things like that. Mum asked if I wanted a sleepover and she included Ellie in the invitations - Mum then shut us in a room together for the whole day! By the time we came out we were inseparable... we'd not only buried our differences but become best friends! It proves that you don't have to like the same things to be friends... we're complete opposites, but I hope we'll be friends forever!

Latifa says:
My best friend Raya have been friends since Year One. Our personalities clash and match at the same time - her personality is tomboyish and she's older than me so she's more knowledgeable about stuff like going out; very shonen style! My personality is a bit more boy-crazy, artistic and enthusiastic about the things I'm into - very shoujo style! We're different, but we appreciate each other's views on things. Sadly, these days we live very far away from each other - on different continents, in fact - but distance is the only thing that almost keeps us apart. And I say 'almost' because nothing can really keep me apart from Raya! This pic is an old one of Raya from the days when we were at school together.

Eve says:
This is a photo of me with my best friends Chloe, Amie and Jade. I only met them this year, but it seems like I've known them forever! I know I can trust them with anything in the world, and they always know what to do when I'm upset. They always make me laugh - even when I don't want to - and I would trust them with my life!


Cathy says:
Naaaww! Awesome friendship stories... which one do you like best? Or is YOUR friendship story one that should be shared, too? COMMENT BELOW and tell us if you'd like to feature in a future DREAMCATCHER post, or email me here!