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!)

Friday, 25 July 2014

SAMIKSHA: I LIVE IN INDIA

Thirteen year old Samiksha lives in Chennai, a big city in India... she tells us about life there...

Samiksha says:
I live in an independent house at the heart of Chennai; it has three bedrooms and a terrace where I can play. There are many trees in the area so we get lots of fresh air and see all kinds of birds! I'm lucky enough to go to one of the best schools in the city. It's co-educational which means boys and girls study together, and we have smart, summery uniforms. The climate here is hot and humid throughout the year, so we need to stay cool! My school can be strict when it needs to be, but the rest of the time the teachers are really friendly, and we have a huge playground and an indoor meeting area too. My favourite subject is English - I enjoy writing essays and short stories! We have a chauffeur, who takes me to and from school.

The staple diet of India is rice, gravy, dhal, pickles and roti; dhal is a dish made from lentils cooked to a soft, soupy or porridge-like consistency, and roti is a kind of flatbread. Indian food can be spicy and tangy but not all types are. There are many vegetarian dishes as some Indians do not eat meat, but many do. We do have many international cuisines here too - American, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and many more. We enjoy western food just as much! My favourite food is roti with channa gravy, which is made from chickpeas.

We have western clothes and in the city these are worn routinely, but we also wear traditional Indian clothes, mostly for functions or celebrations. The picture is of me wearing a traditional Indian 'ghaghara'. It is made of flowy georgette fabric with pink satin roses and I absolutely love it! I worse it to a wedding - I always feel beautiful and happy wearing it! India has a very rich heritage and culture. We are a democratic country and people of many different religions live here. I am a Hindu; the religion involves many rituals and festivals and we have some really interesting religious stories such as the 'Mahabaratha' and the 'Ramayana'. Some of the important festivals of the Hindu religion are Diwali, the festival of lights, and Holi, the festival of colours.


In India we have both joint and nuclear families, and family does play a very important role in Indian culture. I think in the near future more and more people will see the importance of having a joint or extended family and work towards this. India is a very beautiful country and in places it is very developed and sophisticated. We have many beautiful and historical monuments such as the Taj mahal in Delhi and Agra in North India. The only downside is that we have a really large population. India is a mixed economy so poverty exists side by side with wealth. Mostly, though, there are many average income households!

I love singing and one day I'd like to be an internationally known singer - it's my ultimate dream! For me, it is a very proud feeling to be born an Indian - it is a great place to live. I love my country very much!

Cathy says:
I've loved hearing Samiksha's account of living in Chennai... awesome! It has made me more determined than ever to visit India one day. COMMENT BELOW to share your views, or, if you're a reader outside the UK yourself, let me know if you'd like to write about YOUR country!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

HANNAH: I WANT TO GO VEGGIE!

Another in our series of reader problems… as solved by the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS! Today COCO TANBERRY takes a turn…

Hannah says:
There are many things I don't like about this world… poverty, cruelty, war… I could go on. I would like to make a small difference by going vegetarian, but my parents won't let me - even though I wrinkle up my nose at anything, well, DEAD! How can I go veggie and still stay in my parents' good books? Help!

Coco says:
I know, right? Parents sometimes just DO NOT GET IT. They worry about crazy stuff like where you will be getting your protein and have visions of you fading away to nothing the minute you give up meat. They think it's just a phase. Well, I have been veggie for almost three years and I can tell you it is NOT just a phase, and I am NOT wasting away, and I get plenty of protein, thank you very much. Actually, the best way to get your parents on side is to show them you've done your research. A good place to start is with the Vegetarian Society who can answer all your questions, help you make the change easily and painlessly and reassure your parents that eating veggie means eating healthy! You can contact them here. Why not start by offering to cook a veggie meal for the family once or twice a week? This will show them you're serious… and it's good training for you in case you have to make your own meals now and then! Good luck!

Cathy says:
I went veggie at fourteen, after a couple of years of trying to show my mum I was serious… she got there in the end! Do YOU have anything to add to Coco's advice? COMMENT BELOW to offer your words of wisdom to Hannah!

STEP INTO SUMMER...

Do you have a fave pair of summer shoes or sandals? Or do you love to walk barefoot across the sand? We asked you how YOU like to step into summer…

Hazel says:
I got these sandals from Macy's (my favourite shop ever!) a few days ago, and I love them! They have a small heel, which is one of the best things about them…  they aren't flat, so I don't feel like I am walking on the ground, but I'm not staggering about in crazy six-inch heels either! They are really comfy as well, and equally perfect for exploring the streets of San Francisco or for strolling around a museum. They are awesome!

Manda says:
This pic was taken last summer… it was one of those sunny days when it's not too hot, just perfect, and it seemed a good idea to go out into the garden and sketch characters from Les Mis. I probably don't spend as much time outside as I should - I'm not good at the sunbathing thing, but drawing was cool! This was my first attempt at drawing anything Les Mis related and I have definitely improved since then… but I don't think I got much of a tan!

Nettie says:
My dress sense is usually described as a cross between shabby chic and hippy by my friends! The dress is from Joe Browns - everything they make is gorgeous. It's great for summer days because you don't get too hot… and the boots are my bright pink Doc Martens. They took a while to break in, but now I wear them everywhere! They are summery to me because of the colour - the bright pink fits in with bright summer colours and because the British weather is so lovely *cough*… when it rains, at least my feet stay dry!


Eden says:
I love the summer because after wearing big clumpy winter shoes I can have my feet in the sun. I love feeling the sand on my feet… it makes my feet feel soft and smooth! I like to walk on the stones to toughen up my feet and I love to feel the warm grass on my feet too. I have lots of different coloured flip-flops so I can wear a different pair every day. I love to take off my school shoes and run down to the beach and paddle in the sea…

Blue says:
Well, it's summer, and these are my feet… does that count? These are my strawberry socks, so they ARE summery, I guess. They were given to me by my mum who bought them for herself but then decided they'd suit me better. I'm standing on a patch of grass behind our house… it's not our garden, exactly, but I'm not trespassing… I'm allowed to be there. And no, I am not taking my socks off… this is Scotland, remember?

Cathy says:
Brilliant… I am a boots girl and try to hang onto them at all times, although I do have a pair of flowery canvas boots… that's as summery unless there's a serious heatwave! What are YOUR fave summer shoes? COMMENT BELOW and share the love!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

HERE COMES SUMMER!

We asked you for your favourite things about summer… this is what you said!

Daisy says:
Summer means not having any cares or worries and having fun with friends!

Lauren says:
MORE ICE CREAM!!! Also Christmas (don't panic, I live in South Africa!), pool parties, orchestra tours and a trip to Marine World if possible. And an excuse to wear sunglasses all the time!

Chloe says:
Running through fields, fun with friends, the seaside, ice creams, fairs and bonfires!

Vicky says:
Summer means meeting new friends! I met a bunch of Americans last year, and this year I hope to meet my pen-pal! Also eating ice cream and picnics in the park…

Latifa says:
Summer means endless fun and awesome fashion, Lucozade and 7Up and making the most of life!

Chloe Dawn says:
This year it will mean the end of exams (FINALLY!) and worrying about whether I've got into Sixth Form or not. Most years it means camping, barbeques, reading in the sun and not having to worry about school and homework for a while!

Chantel says:
No school! Summer means relaxing, theme parks, being wih my family, having lots of free time, going to the beach… and wishing it would never end!

Pippa says:
Summer is the BEST! I love going to the beach, having time off school to spend with my friends and going on holiday… we are going back to Cyprus for the first time in five years this summer! Summer has the best weather, and wearing hats and sunglasses and flipflops is cool!

Princess says:
Family vacations, chilling with friends, no schoolwork worries, playing out till the streetlights come on, beach trips, family BBQs, festivals and carnivals. It's the busiest and the best time of the year - fun, ice cream and a whole load of sunshine!

Cathy says:
Do you agree? COMMENT BELOW to have your say and share what summer means to YOU!

Monday, 21 July 2014

COOL READS FOR OLDER TEENS...

We take a look at what's cool and awesome in the book world for older teens… 

Jo Nadin says:
I write books. A lot of books. Which is another way of saying I spend most of the day dreaming about being other people in other places and then putting that down on paper. I do a lot of dreaming, but my latest book has elements of nightmares in it too: it's a thriller for older readers called EDEN. When her cousin Bea dies in a house fire in London, Evie returns to her childhood home of EDEN, on an estuary in Cornwall, desperate to make up for mistakes in the past. But she's not the only one seeking redemption. Bea's boyfriend Penn washes up on the river too, and Evie finds herself falling for this dark and possibly dangerous stranger. It's a book of twists, turns and surprises; about finding out who you are, who you want to be, and who you can get away with being…

Cathy says:
I've read EDEN, and loved it - beautifully written and totally addictive, it will keep you guessing right until the end...

Hilary Freeman says:
I've written six books for teens/ young adults, and am currently working on the seventh. When I'm not writing books, you'll find me still hunched over my laptop writing articles for newspapers and magazines; and, being an agony aunt, giving advice to young people! My other jobs have included being a leg model and a very bad cleaner. My books are about the kind of issues that teenagers face every day. Friendship and romance feature strongly, but self-harm, internet identity, shoplifting, problem parents and celebrity have all featured. THE BOY FROM FRANCE is the third in my Camden Town series, about a group of friends who all live on the same street in Camden Town. THE BOY FROM FRANCE is Vix's story, and it's vaguely my story too, as my boyfriend is from France and has recently moved over to live with me in Camden Town! When Vix's classmates find that their visiting French exchange students will include boys, everyone is very excited; everyone that is, except Vix, who has a sick mother to cope with and has no time for boys. But her student does turn out to be a boy, and what's more, he's gorgeous and charming. But is he for real? How long can it last? And will Vix's secrets and lies destroy the relationship?

Cathy says:
I'd have loved this story as a teen… I never went on a school exchange, but always dreamed of it! THE BOY FROM FRANCE sounds like a perfect summer read!

Do YOU have any must-read suggestions for older teens? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

IT'S ALL IN YOUR MIND...

We don't understand mental illness very well, and of course, what we don't understand can frighten us. But what is it like to struggle with mental illness? Brave reader Karina explains...

Karina says:
Ever since I was very young, I've had problems; I hear voices. For a long time I thought it was normal and that everyone had those voices, but of course that's not so. If I ever mentioned this in conversation, the voices became negative and threatening, say the most horrible things. I began to realise something might be wrong. Around that time I witnessed a car crash and that was when the visions started - they're too graphic to even describe, but still I didn't speak out… I couldn't.

I was fifteen when I finally told someone. By then I was depressed and cried most days, and every time I tried to tell someone the voices would stop me, saying that my family would disown me.
Eventually I found the courage to ignore the voices and I told my mum, and since that day I have been getting proper medical help. I have medication which helps, and I am re-training my mind to be less negative.

My advice to anyone with mental health issues is not to be afraid, and to talk about how you are feeling. Speaking out is a step forward - you can say, 'I am beating this.' I told my mum and my best friend first, but it doesn't matter who you tell as long as you get some help. You can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or look at the websites for MIND or Time To Change. They have helped me loads. I waited so long to hear someone say 'You are not alone,' and now I finally believe it. There are many people with the same problems as me... and there is a way forward for us all.

Karina's name has been changed to protect her identity: pics are posed by model.

Cathy says:
Karina has learned that speaking out is the only way to get help for problems like this - and that help really IS out there. I'm so impressed at her bravery and her determination to reach out and help others. COMMENT BELOW if someone you know has struggled with a mental health issue - or if you'd like to send a message of support to Karina.

Friday, 18 July 2014

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER… ONLINE & OFF!

Online friendships can be tricky. As Honey Tanberry found out in the book SWEET HONEY, people online aren't always what they seem. Sometimes, though, an online friendship can be the real deal… we talked to fifteen year old Emi who found her best friend that way!

Emi says:
I started being an online admin for Harry Potter fan pages in 2013, and I was then added to a small 'group' on Facebook for people who love books, films and fandoms and admin for them. Soon my interests grew from Harry Potter and Dr Who to Divergent, Hunger Games and Sherlock… I felt I could really be myself and I loved that. The FB group was quite small and I soon got to know some of the people well, including Camryn who lives in Scotland. Gradually, we began to Skype and became best friends. I had done a school production of Phantom of the Opera recently and that was one thing we talked about… then Sherlock… then everything!

Eventually, when friends from the group wanted to talk to us they'd say 'EmiAndCamryn' all in one go… we're like twins in some sense, we just fit. I'm not sure how we decided to meet, but we knew we'd like to talk in real life as well as online. I'd heard so many dodgy stories about meeting people online but I felt like I knew Camryn well. The FB group began talking about having a meet up and I thought that would be great - my friends in the group are just people with the same interests as me… they just happen to live far away. The group meeting hasn't happened yet, but Camryn mentioned that she was coming to London in the spring and we knew we wanted to meet. After a couple of changes of date, the trip was set for April; I talked to my family and they spoke to Camryn's family so we all felt we could trust each other (not that I ever doubted it!).
When we met, we had our guardians with us so if anything had seemed odd it could be dealt with or sorted . Nothing was wrong, though! We met at London Waterloo and went to the Sherlock Holmes museum in Baker St, hosted a radio show together on my dad's radio station, went on the London Eye, went to Forbidden Planet (a massive fandom shop) and even visited Platform nine and three-quarters! We also went to Camden, had a movie night and went to a craft show at Alexandra Palace. The days we spent in London were something I'll never forget, and since then I've seen her again and we've planned a trip for me to stay with her in Scotland. If someone had said to me last year 'Oi, you're about to find the best friends you've 'never' met and have one of them come to stay with you,' I'd have been totally stunned. I think it's wise that we are all careful about online friendships, but I want to spread the message that not everyone you meet online is bad. Camryn is the best friend I could ever dream of, and I'm so thankful to have her!

Cathy says:
This is such a great story of a modern-day friendship that stretches across the miles! COMMENT BELOW to tell us your views on online friendship and/or on Emi's story… or email me via the 'email Cathy' link on www.cathycassidy.com to share your own friendship stories!

GOING TO THE PROM!

Does your school have a prom? We talked to readers who went along to THEIR school prom and found out just what it's like…

Grace says:
I went to mine last Thursday… it was awesome! I didn't have a prom date, but that didn't matter at all - and I danced with one of my best friends and it was such an amazing evening in all kinds of ways!

Alex says:
I went to my prom as it was a chance to have a good time and say goodbye to people I'd spent the last five years of my life around. The clothes were important… everyone wants to look smart and make a good impression! I arrived in my dad's car with a friend from school and spent most of my time talking to pre-students and teachers about the past and plans for the future… and just generally having a good time! It meant quite a lot to me as it was a chance to let go of any inhibitions I might have had at school and just be who I wanted to be. I knew the people there would remember me as I was at the end of school, and not at the start! The school prom isn't just an ending, it's a new beginning too, and that's exciting for everyone!

Stephanie says:
My prom was just a few days ago and I loved it; I was with all of my friends and it was amazing to see everybody all dressed up and looking so glamorous! The pic is of me with my friends Demi and Emma in our prom dresses. The three of us went together - my mum took us, as it was too expensive to get anything fancy transport wise, but that really didn't matter at all! The main highlight of the evening was seeing the teachers on the dance floor - I had never laughed so much in my life! A few people in my friendship group didn't get along as well as I'd have liked in school, but on the night of the prom they all kept it friendly and everyone had a great time… just brilliant, and definitely a night to remember!

Carla says:
It's not called a prom in Australia, but our version - a Year Twelve Formal - is basically the same thing. My whole year was planning to have pictures taken at the beach, but it was raining on the day of the formal, so that was a bit of a shame… haha! Here's a pic of my boyfriend and me at the formal; he wasn't ready for the photo and his face is just priceless! A great night!


Toby says:
The prom was important to me because my friend in the year above me is leaving for uni after the summer. As I live in a different town, it was one of my last chances to hang out with him… kind of like a farewell party for him and the other former S6s. I also got to see another friend who'd moved to Glasgow last year but still came to the prom, and it was great to see her again. I really enjoyed the prom; lots of people take it really seriously and spend over £100 on shoes alone, but I just got myself a suit, went out and had a laugh with my mates. I even took a friend along as my 'date' for the evening which was pretty hilarious. It was a great night - one I'll remember for all the right reasons. Though I can't say the same for some of the teachers who spent more time at the bar than some of the students!

Hannah says:
I loved my prom because I got to spend time with my friends… I won't see many of them after September as most of us will be going to different colleges. At prom we had loads of photos taken by a professional photographer, and there was also a fun photo booth. Lots of great memories right there! During the evening we had to vote for our choice of prom king and queen, and also the best dancer, the best dressed and all kinds of other things… this helped everybody to feel included and involved, and it was a lot of fun as well. We also had a nice meal together and we talked about the past and of course about the future too. Overall it was a really special night out and one I will always remember… if your school has a prom, give it a go… you won't regret it!


Cathy says:
There were no UK proms when I was at school, so this feature has been a great insight into what prom is all about! Did YOU have a school prom… or  would you like to go to one? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!