Wednesday, 30 September 2015

MAEVE: I FEEL AFRAID...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER… reader Maeve has a problem for Cherry Costello. Will you agree with Cherry's advice?

Maeve says:
I was bullied for a long time in the past, although it did get sorted and it hasn't happened for a long time now. The trouble is, now that term has started again I feel afraid every single day and I don't really know why. I used to self-harm in the past and I am scared that if I feel this anxious all the time, it will start happening again. What do I do?

Cherry says:
The problem with bullying is that it damages your confidence and self-esteem, and the damage can go on long after the bullying has stopped. When I was bullied, I resorted to building a fantasy world around myself and it took a long time for me to realise I didn't need it. For you, anxiety is ruining your new term at school… even though the bullying is over, the after affects are still making life an ordeal for you. In the past, self-harm has been a coping mechanism for you, but you know this is not a solution… it can only make things worse. You need to talk to a school counsellor and also to your family doctor to get some support, because you do NOT want to go back to that place. Once the anxiety and fear is under control, the urge to self-harm should subside. Is there anything else that can help you to handle difficult feelings? Call a friend, play your music loudly, write in a diary, paint a picture, sing, dance, go for a run/ swim/ gym workout… all kinds of things can help. Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY has several chapters on building self-esteem, which can help you to feel stronger and more able to handle the stresses of school. Good luck - you CAN do it!

Cathy says:
Great advice from Cherry. What would YOU add, to help Maeve cope? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

MY FAVE CC CHARACTER...

Readers talk about the CC characters they identify with most… and why. Awesome stuff!


Blue says:
I like Joey Donovan from the book DRIFTWOOD because she's cool and careless - at twelve years old, most people are worried about what others think of them and are desperately trying to blend into the background, but who wants to look like everybody else? Not Joey! I like that she's smart and loves animals because usually, characters in books who dress out of the ordinary are portrayed as 'baddies' - but Joey is just a sweet kid who works hard and has incredible dress sense! It was easy to style myself as Joey as I already own the kind of clothes and accessories she would wear, and also because I was similar to Joey at that age, if only in style. I didn't quite get to echo Joey's rainbow hair but I did draw on some freckles. It was fun to revisit my youth and remember my schooldays. I'm only two years out of school, but still… dressing up is fun!
Jess says:
DIZZY was the first CC book I read, and it opened up a whole world of adventures! I probably don't have a whole lot in common with the character Dizzy - although over the years I have definitely developed a passion for all things festivally! It also seems I have a similar taste to Dizzy when it comes to boys: cute, musical and with a caring nature! It was fun to set up the photograph - I liked the camper-van ornament and the crazy decorative suitcase, because they gave a festival flavour to it all. And the trees and grass give a countryside feel, too!

Briony says:
I absolutely love the Tanberry-Costello sisters and that's why I made this picture, using an app called Avatar Creator. I then put them all into one image using Pic Collage.The sisters from the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series are all so unique and each have their own great story to tell - and their own style, of course! Coco's tomboy style is my favourite, and she is my favourite sister. She is only twelve but she doesn't let her age stop her from doing anything she wants to… she has bake sales to raise money for charity and works at the stables because of how much animals mean to her. She is inspirational and very much her own person… I love that!

Cathy says:
I love that my characters have inspired you… how cool? Which CC character is YOUR favourite? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 28 September 2015

MY AWESOME HOLIDAY: A TRIP TO WONDERLAND!

Reader Sasha describes an amazing holiday in Moscow… with a trip to Wonderland thrown in for good luck!

Sasha says:
This summer had a real Alice in Wonderland theme for me, in more ways than one.

First of all, I went on holiday to Moscow, the capital city of Russia. We go over to Russia every year to see our family - both my mum and dad come from Moscow and my grandparents and cousins still live there. But I was born in Edinburgh, and have always lived here.

Moscow is an awesome place to visit - there are lots of interesting things to see. This year, though, there was an amazing Alice in Wonderland exhibition. There were lots of big rooms - the White Rabbit's house, a room with the White Queen's throne and the Queen of Hearts' throne, a gigantic teacup the size of me and lots more besides! I even got to be a part of the Mad Hatter's tea party which was very cool!

When we came back from Moscow, it was Festival  time in Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Book Festival was under way… we booked tickets to see Cathy Cassidy talking about her new novel LOOKING GLASS GIRL. The book has a Wonderland theme but with a modern twist! I had already read LOOKING GLASS GIRL and loved it. I liked how Cathy described the Alice-themed sleepover in little flashbacks, so that you only find out what has actually happened near the end of the book. It was lovely to meet Cathy - a great end to a real Wonderland summer!

Cathy says:
Wow… what a holiday… and what fab pictures! Brilliant, Sasha. What has YOUR fave holiday been? COMMENT BELOW to tell me!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

MIND MATTERS...

Readers talk frankly and in confidence about their experience of mental health problems…

Eloise says:
My biggest problem is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, but I have depression too. Counselling controlled the anxiety for a while, and meditation and a less stressful lifestyle all helped. I then moved to college and things got worse - I was having panic attacks almost every day if I hadn't finished work - so every maths lesson, basically. My physical health was also declining and I felt like I had no control over any part of my life. Now, I feel like I am walking a knife-edge between being OK and being back where I was then. Anxiety affects every aspect of my life in ways people don't even understand. It means I have to plan where I go, what I do and have an escape route for everything. I also have to cope with people's ignorance and comments when I'm having a panic attack. There's prejudice too… both of my parents have mental health issues; Mum has depression and anxiety and Dad has depression and asperger's. As well as coping with my own problems, I try to protect them too… and that brings me to my biggest coping strategy - helping people! My anxiety lessens if I am helping others and have a purpose, so that's what I do!

Linz says:
I went to the doctor at about fourteen with suspected anaemia, but the tests came back negative and they suggested it could be anxiety. I didn't think much about it until uni when I began to get lots of symptoms and went back to the doctor - he said at once that my anxiety was through the roof. My heart was beating at twice its usual rate and my hands were shaking. I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and mild depression and given the option of medication or CBT (a therapy which can help you to change your outlook and beliefs). I chose CBT and regular sessions really helped; it took a big, BIG step to turn up at that first session but the therapist was very kind and I am so glad I did! Now if I get anxious, I remember what I learned in the sessions and it helps me in so many ways. If anyone is struggling with the same things, I highly recommend trying CBT  therapy.

Mariel says:
I have real problems with my moods and this seems to be linked to my periods. For part of the month, everything is fine, and then I get very moody and short-tempered and it's almost like being a different person. I can see myself doing and saying things that are mean and unreasonable but I cannot seem to stop it. My friends are fed up with it, and my family must despair of me because I know I am a nightmare to live with at that time. Then, for a few days of the month, that nasty streak evaporates and I am ultra-sensitive instead… the slightest comment can make me cry. My mum has been trying to get me to go to the doctors but I don't want to go, I suppose I don't think they will take it seriously. But deep down I know that I will have to do something, because it is not getting any better and it seriously makes my life a misery.

Alima says:
I had a bout of depression last year after leaving secondary school and I suddenly understood what people mean when they say they can't see the point of anything anymore. I wasn't just feeling a bit 'sad', I was totally cut off, my arms and legs felt like concrete. The feelings of sadness and darkness engulfed me and until I was numb and everything I had planned fell through my fingers. There was no possibility of going to college… I could barely get out of bed. My mum took me to the doctor and I was put on anti-depressants and given counselling. It took a while for things to change, but once the meds were right the depression did lift. I have just started sixth form college and it feels like a second chance to live my life. This time last year, I couldn't see a future at all.

Names have been changed at the request of those contributing.

Awesome artwork by reader Claire: many thanks!

Cathy says:
Thank you to Eloise, Linz, Mariel and Alima for their honesty in talking about such a difficult subject. We are used to going to the doctor for help with a physical problem, but asking for help with mental health issues can be much harder. Have YOU ever struggled with these kind of problems? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 26 September 2015

TEENAGERS FIGHT HOMELESSNESS...

How readers Cecily and Grace decided to do something practical to help homeless people in their city…

Cecily says:
Grace and I are in our last year of high school and we started this project recently to help homeless people in our city. It all began when we went into town with our friend Max to do some shopping. We bought some milkshakes and sat down to drink them, and Max didn't want all of his drink. There was a homeless man sitting just a few feet away from us, so we gave him Max's drink and he was so, so grateful for something we wouldn't have thought twice about throwing away. Later on, we went to our drama group which meets at one of the galleries in town, and there was an exhibition on that we looked at which inspired us to think about taking away from society.

Grace and I went back home, talking about the events of the day and about the art exhibition. We are both left-wing Christians and I was rambling on about poverty and homelessness and how appalled I was at the way the city's growing homeless population were treated. This made Grace cry. We simultaneously had the realisation that there is no point in crying about something when you could actually change it! We used our bus day-savers to get back into town and spent our saved pocket money on food and drink for the homeless. On that first evening, we power-walked about eight miles around the city centre looking for people in need to help.

We met a wonderful woman who started to cry when we offered he food, because she felt ashamed. We sat down with her in the dark street and she told us her story. We knew from that point on that this was not going to be a one-off, and the group Teenagers Fight Homelessness was born. At the moment, it's just me, Grace and one other volunteer, but we have started a Facebook Page and we would be grateful for helpers or donations. We are collecting any sealed foodstuffs such as nutrition bars, crackers, bread, etc and drinks in bottles and cartons. We also need pillows, blankets, sleeping bags and warm socks, backpacks, unused toothbrushes and toothpaste. We plan to make up backpack-packs which would include a pillow, blanket, toothpaste and toothbrush.

On our own, we obviously cannot help every homeless person to get back on their feet, but we can try. Already we have received wonderful help from companies such as Tesco and Cafe Nero who have given us leftover fresh food for free! As teenagers - and even adults - we often wonder what our aim or purpose in life might be. Well even if we never find out, isn't it better to do something worthwhile? Sometimes, all people need is someone to talk to or something to eat and drink. The bare necessities of life are things we take for granted, but to a homeless person they are rarities that may be remembered forever. If you feel strongly about issues like poverty and homelessness, do something to change it. We believe in you - we hope you believe in us.

Find out more about TEENAGERS FIGHT HOMELESSNESS - and how you can volunteer or help -here, or email teenagersfightpoverty@gmail.com to find out how you can help.

Cathy says:
Lots of us feel strongly about poverty and homelessness, but I admire Cecily and Grace very much for doing something practical to help. Have YOU ever done something awesome to help others? Or would you like to? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Friday, 25 September 2015

IMA: I LIVE IN MOROCCO!

Reader Ima writes about her life in Morocco in this captivating and informative post…

Ima says:
Hi… I'm Ima; I'm fifteen, like Honey Tanberry, and I am Moroccan. My hobbies are reading, writing, art, IT and photography. I live with my family in Fes, and I am the oldest of my siblings. I don't have any pets, but I'd love a kitten one day! I discovered Cathy's series LES FILLES AU CHOCOLAT (yes, I read them in French, which is the most common language spoken here after Arabic) and fell very much in love… each book is more exciting than the last! I will be in high school this year; almost all children go to school, although some, especially girls from rural areas, do not… but this problem decreases gradually. The uniform is simple and practical… a white blouse for girls, a blue shirt for boys. Morocco is a great country so I will tell you more… you will love it!

Morocco is a country which combines originality and modernity. There are many interesting places to visit; seas, mountain ranges, deserts… and cities, monuments etc. Several civilisations have lived here and left their brand on our history. My home town, Fes, is wonderful - one of the oldest, biggest and most impressive cities not just in Morocco but in all Arabia. You can't visit Morocco without coming to see it! Morocco is an Islamic country and this is reflected in its culture, dialect and traditions. Islamic occasions such as Ramadan (the month of fasting), Eid el Fitr and Eid el Adha are celebrated and venerated just as much as national occasion like Independence Day, the Green march and the Feast of the Throne.

Moroccans wear two types of clothing, modern and traditional. Traditionally, we wear the djellaba for everyday life, and for special occasions men will wear the djabador and women the takchita. The takchita is so elegant and very decent and respectful - I will describe it fully as I think the girls will looove it! The takchita is actually comprised of two pieces - the first layer is a long dress of fine, undecoarted fabric and the over-dress a far more elaborate style with small buttons up the front using the traditional sfifa. A large belt, called the mdamma, encircles the waist. The sleeves, belt and upper layer of the takchita are richly adorned with artistic embroidery and sequins and the colours are vivid and beautiful.

Where food is concerned, Moroccan dishes are gourmet quality and combine both health and delight. Couscous (a grain served a little like rice) is the best known dish - and my favourite! We also have the bastilla (a type of chicken and almond pie), the tagine ( a kind of stew which can have various flavours) and harira (a special soup). Cakes and desserts are a real delight with many flavours and spices… I hope you can all get to try some one day. I hope I have presented my country well for you… perhaps you will come to visit in the future!

Cathy says:
Ima has made Morocco sound so enchanting… I would love to visit one day! Do YOU live outside the UK? Would YOU like to write a feature for DREAMCATCHER about your home country? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more, or to comment on Ima's feature!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

AUTUMN DAZE!

Readers share their favourite things about autumn as the days begin to get colder here in the UK…

Hazel says:
Favourite things about autumn? Snuggling up on the couch with a good book... walking outside in the crisp air with that slight tinge of cold that makes you feel good... watching Strictly in front of the fire with my dad's amazing homemade pizza… the longer nights… being all cosy under my duvet and drifting off to sleep… eating freshly stewed apples with porridge and cinnamon… baking fruit crumbles until the house is warm and smelling wonderful! Basically… everything! I might complain about the cold but I love the changing of the seasons, where everything feels freshly new and exciting!

Kiramae says:
Toffee apples and Halloween!

Hannah says:
I have mixed feelings about autumn. It feels like a magnet grabbing away my summer and dragging me into ten months worth of schoolwork and exams. I wish it could be summer forever… twelve months of  sunshine and family barbeques on the beach… total bliss!

Megan says:
I love being able to wear comfy boots out and about. I LOVE Halloween and all the classic films that link to it, my favourites being Hocus Pocus, Casper and the Nightmare Before Christmas. I love the crunch of the fallen leaves on the ground and all the gorgeous colours - oranges, reds, berries! I like not having to be incredibly hot and sticky like you are in the summer, and being able to wear layers of clothes and scarves, hats and gloves. I love drinking hot chocolate, too! Even though my birthday is in the summer, I think I love autumn best!

Caoillinn says:
Bonfire night is one of my favourite times of the whole year. I love how it gets dark really early, and the cold breeze and nip in the air. Every bonfire night I go to different places - last year it was to Bule Hill. They did a massive bonfire and loads of fair rides, but my favourite part was the fireworks. I love fireworks because of all the different colours and noises - they light up the dark night sky and are my favourite part of autumn!

Jessica says:
Fluffy socks. Fireworks, Halloween, fires, sitting on the sofa watching movies snuggled up underneath a blanket… sigh!

Becca says:
Sitting by the window, wrapped in a blanket, watching the leaves fall from the tree. The one I love to climb. A sip of hot chocolate. A thought for the dying leaves. A smile for the ones that shall grow in their place…

Deborah says:
Best things about autumn? My birthday, the colours of the trees, harvest, that warm-yet-cold feeling… more red fruits around and the feeling of new beginnings brewing. Did I mention my birthday? ;o)

Joanne says:
The best things are planning my costumes for Halloween, trick or treating with my friends, playing conkers, fireworks, Strictly Come Dancing coming back and LOTS of other things too!

Cathy says:
I love autumn… I actually love every new season as it comes, but the colours of autumn are just gorgeous. Nature's definitely in charge! What do YOU love most about autumn? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

SÎAN: I FEEL DEPRESSED BUT I DON'T KNOW WHY...

It's 'Agony Aunt' time again on DREAMCATCHER… and reader Sîan has a problem for Summer Tanberry to tackle. Will you agree with Summer's solution?

Sîan says:
My biggest passion is dance… I've liked it for years but only started learning properly when I was ten. I am eleven now. I take jazz classes and have an exam soon, and am hoping to start lyrical dance classes soon. The problem is, I sometimes feel depressed and I don't know why - there is never really a reason. The only things that help me when I feel this way are dance and reading. Please help me!

Summer says:
I sympathise, and as you know I have been through a very rough time myself lately because I had put myself under way too much pressure and wasn't coping. Your problem is a little different, I think. You're eleven… and right on the edge of puberty, which means that your body is changing in all kinds of ways, some visible, some not. The hormones that go along with these changes will almost certainly be causing a few tidal waves of emotion in your body; feeling low, overwhelmed or tearful for no particular reason often goes along with certain points in your menstrual cycle, so I suspect it could be that you may start your periods quite soon. Both Skye and I definitely feel more emotional and thin-skinned at this time of the month. It's great that you have worked out that dance and reading can help to lift your mood… this works for me too! Dance is wonderful because it is so expressive and also because it is a physical work-out it produces 'endorphins' in your body which create a feel-good sensation. Exercise rocks when you are feeling low! As for reading, it's a way of escaping from your feelings for a short while into a safe, secure world where you feel understood. Also a great way to handle the blues. Growing up and the mood swings that can accompany it is not always easy; but I think already you have found some great coping mechanisms to get you through the bad times.

Cathy says:
Good advice from Summer… but is there anything YOU would add? COMMENT BELOW or email YOUR questions for the DREAMCATCHER problem page via the email link on my website, cathycassidy.com and mark your email DREAMCATCHER PROBLEM. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

SUPTY: A NEW PASSION

Reader Supty writes about how a passion for reading led to a dream… and a life-changing goal!

Supty says:
To most people, reading is just a hobby, a pastime. They read and enjoy books for fun. But me? Books have always been a way for me to flee from the hardships of reality, a way out from an inexorable world. I read books, felt them, and most of all I LIVED them.

I had quite a happy life, but something was missing: a passion. I started reading books when I was five, learning the basics. Life introduced me to Cathy Cassidy when I was nine. The first book of hers I read was INDIGO BLUE. I read it and felt hot tears pouring down my cheeks, and that was when it struck me; a writer who has the ability to make her readers laugh and cry, Cathy was different and unique. I started reading more CC books and they inspired me, helped me to live. At the end of a long day, when I opened a CC book, it always made me happy - it never let me down.

Round about that time, I began to realise that I didn't just want to be a reader; I wanted to be a writer, too. I didn't care if I was never a bestseller… that wasn't the point. I just wanted to bring a smile to the face of a sad and miserable person. I decided I was up for the challenge, and so I began my journey towards becoming a writer. Writing that first book was difficult - you are writing from a writer's point of view and then checking it over from a reader's viewpoint. I could feel the characters as though they were real, and I wrote as though I was one of them, living their lives. It was a hard task, though,  because I had to keep my school grades up at the same time!

No matter how hard it may be, I will work relentlessly towards my goal, moving closer all the time. I am living my life, living my dream. Thus continues life, a journey with loads of ups and downs… and a new and awesome passion.

Cathy says:
Awww… how cool? I will be looking out for Supty's books in the future… her determination and enthusiasm remind me of myself at the same age! Do YOU have a dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

EL: EXPECTATIONS

Reader El writes about the strict and harsh expectations that face girls growing up in today's society…

El says:
Ever since I was small, I have known that girls have plenty of expectations to live up to. To be the prettiest girl in the class. To have the most followers on Instagram. To be flawless, to be perfect. I have even set some expectations for myself, though to be honest they are very different ones!

As a kid today, I actually do not care what people think of me. I don't care if they love me or they hate me - that's their choice. As Kurt Cobain said, I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not. It's true. I don't want to be loved for something I am not - it wouldn't be real anyway. Truth and honesty has to come first.

It doesn't matter if people hate me. So what? If I believe in myself, that is what matters. Why would I change to please a bunch of strangers? I will never be the kind of person who gets excited over a designer handbag. I am who I am and if people don't appreciate that - if they hate me for it - well, better that than to be adored for being a person I am not, being fake. I say what I want and I choose to hold the views I believe in. I am not going to change myself to climb higher up the social ladder. I will always be who I am.

Check out El's blog at: theramblingssofmoi.blogspot.com.au

Awesome artwork by reader Hannah - thank you!

Cathy says:
Wise words from El… learning to be being true to yourself is key to the growing up process. I don't think anyone can be happy if they are so busy trying to please others that they lose track of themselves! What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

HOW TO DEAL… WITH DIVORCE

Another in our regular series, reader Emma shares her tips on how to deal with divorce…

Emma says:
Divorce is not an easy thing to deal with. Our parents are priceless to us; it was them that fed us, cared for us and most importantly, unconditionally loved us. So if they decide to divorce or separate, it is by no means easy. However, with these tips I fully believe that together we can deal with divorce…

Understanding: Although it isn't easy, it's important to understand why your parents have made this choice. Sometimes, no matter how hard two people try, like irregular puzzle pieces they just cannot seem to make a fit. It doesn't mean that they love you any less, or each other of that matter; just that the kind of love they now share is different to before. A kind that may be better for all concerned in the long run.

Sharing the load: At a time like this, it is highly important to find someone to confide in, whether it's a counsellor, a close friend or a teacher. The important thing is to have someone to share the load with. You'd be surprised how having someone to talk to can help take a load off, emotionally as well as mentally.

Alone time: When dealing with such events in our lives, taking time out for ourselves can be one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Whether it's going for a walk, listening to your favourite tune or taking your pet for a walk, it's up to you. The important thing is that it's something that relaxes you.

Honesty: Don't be afraid to share with your parents how you are feeling. If you express your emotions and views you may find your parents will return the favour, and they will certainly be able to answer any worrying questions you may have. Discussion may even strengthen your relationship as a family… after all, as the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy.

Until we deal again…
Emma x

Artwork by the wonderful Lucy - thank you for the awesome pic!

Cathy says:
Do YOU have any tips for surviving a family split? COMMENT BELOW to share them, or to add to Emma's advice.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

GONE TO THE DOGS...

Unwanted dogs often end up in the city dog pound… and if not claimed or re-homed, they will be put down. Reader Sophie tells us how she got involved in helping to rescue abandoned dogs…

Sophie says:
We owned a retired racing greyhound and my mum wanted advice on how to look after him, so she approached a charity called Greyhound Gap. Soon after that she started to volunteer for the charity and I started to help out too. Greyhound Gap is a rescue charity which helps save the lives of greyhounds and lurchers. We get many of our dogs from the dog pounds and if we didn't help them, they would be put to sleep as the council dog pounds can only afford to keep strays and abandoned dogs for a short time. Greyhound Gap has around 80 dogs in their care.

After a while, a four month old puppy came into the rescue, and my family decided to foster her. We ended up falling in love with her so we adopted her and named her Zelda. Since then we have fostered nine dogs altogether. At the moment, we have three of our own, called Buddy, Zelda and Luna. We also have three foster dogs, Bunny, Misty and Cardi. It's fun to look after foster dogs because they have had a rough life and I can help to make them feel loved. I like it when new dogs come in because if they are scared or naughty, with the help of our volunteers they can become really nice dogs. At the moment we are fostering Cardi, who is very ill… it really upsets me to see her in pain, but when a dog gets well again you know that all the hard work has been worthwhile.

This summer, I helped a lot at the rescue. We have had lots of trips to and from the vets, and we had to drive to Worcester to rescue some dogs. One day we went to Shrewsbury to collect 100 donated duvets for the dogs - I had to help lift them onto the van! We did some fundraising events, which was fun, and every Saturday we all met up to walk the kennel dogs. After the walk, they get lots of treats and I really enjoy that part!

There are lots of ways to help Greyhound Gap, such as fundraising or donating money, giving us things to sell or auction, helping at the kennels and walking the dogs. And adopting a dog from us, too, of course! Misty, in the picture just to the right, is one of the dogs we are fostering until she gets a home. She is a young lurcher who was abandoned and had puppies soon after; her puppies have all been re-homed, but Misty is still waiting for her perfect home, and she so, so deserves a family of her own. There is one thing every dog-owner can do… if everybody made sure their pets were neutered so that they can't have puppies, there would be far fewer unwanted dogs out there.

You can donate to GREYHOUND GAP here… or check out their website with a view to RE-HOMING a dog. THANK YOU!!!

Cathy says:
Awww! I looked after my dad's rescued greyhound after Dad died, and we have two rescue lurchers too, so I already know all about the wonderful work done by GREYHOUND GAP. I really hope that beautiful MISTY finds her forever home soon! How awesome is Sophie to help the charity? Would YOU ever help at an animal charity, or re-home a rescue animal? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more!

Friday, 18 September 2015

MY AWESOME HOLIDAY: THE SOUTH OF FRANCE!

Reader Becca tells us all about her memorable stay in the South of France on another post in our series about amazing holidays…

Becca says:


This summer I went to the South of France for a week. I went with a friend of mine, her mum and her aunt; we travelled down on the tuesday to a place by the beach called St Georges de Didonne. We stayed in a little cottage that had three bedrooms, a kitchen-living room and bathroom… it was only a ten minute walk from the beach front, which was totally amazing! That evening, my friend and I shared the biggest candyfloss I have ever seen in my LIFE… pretty impressive! The next day we just had a relaxing day, sunbathing and walking along the beach, chatting and playing games and generally relaxing. Perfect!

After a few amazing days of shopping and enjoying the beach, we decided to go fishing for crabs. I had never done this before and it was great fun! We ended up catching two - and of course then we let them go again. That evening it rained on our walk back - just a little drizzle, but still, we ran all the way back.  The trouble was that when we reached the cottage, my friend's aunt and mum had left to go into town, so we were stuck outside in the rain! It sounds bad, but it was actually hilarious… a great memory!

Later on that night, there was a night market. The stalls were beautiful! There was a street dance performance going on further down the street, so we watched that - it was awesome. The dance told a story, which I loved. The next day was the last, so we made the most of it and went into the town centre for a walk around and a final explore. That evening, I attended my first ever beach basketball match, too. It was an unforgettable holiday - I've had the most amazing summer!

Cathy says:
Wow… this sounds so laid-back and lovely! Did YOU have a fab holiday this year? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

MATHILDE: MAKE A DREAMCATCHER!

Reader Mathilde isn't just clever, creative and craft-crazy, she's willing to share her top secrets so that you can make something awesome too!

Mathilde says:


You will need:
1 embroidery hoop
1 hank of embroidery thread
1 hank of cotton knitting yarn
scissors
pen/marker

To decorate:
beads
feathers
hair accessories etc
These are just suggestions… you can tie anything you like on… collect shells or fake flowers or anything you fancy… be creative!

To make:

1. Take either of the hoops from your embroidery hoop (set the other aside for a second dreamcatcher!) and wrap the hoop neatly and tightly with the cotton knitting yarn.

2. Finish the wrapping neatly and hide the tail end of yarn.

3. To make the web you will be using a knot called the half-hitch. Google the half-hitch and practice a few times until you've got the hang of it!

4. Use a pen/marker to make six marks on the hoop, at equal distances. Tie on your embroidery thread and make a half-hitch knot at each marked point. Make sure you go in the same direction or it will look a bit odd!

5. Next, go round again, this time making knots in the centre of each straight line of thread you have created.

6. Keep knotting round and round, working inward until you reach the centre.

7. To finish off, tie five or six half-hitch knots to complete the web securely in the centre.

8. Cut three more pieces of the cotton knitting yarn and tie them at intervals along the bottom of the hoop. These can be different lengths as you please.

9. Tie your decorations to the ends of the yarn and add a butterfly hair decoration to the centre of the web. All done!

10. Don't worry if your web is a little lopsided - it all adds to the effect!

A dreamcatcher can be hung above the bed to catch bad dreams and neutralise unhappy or negative thoughts… or just used as a cute decoration. They make brilliant presents too!
Cathy says:
This is AWESOME! I love the pics and the instructions are clear enough even for me to want to have a go! Off to google a half-hitch knot right now! Are YOU the crafty type? COMMENT BELOW to tell us what your fave makes are!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

SANDY: GROWING UP IN MALTA!

Reader Sandy looks back on her teenage years growing up on the beautiful island of Malta… find out what it was like!

Sandy says:
I come from Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean sea. I grew up in a fishing village in the south, and lived with my parents and my sister, who was three years older than me. I'm an animal lover, but unfortunately I was never allowed to keep a pet at home. I attended primary school until I was ten, a mixed school, and I wasn't very happy as I was bullied back then. My secondary school was girls
only and things changed for the better. I passed my exams and went to college, and those days were awesome… so much fun. I started studying drama and never looked back. I still study theatre studies and sometimes appear in local theatre productions and TV drama shows… it was the best thing I've ever done.

Maltese people are Roman Catholics, and we are famous for traditional village feast during the summer. My village has two feasts, the Feast of Our lady of Mount Carmel, and the Feast of St Catherine. Months of hard work go into each event, which is a week of celebrations including masses, brass bands, fireworks and more… and the statue of the saint is carried around the village while everyone prays.

Traditional Maltese food is amazing! Maltese bread is baked in a unique way… and then we have Pastizzi (cheesecakes) which wonderful. The most traditional food for me is a dish of snails… you might think it gross, but it's delicious. Other typical foods are Patata l-forn (potatoes, meat and vegetables baked in the oven); Kosku (pasta with broad beans, egg and begetables); Bigilla (Maltese bean dip); and Imqaret (dates wrapped in pastry).

Like many countries, Malta has its own traditional costumes which these days are worn for folklore shows for tourists. The most famous costume is the ghonella, a long, loose black gown. Our language is
Maltese, a semitic language derived from Arabic. It's unique, and is only spoken in Malta. English is also widely spoken now, and is overpowering Maltese so that we are now losing some of our Maltese words. Often foreign students trying to learn Maltese find it very difficult to learn and to pronounce.

As Malta is an island, we are surrounded by sea and from a very early age Maltese children are very good swimmers. In summer, the beaches are full of people enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. It is not a huge island to get around - you can drive from north to south in just 45 minutes, but we do have a great many cars which causes congestion. These days, I am grown up and married, but I still live in my childhood village with my husband and our two pets, a rabbit called Pumpkin and a canary called Nenu. Wherever I travel, I am always happy to return to this beautiful place - it's home!

Cathy says:
Malta sounds wonderful! I have never been, but plan to visit one day… maybe soon! The descriptions and photographs look idyllic! Do YOU live outside the UK? COMMENT BELOW to tell me more and to let me know if YOU would like to write about it for DREAMCATCHER!


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

GEMMA: MY FRIENDS HAVE DITCHED ME...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER… and reader Gemma has a dilemma for Cherry to solve. Will you agree with the verdict?

Gemma says:
I have just started secondary school. My best friend moved away last year and I was hoping to make new friends at secondary, but I'm shy and it hasn't happened. I know people must think I'm stuck up or snobby. The girls from my class at primary have ditched me and don't even bother to try to include me in what they're doing. I am starting to feel really out of it. I don't want to get stuck with the losers and the loners. What should I do?

Cherry says:
I'm shy too, so I know how hard it can be to break the ice. It's impossible to do when you're all hung up on how anxious you're feeling or what others will think of you… so let go of those thoughts right now. Instead, think about the people you are talking to - be genuinely interested, open, willing to listen. Slowly, you will make friends. You assume others will think you're 'stuck-up' or 'snobby' - well, smile, be friendly to everyone and dare to make the first move when meeting new people and they won't have the chance to think that. Equally, don't judge people so harshly yourself - how do you know the people you've labelled as 'losers' and 'loners' aren't just shy, like you? Give everyone a chance… you might just be dismissing the people who could be the best friends you've ever had. Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY has some really useful chapters on building self confidence, so that will help too. It's worth joining a few school clubs, too… see what's on offer and get involved! You'll soon feel part of a team or group and make new friends in the process. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry - what would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 14 September 2015

ROSIE: CC BOOKS CHANGED MY LIFE...

Reader Rosie writes about why CC books mean so much to her… and why she believes they have changed her life…

Rosie says:
I love Cathy Cassidy and her books. Cathy has been an inspiration to me for nine or ten years now; each time a new book came out, I was there in the bookshop to buy it, and I'd always email Cathy afterwards to tell her what I thought. My favourite CC books are INDIGO BLUE, DIZZY, MARSHMALLOW SKYE, LOOKING GLASS GIRL, SWEET HONEY, GINGERSNAPS and ANGEL CAKE. Check them out - they're all amazing, as well as the rest of Cathy's brilliant books.

I struggled with school and didn't have many friends, and I got teased quite a bit growing up. Cathy's books provided help, motivation and moments of escapism for me, and I honestly cannot thank her enough for that. Over the last five years or so, I wrote and emailed Cathy many times with questions and feedback, as well as chatting on about how much I adored curling up with her books and a cup of tea! She has always replied, with lovely messages and great advice, and I see her as a kind of mentor.

Cathy Cassidy is someone who has honestly changed my life. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't discovered that dog-eared copy of INDIGO BLUE in a garage sale all those years ago. Cathy is an inspiration to me; her books are amazing, she's a lovely person and gives fab advice. Cathy is just one of the people who have inspired me in my life, but she definitely changed the way I think and, ultimately, who I am today. So… thank you, Cathy, for replying to my letters and emails, for writing incredible books, for giving the best advice, for letting me write for your blog and of course, for being yourself.

This feature was originally published on Rosie's brilliant blog,  http://rosieauthorwriting.blogspot.co.nz/

Cathy says:
Awww… I'm blushing now! Thank YOU, Rosie, for being so lovely. My readers mean the world to me, always. Have YOU ever had a role model or looked to someone for inspiration and advice? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

EVERY GIRL'S GUIDE TO SECONDARY SCHOOL...

Reader Heather gives the inside story on how to survive secondary school - and come through with flying colours!

Heather says:
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I remember going into Year Seven… it was an adventure, and I was scared but optimistic too. You have to find people in your lessons to buddy up with - that's what I did and the girl I spoke to on that very first day is my best friend now! Although it may take a while to settle in and get used to your surroundings, you will settle eventually. My tips for Year Seven would be to work hard and build yourself a good reputation. Stick with people who bring out the best in you and make you happy! Try not to go 'off task' in class - concentrate, answer questions and get involved. Teachers like students who are dedicated and passionate about a subject!

HANDLING PEOPLE: You may get days where school is the last place you want to be, but always try your best - it will be worth it in the end. Never feel you have to impress your classmates by wearing the latest fashions or caking on the make-up. You don't - just be you! Be friendly  to everyone - if someone is on their own, try to include them if you can. Settling in on your own is hard, so be a friend and give them a helping hand. If you are being bullied at any point, tell a teacher. You do NOT deserve to be treated badly - tackle the problem quickly and don't let it escalate.

SUBJECTS: Time will fly past, and in Year Ten you will have to pick your GCSE options… the subjects you will take as exams at the end of Year Eleven. It can seem a daunting process, but the previous three years will have helped you to sort out which subjects you like and which you don't. English, maths and science are compulsory (at my school, anyway!) but other than that you get to choose. Pick subjects you enjoy and are good at and try not to be pressured by others into taking options you know you may regret.

TEACHERS: Some of the kindest people I know are teachers. They put in so much hard work behind closed doors to make your lesson - and your school career - a success. Respect your teachers and try to learn from them as a person as well as learning the subject. If you clash with a teacher, try to avoid arguments and feuds… teachers are only human and we won't get on with them all, but they don't have to be enemies. A pleasant smile and a polite comment or two will go a long way.

LOOKING BACK: I'm now in my final year of secondary - Year Eleven - wow! I wish I could turn time back and be that little eleven year old in the photo with shiny shoes and two neat plaits, but I have learned so much. I've discovered my potential and know I would like to be a writer or an English/Drama teacher in the future. I have GCSEs in seven months, so this next year will be non stop study for me. I've come this far because of good friends and great teachers - I've been pushed to the limit, but with very good reason! High school is not as scary as it seems… you just need to take each day as it comes and work hard. It really is that simple!

Cathy says:
I love Heather's top tips on secondary school… I wish I'd known them back when I was eleven! Have YOU just started Year Seven? Are you struggling to find your feet? Or are you older now, and wiser? COMMENT BELOW to share your views!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

CHOCOLATE BOX WRAP PARTY!

Reader Millie writes about the day she attended the very special CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS 'Wrap Party' at Puffin Towers in London!

Millie says:
It was Saturday 13th June and I'd never been so excited in my life. Today I would meet my favourite author, Cathy Cassidy, along with my best friend Sharlize. As part of an activity in my school's creative writing club, I had written some interview questions for Cathy which were then sent to the Guardian - newspaper. Then came the news that instead of having the questions answered by email or video I was to go down to London to meet and interview Cathy at a special 'Wrap party' for her CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series! We took the train to London and walked to Puffin HQ where we were given security passes. So many questions were flying around my head. How many other children would there be? What would we do? Would I be able to take photos?

A lady from Puffin books led us down a marble-lined corridor; I think Puffin HQ has to be the poshest building I've ever been in! We whizzed up to the 10th floor where there were stunning views of London, and Cathy was there to greet us. She talked to everyone, and then we found a seat and began making and decorating our own name tags. Cathy made an inspiring speech about her new book Fortune Cookie and told us how she writes and where her ideas come from. Then there were lots of fun activities to try while Cathy moved around the room chatting and signing books on every table. My favourite task was icing chocolates in the style of the iced truffles on the covers of Cathy's books.

The winners of the My Best Friend Rocks comp was announced - the finalists were all guests too! Everyone was given a goodie bag with Cathy's four most recent books inside - LOOKING GLASS GIRL, FORTUNE COOKIE, SWEET HONEY and CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS, along with a magazine, some posters ad a fortune cookie! Sharlize and I went to grab some fruit to dip in the chocolate fountain and then we took some photos with Cathy on the balcony, which had a stunning view of London and the Thames behind. The icing on the cake for me was that this all took place on Cathy's birthday. A delicious chocolate cake was brought out and we all sang Happy Birthday. Cathy was so genuine and down to earth, spending so much time with each person.

Thank you so much Cathy for writing these amazing books and being such a lovely person. Thanks to Guardian Children's Books for giving me the opportunity - I loved every minute and wish it was possible to go back in time and replay those amazing two hours!

Here is a video I made at the party: Meeting Cathy!

Here is the article me and Sharlize wrote for the Guardian, along with the interview! The Guardian article.

Cathy says:
Thank YOU, Millie, for this fab, fab feature… a perfect reminder of one of my very fave days this summer! You were all awesome… it was a real honour to meet you. What is YOUR fave memory of the summer? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 11 September 2015

MY AWESOME HOLIDAY: DUBAI DREAMING!

Reader Deborah writes about her dream holiday in Dubai… 

Deborah says:
When my family first decided to go to Dubai, I was a bit sceptical. I didn't think I would much enjoy a six hour flight to visit a country built on a desert… but my mindset completely flipped when we got on the plane! There were movies, TV shows and modern music as part of the entertainment… I was content for the whole six hours there and back! The hotel we stayed at was really nice too… they did an awesome breakfast with waffles and a pancake making machine. The whole hotel had great air conditioning so you never even felt the heat until you went outside.

There were so many places to go and things to see… we took a tour around Abu Dhabi and saw the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), the spice market, and a hotel with floors below sea level. All of that was amazing! We also went to the beach, which was very different (and very hot!) and I got to collect some seashells. There was an antique shop that looked like a museum at first - we got some jewellery and trinkets from there.

The shopping mall was a lot like an ordinary London shopping mall, with all the UK brand shops and the same kind of things on sale. The main thing that was different was the fact that there was a huge aquarium in the centre of Dubai's main mall/// it had sharks, sting rays and all kinds of other fish! I think the shopping mall was my favourite part of the trip, because although things looked the same as in the UK the experience was very different. The shop assistants would greet you, recommend things to you and were just generally very helpful. I managed to get some things for my Sweet Sixteenth birthday and a few cool presents for my friends. If you ever get the chance to travel to Dubai, go for it… you really won't regret it!

Cathy says:
What a holiday! I've passed through Dubai when working at a book festival in the emirate of Sharjah, and I remember how modern it was… and how HOT! What is YOUR most memorable holiday? COMMENT BELOW to tell us all!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A LITTLE PRINCESS...

As Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning British monarch, reader Josie delves into her early years…

Josie says:
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on April 21st 1926, the eldest child of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, were the king and queen, but although Elizabeth was third in line to the throne after her uncle and father, it was never expected that she would ever become queen; her uncle, Edward, was expected to succeed to the throne when the time came. In 1930, Elizabeth's little sister, Princess Margaret Rose was born. The family lived in Piccadilly, London, and also at White Lodge in Richmond Park.

Princess Elizabeth's quiet childhood came to an abrupt end in 1936 when her grandfather King George V died. As expected, her uncle came to the throne as King Edward VIII but a few months later he gave up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee; as king, Edward would never have been permitted to marry a divorced woman. This meant that suddenly, Princess Elizabeth's father was to become King George VI: in 1937 the two princesses watched the coronation of their parents take place in Westminster Abbey. Princess Elizabeth was now herself next in line to the throne.

The princesses were educated at home, with a series of French and Belgian governesses and religious studies lessons from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Princess Elizabeth also studied art and music and learned to swim and to ride. At eleven, she joined the Girl Guides and later the Sea Rangers. In 1939, life changed again when Britain declared war on Germany; Britain had entered World War II. During the London Blitz, it was suggested that the sisters should go to Canada, but this plan was not to be; the family did not want to be so far apart, and so the princesses were moved to the safety of Windsor Castle for the rest of the war while the king and queen stayed at Buckingham palace to keep public morale high.

In 1945, Princess Elizabeth joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service. At the end of the war, the two teenage princesses went out by themselves to join in the celebrations anonymously. Elizabeth later said: 'We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised… I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.' Princess Elizabeth had had a crush on a distant cousin, Prince Philip of Greece, since the age of thirteen. She eventually married him in November 1947 and Philip was given the title Duke of Edinburgh. In 1952, King George VI died and Elizabeth, then aged 25, was crowned Queen Elizabeth II. She has now become the longest reigning monarch the UK has ever known.

Cathy says:
Wow… I am not a royalist, but there are lots of things there I didn't know about Princess Elizabeth… what a fascinating life! What do YOU think of the story of her princess years? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

RISHI: I DON'T WANT TO WASTE MY LIFE...

It's problem page time again and reader Rishi has a question for Summer Tanberry… will you agree with the advice?

Rishi says:
I am thirteen and I have always said that when I'm old I won't just sit there baking cookies - I will travel the world and live life to the full and not care what anyone thinks. But lately I go on and on about my dreams; I want to be an artist, author, reporter, singer and much more, but I do not know where to start on achieving any of this. A while ago I felt like I'd had enough of trying and since then I have been filled with laziness and confusion. I don't want to waste my life because I wasted my childhood caring too much what others might think of me. I have journals to write in but I can't even begin; I just don't know where to start on with planning my life. It all feels too difficult.

Summer says:
Don't be too hard on yourself, Rishi. You are probably a bit impatient, like my big sister Honey… you want results fast, but life isn't like that. To achieve your goals, you have to be sure of what they are… and when we're young, those goals can change all the time. I've spent most of my life dreaming of being a prima ballerina, but the buzz I get from teaching and helping young dancers is actually way more rewarding for me… it just took me a while to see that. My advice is to enjoy your teens and work hard at school so that you keep all of your options open for later. If you love singing, join a music group or theatre club, or take lessons; if you want to write, try journalling or write a short story next school holiday. If art appeals, carry a sketchbook with you and draw when you have any spare time; if being a reporter is your dream, start a school magazine or blog and get some experience now. Tiny steps can bring your dreams closer, and if some don't work out then perhaps they weren't the right dreams to be chasing. Focus on school, friends, having fun - you're thirteen, so enjoy your teenage years and let go of the anxiety of what might happen next. I have a feeling that a career, travel and adventure are all ahead for you - but be patient and let the future unfold slowly.

Cathy says:
I think that's great advice for Rishi from Summer… tiny steps are the way to make any journey, and even things that don't work out can be a useful life lesson. What would YOUR advice be? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...