Tuesday, 30 August 2016

CATHY CASSIDY: WHAT HAPPENS AT A LIBRARY BOOK FESTIVAL!

Ever wondered what a book festival event would be like? Here's a sneaky peek into what went on at the recent Bebington Youth Bookfest!

Cathy says:
Book festivals are all different... from the awesome big ones like Edinburgh and Hay to the smaller ones, and when a new festival sprouts up you never quite know what to expect! I recently spent a day at the brand new Bebington Youth Bookfest, doing two writing workshops and then a regular book talk event. The day was boiling hot, and I worried that people might not turn up... what if they preferred to be in the park or at the beach? I shouldn't have worried! I knew it was going to be good when I was picked up at the station by one of the organisers and taken to the library venue to be offered coffee and cake. That's definitely my kind of festival! There was a tuck shop set up for readers too, and a 'parent creche' for adults who wanted to chill out with a cup of tea!

The workshops were both fully booked, and soon readers of all ages were arriving and settling down... and making new friends in the process! All the young would-be writers had been given a free notebook and pen by the festival, so we kicked off by talking about ideas and inspirations and having a notebook handy to capture them! I set a few warm-up writing exercises and then asked the students to  name and build a character and put them into a story. We looked at how to use the opening of a story to hook the reader's interest... and I read out a couple of extracts from my own books to show what I meant! Students were encouraged to read out what they'd written, and the room was soon buzzing with creativity. When the hour and a half was up, I signed books for those who had bought one from the bookstall or brought one in from home... and while I was signing, the room filled up all over again with a whole new group of young people arrived for the next workshop session! After finding a few extra chairs and tables for some unexpected extras (we didn't want to turn anyone away!) we got going with a different slant on the writing workshop, focusing on a friendship theme this time. There was a LOT of talent in the room!

After the second workshop, and the signing afterwards, there was a short break for lunch (more cake!) and then it was time to tweak the PowerPoint presentation as the hall filled up for the book talk. Many of the kids from the two morning sessions returned for this, and a whole lot of others too! My book talk has lots of slides and shows how and where I work, how I research when writing a book and how I plan. There are slides about DREAMCATCHER, the CC website and the fabby CCTV YouTube channel too, and a quiz for readers to see which BROKEN HEART CLUB character they have the most in common with! There was yet more signing at the end, and I went home on a real high, having met so many lovely and talented readers. So if you're thinking of going along to a book festival to see your fave author, give it a go... I bet it's just as awesome!

Reader Zoe had this to say about the day...
On hot days, I like to play out, but instead I went along to the library to meet Cathy Cassidy! She did an AMAZING workshop and taught us how to make characters and stories and how to use notebooks for story ideas. Later on she told us about her books and her website, and also how she planned and got inspiration and how she wrote her books. It was fabulous in every way! I was so glad I'd gone along to meet this awesome, cool and funny author and I loved every minute!

Cathy says:
Have YOU ever been to a book festival? What was it like? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 29 August 2016

AFTER A FASHION: THE MIDDLE AGES

Reader Jess, a history and fashion fan, launches the first in a series of posts about women's fashion through the ages... starting with medieval times! Would YOU have worn a wimple and plucked your hairline? Yikes! Read on!

Jess says:
Have you ever wondered what you would be wearing if you'd lived in the UK almost a thousand  years ago? No more summery playsuits or flowery dresses, no more jeggings or fluffy onesies. You'd have been wearing a simple shift by way of underwear and a tunic or 'kirtle' on top, long and loose, fastened at the shoulders with brooches. That was it, apart from some form of stockings if it was cold, fur in winter and a scarf to cover the hair if you were married. Fabric was mainly wool and had to be spun, dyed and woven before being stitched into a garment, so clothes were expensive and the same items would be worn over and over. For rich women, clothing was a status symbol and the well off had access to finer fabrics such as linen and silk, as well as more costly dyes.


As the middle ages went on, fashion grew ever more elaborate. The waistline was emphasized and sleeves and necklines decorated with embroidery. The richest women wore elaborate head dresses, like the one above worn by Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV, which consists of an embroidered hood to cover the hair and a huge net or lace construction set on wire to 'float' above and around this. You may also notice her hairline, which looks as though her hair is thinning; wealthy women at this time would pluck their hairline to draw attention to their foreheads, as a sign of beauty and intelligence. Er... I don't think this would catch on today! In the second picture, from a French painting, you can see even more complicated head-dresses and veils and more evidence of hair-plucking, and the use of fur to trim the 'surcotes' or over-dresses. This tells us that the ladies in the picture were wealthy.

Most women would have worn simpler styles, similar to the image on the right. Laws were brought in to actually stop the ordinary people from dressing in a fashionable way - expensive veils, silver trimmed belts and the colours purple and gold we forbidden. Anyone disobeying the law was punished severely. One thing was certain, life was very hard indeed for women in the middle ages. Very few women were allowed to own land, and most were under the control of their parents and would be married off to a suitor of their father's choice. Even wealthy young women were traded into 'good marriages' as if they were possessions. Women worked very hard, in the fields, looking after animals, cooking, cleaning and weaving as well as many other tasks. 
Because bathrooms and plumbing were not yet a thing, the streets ran with filth (often human waste) and even the nobility wore wooden clogs or shoes called pattens which lifted them up above the mess and kept their good shoes clean and dry. So... fashion in mediveal times was not all flowing velvet gowns and garlands of flowers, Maid Marion style, and life was very different to the way it is today. I would not like to be a teenager in the middle ages (I like my shower, soap and modern comforts!) but I would happily go back in time to see those amazing styles worn in real life.
To get a flavour of medieval fashions described above, check out the DVD of the BBC TV series THE WHITE QUEEN, based on the books by Philippa Gregory, which charts the rise to power of Elizabeth Woodville, the lady at the top of the page! She was a commoner who rose to be queen of England, and her story is amazing for any history fans. Plus... the clothes!!! It's a dramatic and visually brilliant series.

Cathy says:
Wow... I love the history of costume and this is so interesting! Would YOU have coped with medieval fashion... or life as a girl in medieval times, for that matter? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 27 August 2016

BODY LANGUAGE... WHAT DOES YOURS SAY ABOUT YOU?

Reader Claire looks at the study of body language and how our gestures and posture can give away how we're feeling inside... fascinating stuff!

Claire says:
I have been doing some research on body language and the findings are amazing! Did you know that your body can tell a very different story to the words you may be speaking? And it's your body that is most likely to be telling the truth, as physical habits are often unconscious. Certain gestures can signal that we are uncomfortable, uneasy, afraid, angry, unhappy or mistrustful... and others will pick up on those signals, even though they may be quite unaware they are doing so.

So... take a look at the illustration to the left. The girl in the picture does not look happy or at ease. How do we know this? Her arms are crossed across her body as if to protect herself, and her legs look awkward, as if she is shifting uneasily from one foot to the next. Her expression is anxious, her lips turned down and her eyebrows slanted in worry. Her eyes slide away from our gaze. If I saw her at a party, I would guess that she was upset or uncomfortable, and I'd go and talk to her to try to make her feel better, although I would be wary in case she didn't want to talk - she is giving very strong stay-away vibes!

What about the illustration on the right? The same girl, yet she looks so different. Her expression is open, happy and friendly, and she is looking towards the person next to her in a direct way. She appears confident and relaxed and at ease... her arms are at her side, signalling that she does not feel threatened, and her stance is strong and yet casual, with one leg bent in a careless, easy manner. I'd definitely talk to her at a party because she looks fun and friendly and interesting, as well as interested in others. I'd also prefer to look like the girl in the second picture, if I was out at a party... and even though I often feel shy and awkward at social gatherings I now try hard not to let my body language betray any discomfort. Looking confident can help you to feel confident!

The next time you meet a new person and find you don't feel too sure of them, check their body language and see if you are reacting to that... defensive gestures, wandering eye movements or an impatiently kicking foot can make us feel that our companion is bored, disinterested or just plain anxious. Remember that body language is not the whole story - but it's certainly a large part of why we react to others the way we do!

Illustrations by Cathy Cassidy

Cathy says:
Fascinating stuff indeed! Does YOUR body language give a cool, confident impression to others, or does your body give away your uncertainty? Are YOU aware of picking up on these types of non verbal signals? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

TEEN STARS: ELIZABETH TAYLOR

The first in a series looking at teens who made it big... we look at the early years of mega Hollywood movie star Elizabeth Taylor!

Elizabeth Taylor was born in London in 1932 to a wealthy American family; her father was an art dealer and her mother a retired actress. The family moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1939, having been warned about the imminent war in Europe. Elizabeth was strikingly good looking even as a child, with startling and unusual violet coloured eyes. Soon, she was being offered auditions for Hollywood film studios, and was given a movie contract by Universal Pictures in 1941. She was given a small film role soon after, but the contract then lapsed - rumour had it that the casting director at Universal did not like her. Elizabeth was then signed up by MGM and cast in the film LASSIE COME HOME, which required an actress with an English accent.

Shortly afterwards, at the age of twelve, she was given a major role in the film NATIONAL VELVET, where she played a fictional teenager who disguised herself as a boy and raced to victory in the British horse race The Grand National. Again, the role required an actress with an English accent, and the studio also had two of her baby teeth removed and required her to wear a brace to correct her teeth. They also wanted to dye her hair, pluck her eyebrows and change her name, but Elizabeth's parents refused to allow this. During filming, Elizabeth fractured her spine, and though this was not detected for several years it caused her ongoing back pain. The film proved to be her breakthrough role; NATIONAL VELVET was a huge box office hit in 1944 and critics praised Elizabeth's beauty, acting skills and fresh, unspoilt manner.

Elizabeth went on to become one of Hollywood's most popular teen stars, but the price of fame was high. Elizabeth later said that the studio was a 'big, extended factory' and that she had no real childhood after entering the movie business. Her days were a strict regime of lessons and filming, with the studio controlling her days and making her decisions. Her fame grew, and cut-out paper dolls and colouring books were made of her. By the time she was fifteen, MGM were arranging regular photo shoots... parties and dates were set up and presented to the press and little privacy was possible. Some of Elizabeth's teen movies included more Lassie films and the role of Amy in LITTLE WOMEN. That same year, she appeared on the cover of TIME magazine and MGM began lining her up for more adult roles. Unlike many child and teen actresses, Elizabeth transitioned with ease to adult roles and became one of the most acclaimed and popular actresses of her generation. Her personal life was not always happy, and her eight marriages drew media disapproval. She struggled with health issues which included alcohol dependence and addiction to prescription drugs, and died in 2011 of congestive heart failure. Elizabeth Taylor paid the price of early success in a business that was harsh and controlling, but she nonetheless enjoyed great success, inspired many and remains one of the best-loved and most iconic actresses of the 20th century.

Cathy says:
Have you seen any of Elizabeth Taylor's early films? How would YOU feel about losing your freedom and privacy in return for fame? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 26 August 2016

OFF THE RAILS...

Have you ever lost the plot and gone right off the rails? Readers share their out-of-control moments!

Steph says:
My most recent off-the-rails moment was when depression hit me hard and I decided to run away from home. I had been arguing with my mum and just couldn't cope, and running away seemed like a solution. I told Mum I was getting out of the house and she told me it wouldn't help. but I wasn't in a mood to listen and I went anyway. For four days I was switching between my friend's house and my boyfriend's house, but in the end I calmed down, came home and apologised. Sometimes I just go off on one and have to get out...

Cara says:
I am not what the teachers call a 'problem pupil' in fact I am fairly quiet and get good grades in most of my subjects. When you're quiet, you go under the radar a bit, and people really get a shock when you have a blow up. Well, I may be quiet but I do have a limit as to how far I can be pushed and recently a boy in my class had been niggling at me with nasty comments, making fun of my haircut, my skin which happens to be a bit spotty (not unusual for a teenager) and my shoes of all things, which he said were 'boy's shoes'. I normally let this sort of thing wash over me, but I was upset that day because my mum was in hospital and things at home were very stressful. The boy said something nasty in the lunch hall and I threw the contents of my can of Fanta at him and swept his dinner tray off the table. I got into massive trouble but so did he when the bullying came out, so it was almost worth it.

Sandie says:
I went through a very moody phase when I was eleven, twelve, thirteen. I think looking back I put it down to hormones as once puberty settled down a bit I was a lot less likely to go off on one. My little brother took a lot of the flak - to be fair, he asked for it, he was always winding me up. I remember one dinner time he thought it was funny to take a packet of sanitary towels out of my room and hold them up at the table and say that it was no wonder I was so moody. I was mortified and so angry, and we had a full-on fight and I made his nose bleed. I got grounded for a month. Now he's doing the moody teenager thing... I don't bother to wind him up, I'm past that now.

Jen says:
The worst thing I have ever done was in a big row with my mum about whether I could go to a party or not. She had more or less said it would be fine and then at the last minute changed her mind which I felt was very unfair. We both got angry and she was accusing me of being lazy and messy and not pulling my weight, and although I knew she was partly right I swore at her quite badly and told her I hated her. I didn't get to go to the party, but that was nothing - I felt awful. Very angry, but also angry with myself. We didn't speak for eight days... it was like the arctic in our house. In the end, I wrote her a letter that explained how I was feeling and that I felt nobody cared about me or understood me. She came to talk to me and and talked for hours, and put things right. We still have our ups and downs but we try to talk about our problems now. A massive row like that just makes YOU feel rubbish, as well as everyone else around you.

Thank you to SARAH for the fabulous artwork... perfect!

Cathy says:
I think all of us have our see-red moments. Have YOU ever lost your cool like this? What happened? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

INTRODUCING ARIANNA...

Say hello to new DREAMCATCHER columnist Arianna... she'll be blogging about all kinds of things over the coming months and giving us a Stateside viewpoint!


Arianna says:
You may not know me... in fact, I am 100% sure you don't! My name is Arianna, I am fourteen years old and my friends call me Anna so I guess you can too! I picked up my first CC book, DRIFTWOOD, just after my ninth birthday, when my dad was stationed in England. I was completely immersed in the story, hardly able to put the book down. Next I discovered SUNDAE GIRL, INDIGO BLUE, GINGERSNAPS, ANGEL CAKE, SCARLETT, THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series and much more. CC books opened my eyes to the fact that someone would always be prettier or smarter or have more/less problems than I do... but that it doesn't matter, as being myself is what really counts. And luckily, I love being me!

I mentioned my dad being stationed in England... well, I've spent about half my life in Europe and the other half in my native USA, so there have been quite a few times when I've felt uprooted! I currently live in Virginia, USA, and will stay here until I graduate from school in two and a bit years. I love creative writing, reading, photography and fashion, and I wanted to write a column because I love writing and because I know a thing or two about the stuff we go through growing up! You name it, crushes, first day of school, dances, best friends, frenemies, arch enemies, family, moving... well, I've been there! If there is anything particular you'd me to write about, just let me know... I'm hoping Cathy will let me write a regular column!

Anyway, I just wanted to say hello... I'll be back soon with my first proper post! See you then!

Cathy says:
Let me know what YOU would like Arianna to write about... I know I'd love to hear more about life in the USA, for starters! COMMENT BELOW to pitch in your ideas and say hello to Arianna!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

ANAEL: DANCE DILEMMA

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Anael has a question for Summer Tanberry...

Anael says:
I started doing ballet at five and it's my passion, always has been and always will be. I do pretty well in my ballet exams, especially the last one, Grade Three. I'm now well into Grade Four work amd the exams are approaching fast. The trouble is, I started exam Practice lessons later than everyone else, so I don't know the exercises as well as I should. It's not just me with this problem but the exams are very close and I have three exercises that need a lot of polishing up. I've managed to catch up on the main dance, but the rest needs a lot more practice! We cannot pay for extra lessons so that's not an option... can you give me some advice?

Summer says:
It sounds as though you are a bit of a perfectionist like me... which makes this a real challenge! Although time is short, try asking your teacher if you can attend any extra classes in exchange for helping out with the younger ones or helping behind the scenes at dance shows. This has worked for me in the past, so has to be worth a shot! If not, get together with a couple of dancey pals and go through your moves... you can help each other. My dance school always gave out music CDs, downloads and tapes to help us practice at home, and that is the main thing - go through your music and your exercises over and over until you know just what you're doing and it all feels natural. If you put the work in now, those last few lessons will help hugely - it will just be a case of listening to your teacher's suggestions for polishing those moves. At the end of the day, all you can do is give it your best try. You may do better than you think, but if don't get a merit or a distinction this time, that's OK. There were reasons for it, and no ballerina gets perfect results every single exam. Learn from this and make sure that next time you are able to attend all the lessons from the start... and move on, with confidence, to the next grade! Best of luck!

Cathy says:
I remember the time and effort my daughter put into practicing for her ballet exams... it's genuinely hard work, and much dedication is needed. As Summer says, chin up and do your best! Have YOU ever had to work for a dance exam? Do YOU have advice for Anael? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 22 August 2016

SAY IT WITH CAKE!

We asked you to share your fave birthday cake makes... the results are just gorgeous!

Kathy-Anne says:
I made this cake for my daughter's fourth birthday... she is a princess-mad little girl! I made the cake by baking three separate thick vanilla sponges and sandwiching them together with buttercream and jam. I then stacked them up and cut into them, carving out a skirt shape, and using the offcuts to help create the waist. I cut a hole through the middle of the cake to sit the dolly in and then I rolled out royal icing into one big circle. This was laid over the cake skirt and arranged in folds with piped on pink icing to decorate. She loved it!

Laura says:
This is a millionaire's shortbread cake I made for my mum's birthday recently! I got the recipe from a Mary Berry cookbook (one my family have had forever, just about!). Normally you cut the cake up into little pieces, traybake style, so that it's easier to eat, but as this was going to be a birthday cake I made it in a round tin and kept it in one piece. The hardest part was making the caramel, as it burns easily, but you can cheat and buy tinned caramel which also works really well. My mum loves millionaire's shortbread, so the cake was a big success!

Holly says:
This cake was the one my mum made for my fourteenth birthday party... it caused quite a stir! Mum made two madeira cakes and covered them both in royal icing with a thick layer of orange jam to stick the icing to the cake. The hearts and butterflies were made from edible sugar paper and the feathers were stuck into a cone using icing as a kind of glue! The cone was then pushed into the top of the cake so the feathers sat on top, and the whole effect was quite amazing. I loved the black and red colour scheme too! The cake itself tasted incredible - all my friends and family loved it and for me it was the best birthday cake ever, heavenly in both looks and taste!


Cathy says:
These look gorgeous! The doll cake is every little girl's dream... and the feather cake looks amazing, so glam and professional! I think my fave might be the millionaire's shortbread cake, though... sheer wickedness in cake form! What would YOUR ideal birthday cake be like? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

TEN THINGS DO DO BEFORE SUMMER IS OVER...

Shhh... time is creeping up on us, and the end of the holidays draws near. Here's our list of ten things to do before the sunshine packs its bags and heads into hiding again...

1. Paint your face, braid your hair and get together with friends for a DIY back garden sleepover, festival style! Pitch tents, hang bunting and fairy lights and bring guitars, iPods, picnic food and plenty of imagination. You can even come up with a cool name for your mini festival!

2. Take a day trip by bus or train to a place you've always wanted to go... and bring your mum/sister/best friend along for the ride! Be real tourists for the day!

3. Get inspired by the Olympics... choose a sport you'd like to try and give it a go. Gymnastics? Cycling? Hockey? Athletics? Swimming? It's never too late to get fit and have fun in the process!

4. Build your own ice cream sundae. Ingredients may include... ice cream in various flavours; chopped nuts; sugar sprinkles; banana; caramel sauce; strawberries; whipped cream; grated chocolate; chocolate buttons; peach slices; popping candy. Now name your creation... and find a friend to share it with!

5. Make a 'beach' zone in your back yard. Set up a towel/ sunlounger/ deckchair and tell yourself that the concrete is sand and the grass is water. Sip ice cool mocktails and eat watermelon slices and read a summery book as you soak up the sun... (make sure to use plenty of sun cream... it smells nice and beachy and besides, you can burn just as easily in the back yard, y'know!)

6. Watch the sunrise!

7. Change something you've always wanted to change. Your haircut? Your Barbie-pink wallpaper? Your self-esteem? Your style? Your attitude to life? Think about what you could do differently to make your life a whole lot better - and do it!

8. Have your say! Start a blog, a diary, a sketch journal, a you-tube account, a FB page, an Instagram account.... move over, Zoella, this could be the start of something BIG!

9. Do something you haven't done since childhood. Play on the swings at the local park, pick dandelions and daisies to give to your mum, make a card to tell someone you love them, walk barefoot on the lawn, paddle in a brook, make a sandcastle... or just curl up and watch FROZEN. Again!

10. Get organised. Shopping for uniform, stationery, books and backpacks is fun... and makes the whole back-to-school process a lot less painful! What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!

Fab photo by Cheryl; model, Eden. Thank you both!

Cathy says:
Have YOU done anything extra cool or unusual this school holidays? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 19 August 2016

ARE YOU INSTAGRAM SAVVY?

I asked student Demet, who runs the fab book and nail art Instagram account @books_polished, to share her advice on running a cool Instagram... this is what she said!

Demet says:
I am by no means very good at Instagram compared to some... but generally, I think that whatever makes you happy is fine. What do you want out of your account? Is it just for you and your friends? Is your goal to gain followers? If you want to post twenty pics of your cat each day, then go ahead... I am always in favour of cat pics on the internet! If that is not your goal, though, here are a few tips I picked up over the last two years:

* Have a theme. No matter if it's books or nail art or a specific fandom, people are more likely to subscribe if they know what to expect.

* Picture quality matters. I'm saying this knowing that I fail a lot at it myself, but if you have a camera that takes better pics than your phone, take pics with that and transfer them later.

* Post regularly. People who use Instagram can be very picky when it comes to the amount of times you post. The best advice is to follow other accounts who do similar things and see what they are doing. There is a lot of trial and error in finding out what you can/ can't do. I just can't do more than one design a week, but when you find what works for YOU, be it once a week, a day, or an hour, make yourself stick with this schedule. Many people prepare things in advance so they can post them on schedule with no last minute panics.

* Always include a caption. People want to know what they are seeing and why they are seeing it!

* Hashtags are important ...but nobody wants to read them. You need hashtags to get your work seen by others, but only a few are interested in reading them. I usually post them as my first comment, but others may separate them from the caption by leaving a few blank lines between. Again, keep an eye on other accounts and see how they handle things - you'll find your own way from there!

* Interact with people. Follow other accounts and actively talk with them. Not just 'Hey, check out my Instagram,' but actually commenting on their content if you like it. This will encourage them to do the same with your account. And don't forget to answer the comments that you get! You shouldn't just be there for the numbers, but for the community.

* Last but not least, have fun! You are doing this because you really want to. What would be the point if you didn't enjoy it?

Demet's account is @books_polished, where she posts nail art inspired by the books she has read. Pictures above show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Cathy says:
Whoa, an eye opener for me... I use my Insta (@cathycassidy) as a sort of personal photo album. Oops! Must try harder! #EspeciallyWithTheHashtags.  Seriously, Demet's tips are brilliant for anyone trying to get to grips with Insta... do YOU do Instagram? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

BROKEN HEART CLUB... MORE FAB REVIEWS!

More of your brilliant reviews for my new book BROKEN HEART CLUB... word is you are liking it lots! Phew!
Lynsy says:
I really enjoyed BROKEN HEART CLUB. I live in Singapore and after reading this book, I felt very moved, very grateful to have my loved ones and my friends... the story has twists and turns that made me vow not to take my friends for granted, to treasure them more. I loved how the book changed between the thoughts of Ryan and Eden. There are so many things I liked about this book and one is that it does not just focus on romance (although there is some!) but also on friendship. BROKEN HEART CLUB has left a deep impression on me... a good one! I cannot wait for the next book... I hope it is just as splendid, wonderful, marvellous and excellent as this, and just as moving!

Ceri says:
BROKEN HEART CLUB is an amazing story of friendship and love... near the end, I was almost in tears! There are many reasons why I loved it... 1: The different points of view... I loved seeing different perspectives on the story! 2: The twists, the turns, the secrets! There's a big plot twist, and I really didn't see it coming! 3: The glimpses of the past... I loved reading about how the friends met and how they became the Heart Club. 4: The characters... they were all strong and believable. I loved reading about how they changed and then changed again as the story progressed, 5: The opening... I love prologues, and this was the best one I've ever read. All of these reasons add up to this being my new favourite book. My favourite part of the book was the party - the dancing, the fight, the park, the kiss... aww. I also liked the picnic, the yellow paint scene and Andie's letter. What can I say? I love this book! It's fabulous, incredible, fantastic, awesome, amazing... the list goes on!


Clare says:
I think the new book BROKEN HEART CLUB is amazing. I'd been helping my dad with the decorating so he went out and bought it for me, and I read the whole thing in three hours because I just couldn't put it down. I loved it SO much and yes, I did need tissues towards the end... it was so emotional. I started reading it to my dad and the two of us couldn't stop talking about it... we have decided it's not just a book but a trick of the mind because it does mess with your head a little bit and what you think is happening turns out to be quite different. Needless to say I am telling all my friends and some of them have started reading the book as well... I really recommend it. Great for all ages and it will definitely keep you guessing!

Cathy says:
Thank you Lynsy, Ceri and Clare for the fab reviews! Have YOU read BROKEN HEART CLUB yet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 15 August 2016

BEACH, BABY?

We asked readers to tell us about their favourite beaches... perfect holiday reading!

Jayne says:
I think I lost my heart to Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire, the most beautiful county in Wales.

Kym says:
West Wittering and Widemouth Bay in Cornwall are amazing... everyone should go!

Zoe says:
I agree with Kym... Cornwall beaches are just awesome. Beautiful clear water, stunning scenery and landscape!

Anne says:
Weymouth Beach in Dorset has so many memories for me...

Linzi says:
Crosby Beach in Liverpool is amazing. The famous sculpture of the 'Iron Men' is there, dozens of iron sculptures standing in the sand and some of them out at sea, people come from all over to see them. It's a place we go quite a lot to walk the dogs and blow the cobwebs away, and even on sunny days it never feels too crammed or busy, there's miles of beach so there's room for everyone. You can see the docks in the distance but that does not detract from the beauty of it, it's a perfect city beach! Crosby Beach is beautiful, though at times it can be more mud than sand!

Zaila says:
Mud is not my thing! I love the sandy beaches in Llandudno in Wales... they're so pretty and it's such a seasidey town with all the fun stuff a beach place should have. I stayed there for five days last summer and it was so sunny!

Sophie says:
North Berwick beach - well, beaches, because there's more than one - are gorgeous, even in the winter. I live very near to them so I get to go over quite often. You can see four islands from them, which I think is pretty awesome!

Gemma says:
We go to the beach at Blackpool most years. It is not just the beach itself but the whole Blackpool experience... ice cream, fun fair, sticks of rock, people having fun. Blackpool will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Mhairi says:
We live near Glasgow but every summer we head for the highlands and islands. The west coast of Scotland is one of the most stunning, unspoilt places in the world. We like to camp, and we like to explore wild places. The most amazing beaches we've found are on the isles of Iona and Skye, where the water is turquoise and crystal clear, and if you are lucky with the weather there really is no better place on earth!

Carrie says:
Ayr beach is a five minute walk from my house, and in the winter it's quiet and windswept and in the summer sandy, pretty and filled with families but never too busy. You can get ice cream or chips or buy rock or do crazy golf nearby, and you can see Ailsa Craig island and Arran from the beach too. In the holidays, when it's sunny, my friends and I hang out there and swim in the sea... I can't imagine living anywhere else!

Pics of gorgeous Channel Island beaches and model Eden by Cheryl - thank you both so much!

Cathy says:
Linzi, I know Crosby Beach well... I've been going there since I was a toddler! The 'Iron Men' are indeed amazing! Mhairi, agree about Iona and Skye - and Carrie, I love Ayr beach, I even put it in my first book, DIZZY! What's YOUR fave beach? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

CATHY: MY HOLIDAY MEMORIES...

We've shared some readers' holiday memories recently... I thought I'd join the party and tell you all about my long ago summers! #BlastFromThePast


Cathy says:
My earliest holidays were trips north to visit my mum's cousins and aunties in Liverpool. We would stay with them and sometimes, as a special treat, we'd go to Crosby Beach. I always loved driving along South Road in my Auntie Sheila's white VW Beetle (so, so cool in the 60s, as was she!) and cresting the hill to see the sea on the other side... the best feeling in the world. At the end of the road, old ladies in shawls would sell buckets and spades, and we'd sometimes buy one and spend all day making sandcastles. We'd picnic, drinking fizzy Corona pop and eating slightly sandy jam butties, and I always spent ages on the trampolines that filled on of the beach front parks. The photo shows me on Crosby Beach with my cousin Ricky... my dress sense hasn't changed much since then, but luckily my hairstyle has!

After a while, we started branching out with our summer holidays. My dad, who repaired cars for a living, acquired a clapped out camper van and we set off for the muddy Lancashire coast. Dad was searching for somewhere he could sail the boat he'd been making in the back yard (shades of Daizy Star?!!). We found a place called Glasson Dock which was pretty cool, stuffed with boats and with a slimy, barnacle encrusted slipway that led down into the water where people launched their boats. There was even a cafe on a boat called the BaBa Gee, where we sometimes had a chippy dinner as a special treat! This pic shows me aged nine or ten, with the muddy estuary behind me and our whippet Smokie in my arms. This was probably the holiday where I took her for a walk and ended up chasing her for miles along the seafront because she was chasing another dog. The camper van had pull out hammock beds in the roof, and a camping stove where we cooked up baked beans and made tin mugs of milky coffee. Eventually, Dad brought his home-made boat up to Glasson and moored it there, and we spent one night sleeping on it, under an awning made of sails. It was very exciting, except when the tide came in in the middle of the night and we spent two hours bobbing around. My brother, still only a toddler, cried so much that Dad had to put him and Mum in the canvas dinghy and row them ashore to the safety of the camper van!

We struck holiday gold when someone told my dad about an old hut on a farm near Glasson Dock, up for sale. That hut, the size of a small garden shed, became our holiday home for the next ten years. I LOVED being on a farm and developed a big crush on the farmer's son, but got very upset when the newborn calves were taken away from their crying mothers, or when the farm lorry came to take the half grown lambs to market. I was never cut out to be a farmer's wife! In the picture, I am about twelve... wearing flared dungarees and a horrible shirt with puffed sleeves and a flyaway collar. It was all very trendy for the 1970s, I promise you, but I guess that's no excuse! My brother is in the pic too, and I'm riding my Raleigh bike, a sort of half hearted copy of the iconic Chopper bike which was so popular in the 70s. Dad sometimes dropped us up at the shed and went back home to work, so we'd spend weeks of the summer messing about on the muddy beach, swimming in the sea (very polluted, this was pre EU regulations, yikes!) and cycling around the country lanes. When Dad arrived back, we'd go sailing, heading out to beach ourselves on a sandbank at low tide and staying there all day until the tide returned to allow us to return.

My childhood holidays were all done on a shoestring, but they were magical all the same. What are YOUR happiest holiday memories? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

SISTER ACT...

Readers tell us about their cool and wonderful sisters... and why they mean so much!

Hollie says:
My sister is amazing. She is three years older than me but might as well be my twin... even though we're nothing alike! She likes art museums and cathedrals and I like M&M World and London! I've been ill for the last three years and she has taken it all in her stride. She treats me like a normal human being - even if that does mean taking the mick out of me occasionally, especially when I lose to her at Mario Kart! She's thoughtful and kind and does her very best to cheer me up when I'm low. She's at uni most of the time but I hear from her every day and FaceTime her often. I LOVE that she's at home at the moment and would give anything to have her around all the time. She's my best friend, my ally in everything, my favourite person ever. And let's not forget my furry 'brother' Boris, in the pic, an angel in my recovery!

Molly says:
I have a little sister of 22 months... I'm ten. She is probably the naughtiest little sister in the world, but when I am sad she has this power that can make me laugh and smile. Even though she is naughty, I will always be there for her and hopefully our bond will get even stronger! I love you, Megan!

Supty says:
I don't need a star or a celebrity to inspire or motivate me... my elder sister Semonty is my lucky star. She is the strongest person I know (mentally) as she embraces her flaws and pays no attention to those who criticise her. She never cries or complains over trivial things such as appearance and that makes her beautiful. She is a straightforward person who never talks behind people's backs and tried to accept the flaws in others. She is outstandingly unique because she doesn't go with the trend or follow others, she creates her own style. Even after being hurt, she never shed a tear for those who weren't worth it. She can control her temper and stay calm through any situation. Her talent outshines her beauty, and she guides me at all times and helps me to overcome my fear and believe in myself. She treats me like I am special and makes me feel adored. We quarrel sometimes, but at the end of the day we cannot live without each other!

Cathy says:
Awww... I always longed for a sister but never had one. These stories have really made me smile! Do YOU have a sister who means the world to you? Or one who drives you nuts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

BOOKS IN BRAILLE!

A while ago, reader Claire blogged here about reading CC books in braille and how she had persuaded the Royal National Institute of the Blind to turn more CC books into braille books. Now Mark from the RNIB tells us how it all happens...


Mark says:
The Royal National Institute for the Blind Library has the aim of getting as many titles into accessible formats as possible and making them available, free to borrow, to people who are blind, partially sighted or print impaired. Braille is a form of written language for the blind and partially sighted, where characters and letters are represented by patterns made of raised dots which the reader feels with their fingertips. Only around 7% of published material makes it into braille, giant print or audio, so we have our work cut out!

We have a long list of criteria that we use to help us choose which books to add to the library, and customer requests feature somewhere near the top of that list! For example, we recently added some new Cathy Cassidy titles to our braille collection because a reader had requested it.

Our customers range from the very young to the very old... we have more than twenty customers who are over a hundred years old! When we choose a book for braille or giant print (24 point, bold) we actually buy the physical book and chop it up before scanning the pages onto a computer to transcribe the text into an electronic file. This can then be used to produce a braille or giant print version.

A 'normal' book can often end up as more than six volumes - a volume is roughly the size of an A4 ring binder packed full of pages. We send them out to RNIB Library customers in big canvas bags... two volumes per bag. The Post office very kindly deliver the books for free to people's homes and once they have been read, and hopefully enjoyed, they come back to us in just the same way!

Cathy says:
It's great to know just how braille books are made... hats off to the fab team at RNIB Library! Which books would YOU suggest the RNIB add to their lists? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

ELLIE: I HELPED MY FRIEND TO SHOPLIFT

It's problem page time on DREAMCATCHER today and reader Ellie has a huge dilemma to solve... can wild-child HONEY TANBERRY help her work things out?

Ellie says:
This has been playing on my mind since the first day of the summer holidays. On that day, I went into town with my friend J. We were looking at make up in Boots and trying out the testers when I saw her take a nail varnish and put it in her pocket. I was so shocked I didn't say anything. I tried to ignore it in case I was wrong or in case she planned to pay for it, but she didn't, and just before we got to the doors she stuffed a lip gloss and the nail varnish into my bag. I hadn't even seen her take the lip gloss. I was shaking I felt so scared, but luckily nobody came after us and no alarms went off. When I tried to say something J said she'd got them for me because of not getting me a birthday present. So now I have two stolen things I didn't want in the first place, and a friend I don't want to hang out with any more. Please help.

Honey says:
As you know, I am a rule breaker by nature, but shoplifting has never been my thing; it's theft, pure and simple. As for shoplifting and then dumping the stolen items on your friend just as you are leaving the shop, that just sucks. By putting the stuff in your bag, she was making sure that if the two of you had been stopped, you would have been the one to get into trouble. I don't even buy her excuse of stealing them 'for you' - she must know you well enough to suss that you would not want anything to do with this. So, I can understand why you're feeling upset. Rather than blank her, give her a chance to clear the air. Tell her why you are so upset with her and see what she says; ask if things are OK at home, if anything is upsetting her, as her actions seem to be so out of character. Perhaps there are bigger things playing on her mind and the shoplifting was a cry for help? Maybe. Sadly though, I think her actions show a sneaky, mean streak and perhaps even a wish to get you into trouble. I wonder if she is envious of you, jealous in some way? Talking things through may help you get to the bottom of this, but whether you want to go on being friends with someone you cannot trust is a decision only you can take. Is she just mixed up, unhappy and crying out for help? Or is your friend more of an enemy in disguise? Find out, and if it is the latter, let her go. Nobody needs friends like that, trust me. As for the make-up, put it in a paper bag and hand it back to the shop - you can always say you saw someone drop it by the door. Job done.

Cathy says:
Good advice from straight-talking Honey! Would YOU add anything? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 8 August 2016

THE BOOK THAT SHAPED ME...

Older readers share their favourite Cathy Cassidy books... and tell why they mean so much!

Scarlett says:
I read all of Cathy Cassidy's books when I was in my first few years of secondary schools - the books inspired me and made me feel so much better about who I was. My favourite was and still is SCARLETT - I think it will stick with me forever. I felt like that lost and angry main character WAS me, back then. Although I am older now and have my own daughter I still love re-reading the books, and I'll read them to my daughter once she's old enough, too. These books were my inspiration and comfort when nobody in my life could get through to me. They helped me through the difficult times of growing up and sitting alone at school. I'd still love to meet Cathy Cassidy - maybe I'll look out for one of her book signings one day!

Dalia says:
The first time I read one of Cathy's books was in 2008 when I was given DIZZY as a present on my twelfth birthday... so yes, I am twenty now. The book inspired me to love the English language (which is not my first language) and also to learn how to write. I'll admit I had a hard time reading English books back then, but DIZZY changed my whole perspective on reading and writing. I've never stopped writing ever since! I hoped to major in English Literature in university, but my parents wished me to follow a career in the biological sciences. My dream is to be an accomplished, published author, but for now that dream will have to wait. Every now and then, when I hit a writer's block, I glance over at my bookshelf and see the bright pink cover of the book DIZZY, with its worn and yellowed pages, and I remember how inspired I felt when I read it for the very first time.

Kiki says:
GINGERSNAPS is a book that means so much to me... I was just going into Year Eight when I read the book, just like Ginger. I'm seventeen now, and it's weird to think that if we were the same age, she could drive now! I have honestly never related to a book as much as this one. The story of a girl battling her own self-esteem to find the friends she deserves is the story of every insecure preteen girl I know. I can remember feeling just like Ginger, thinking that looking pretty and having a social status meant everything. I have never read something that depicts bullying, friendship drama and first crushes so accurately. The battle to choose between what makes you a good person or what makes you look good. I relate to Ginger so much... the puppy fat, an old friend coming back into your life, I even have my own Sam... sweet, musical, curly hair. This book is a must-have for all teen girls - it's like a warm, reassuring hug. This book is about much more than love and friendship, it's about accepting who you are and learning that liking yourself is just as important as having others like you. Take it from someone who's been there!

Cathy says:
So much loveliness in one short blog... thank you so much, Scarlett, Dalia and Kiki. Your words mean the world to me. Do YOU have a book that shaped your teen years? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

DEMET: LOOKING GLASS GIRL... NAILED!

German student Demet tells us how her love of children's books and her flair for nail art led to the creation of a very unusual Instagram account...

Demet says:
I am from Germany and I am currently in London studying for a Master's Degree in Children's Literature, which is my dream. I began to get into nail art as an undergraduate student, watching a lot of YouTube tutorials and slowly getting better at creating my own. I remember having a conversation with a friend where I noted that 'My nails don't match my clothes, but they usually match the book I'm reading!' Let's just say everything escalated from there! I opened my Instagram account in 2014.

I have read and studied the children's classic Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland a number of times. In class, we talked about adaptations and books inspired by the original, and one classmate told us all about the CC book LOOKING GLASS GIRL and told us we should read it because it's different from other adaptations. LOOKING GLASS GIRL keeps part of the confusing world we all love about Alice but incorporates the real world too. I was so enthusiastic to read it that three weeks later when we did our Secret Santa Christmas party, that same friend got me my own copy of the book so I could see the amazingness with my own eyes. The book was everything I was hoping it would be.

Sometimes I really like a book but don't make a nail design based on it because the jacket doesn't translate well... but this is clearly not a problem I had with LOOKING GLASS GIRL! The cover may seem complicated, but it's made up of several elements which on their own are not too difficult to do. I thought of using these elements singly, one on each nail, but then I saw the book without its dust jacket and just loved the blue checkerboard design. It had a hand painted look to it which meant that nothing would get lost in translation! With the small hearts and musical notes as accents I could keep it interesting while still being simple and not too busy.

If you're interested in finding out more about my work, you can find my Instagram account at @books_polished and I now have a Snapchat account too which is books_polished also. Apart from my boring day to day life I try to show a lot of in between pictures to show how I build up the designs, from easy to the more complicated. Why don't you experiment too?

Cathy says:
I LOVE Demet's nail designs for LOOKING GLASS GIRL... how cool? Have YOU ever found a creative way to share the book love? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 5 August 2016

BOOK LOOK: A GOOD HIDING BY SHIRLEY MCMILLAN

My lovely writer pal Shirley McMillan has just written her first YA book... and it's amazing! I asked Shirley to tell us a little bit more about it...

Shirley says:
Growing up in Northern Ireland, I loved reading - my favourites were Robert Swindells (check out STONE COLD and BROTHER IN THE LAND if you're not squeamish!), the Armada ghost books and the SWEET VALLEY HIGH series. But there weren't many books about where I lived. I loved Joan Lingard's KEVIN AND SADIE series about star crossed lovers in Belfast during the Troubles, because I recognised the accents and knew the culture, but I'd have loved more books I could connect with. Northern Ireland is a brilliant place, and our history makes us a little different to other places.

When I started writing, I was completely sure that I wanted to set my books in Northern Ireland. I wanted there to be a sense of young people's lives here - a sense of our language and our humour and our capacity for hope even when faced with very difficult circumstances. I hope I have achieved that! The young people I know in NI are some of the bravest and funniest you could meet anywhere, and I wanted my characters Stephen and Nollaig to reflect that.

Set in Belfast, my debut YA (young adult) book A GOOD HIDING tells the story of pregnant runaway teen Nollaig and her best friend Stephen, a young gay man. Stephen and Nollaig hide in the crypt of a local church but are found by the vicar; they think all is lost, but the pair have discovered 'his' little secret and plan to use it against him. Together, the three face a choice: a life in the shadows, or one lived freely, in plain sight?

I hope above all that A GOOD HIDING is an enjoyable read... I always think that, wherever you are from, your story is different to everyone else's and that makes it important. If there's one thing I'd like to say to those who read and enjoy the new book, it would be to never feel you can't tell your own story to someone - it's one of the most important things there is!

You can buy A GOOD HIDING by Shirley McMillan in all good bookshops, or order online HERE. Happy reading!

Cathy says:
I can't wait to read Shirley's book, out now... it sounds tense, dramatic and intriguing! Bear in mind that it is a YA book, so suitable for older teens. Have YOU read an amazing book this summer? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

YOUR STARS FOR AUGUST...

Skye Tanberry has been consulting the stars again... take a look and see what your horoscope for August has in store!

LEO: 24 Jul - 23 Aug
You've learned a lot in the last few months. It's been a steep learning curve but you will be stronger for it... and much clearer about what you want the future to bring. Look for one good thing in every day and keep moving forward... small steps, but sure!

VIRGO: 24 Aug - 23 Sept
Your head is a whirl of crazy ideas just now - but don't dismiss them out of hand, some of these ideas are sharp, smart and innovative. Get talking to friends, family and the wider community to discuss how you can put your thoughts into action!

LIBRA: 24 Sept - 23 Oct
If you've been over-doing it lately you may find you need to stop for a while and chill. Summer isn't just about racing from one fun activity to the next, it's also about taking some downtime. Grab that sun cream and a favourite book and hit the sun lounger...

SCORPIO: 24 Oct - 22 Nov 
You're in planning mode this month... why not give in to the impulse and get organised for the new school/ college term? Sort out uniform, stationery etc and get to work on any summer projects you may have been given. The year ahead is going to be full-on... but awesome, too!

SAGITTARIUS: 23 Nov - 21 Dec
You have itchy feet... your nomadic nature has you dreaming about travel and holidays. If you don't have any trips away to look forward to, take things into your own hands and plan a few days out with friends/ family. Summer is the perfect time for an adventure!

CAPRICORN: 22 Dec - 20 Jan
Feeling a little lost without the usual term time routines? Embrace the freedom, even if it feels a little unsettling to start with! Summer has lots of new opportunities for you to explore... and groups, classes and projects you could join, too. Do you dare?

AQUARIUS: 21 Jan - 19 Feb
You're enjoying your freedom just now and trying to fit as much fun into every week as you can. That's great... but don't just dash from one thing to the next without thinking. Find your priorities. Life is throwing you some brilliant chances right now... make sure you take them!

PISCES: 20 Feb - 20 Mar
A holiday romance or perhaps a close holiday friendship is in the stars for August... be open to the possibilities and don't let any natural shyness get in the way. You have a lot to learn from someone new... perhaps someone very unexpected!

ARIES: 21 March - 20 Apr
Summer hasn't been feeling too thrilling yet - you're stuck in a rut of chores, jobs and plans. Yes, it's important to keep things running smoothly at home, but it's also time to relax! Plan some free time with friends or family when you can shelve all the worries and enjoy the moment.

TAURUS: 21 Apr - 21 May
Strong bonds are pulling you back into the family fold right now... it's time to touch base and take some family time. It might be a holiday away or even just a day trip, but time spent with those you love is never wasted; enjoy every minute.

GEMINI: 22 May - 21 Jun
Feeling frazzled? Slowing down is not a typical Gemini trait, but sometimes you have no choice... it's time to recharge the batteries! Your imagination has been working overtime lately... why not grab a notebook and capture some of that creativity on paper?

CANCER: 22 Jun - 23 Jul
You've discovered - or are about to discover - a new hobby or interest this summer break. It may be sporty and active or arty/ techy / creative... either way, give it your enthusiasm and energy and you will be rewarded. New skills build confidence and bring fun into our lives... what's not to like?

Cathy says:
Well, my prediction has more than a grain of truth in it... frazzled? Me? Just a bit! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts!