Monday, 23 October 2017

YOUR STARS FOR OCTOBER...

Skye Tanberry has been stargazing again... check out her fun predictions for the month ahead and see if they come true!

LIBRA: 23rd Sept - 23rd Oct
Don't make too many firm plans... life is going to take a few twists and turns in the weeks to come, so stay flexible and enjoy the ride! There may be surprises in store, but they'll be good ones, so let yourself go with the flow!

SCORPIO: 24th Oct - 22nd Nov
Changes are happening for Scorpio people, and not before time - it's hard for you to let go of the reins, but some things you cannot control. Interesting times lie ahead, so trust to fate and look out for unexpected opportunities along the way!

SAGITTARIUS: 23rd Nov - 21st Dec
You know what you need to do to move forward and build a better life, but knowing and doing are two different things! Even the best-laid plans don't always work out quite the way we imagine... but Sagittarians will enjoy the adventures ahead!

CAPRICORN: 22nd Dec - 19th Jan
New friends and possible romance are all on the cards in the months ahead, so enjoy this exciting time and try not to worry too much about the bigger picture. Sometimes, having fun is just as important as working hard... honest!

AQUARIUS: 20th Jan - 18th Feb
A project is starting now that may show real results in a few months time... have you got the patience and perseverance to keep working away at it? Whatever it is, it's something you care about with a passion, so don't give up... your reward will come!

PISCES: 19th Feb - 20th Mar
You've been pushing yourself too hard lately, and although in some ways that's just the way you operate, take care you don't go too far and end up burning out. If you end up exhausted and ill, you'll be back to square one... not good!

ARIES: 21st mar - 19th Apr
Whoa... things are really happening for Aries people this month! Energy levels are high and plans are about to create some truly awesome results. Take care to stay kind and thoughtful when it comes to those around you... they matter too!

TAURUS: 20th Apr - 20th May
Big things are happening... but they're not the things you might expect! It may feel like life has thrown you a curve-ball or two, perhaps even a serious challenge, but have faith - the events of the next few months will change your life for the better.

GEMINI: 21st May - 21st June
Impatient Gemini people don't like to wait around, but plans and journeys, whether simple everyday ones or big, life changing ones, are likely to include delays, detours and challenges. Stick with it... you'll still get your happy ending!

CANCER: 2nd June - 22nd Jul
You're in a very creative phase right now... enjoy it and let your imagination soar. Life may be taking some unusual twists and turns around you, but chill and trust to destiny - everything is unfolding exactly as it should.

LEO: 23rd Jul - 23rd Aug
You're definitely moving forward again after a difficult time... now is the perfect moment to work on self-esteem and confidence issues so that you are ready to take exciting chances and opportunities when they come along. You can do this!

VIRGO: 24th Aug - 22nd Sept
The path ahead is clear, even though you may not be able to see yet just where it is leading. Don't argue - put a smile on your face and step out with confidence. Slowly, you'll begin to see where life is leading you, and all your questions will be answered.

Cathy says:
Ooh... my horoscope says I need to be patient... not a quality I'm very good at! Do YOUR stars ring true? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

DAISY: HE LOVES ME NOT...

Reader Daisy shares her experience of a holiday romance that didn't end quite as she wished...

Daisy says:
It was right at the end of our holiday in Portugal when I got together with Mark. I'd spotted him right at the start, but both of us were shy and it was only on the last day that we got chatting and shared a quick kiss. It was very romantic but I didn't expect too much of it, so when he asked for my email, Facebook and WhatsApp details I was really happy.

Mark lives about two hundred miles away from me - I'm in Scotland, he's in England - but it felt like we were much closer because we spoke everyday and shared thoughts and feelings. Even though the actual romance had been so short and sweet, we were really getting to know each other now and able to tell each other anything and everything. When I fell out with a girl at school, Mark understood and encouraged me to put things right; when he had a massive row with his parents, I was the one he turned to. I felt closer to Mark than to anyone.

My friends were really impressed and knew he messaged me every day. And then, suddenly, he didn't. The messages faded away and my messages went unanswered. I had no idea what I'd done wrong. This was at the start of October, and I cried myself to sleep night after night because it was like losing a best friend. I couldn't let go, I kept messaging and asking what was wrong, and eventually Mark replied and told me he had a new girlfriend and I was getting a bit stalker-ish and I needed to get a life. This was the boy who'd poured out his heart to me about his parents just two weeks earlier. I haven't heard from him since, and I hope he feels a bit guilty for dropping me so abruptly and being so spiteful. It's not like I didn't understand that a long-distance relationship would be hard - he was the one who was determined to try. I saw him as more of friend than anything else, and I think I could have accepted that he was seeing someone, maybe, in time. I just feel sad that my first holiday romance had to end in such a harsh and bitter way... and I will think twice before trusting any boy again.

Beautiful photo by talented reader Hollie: many thanks Hollie!

Cathy says:
Daisy's had a bad experience - it sounds like Mark just didn't have the maturity to explain his feelings properly to her, then felt guilty and got nasty. I hope her next relationship runs a little more smoothly! Have YOU ever been badly hurt by a boy? COMMENT BELOW or email your story to me via the EMAIL CATHY link over on the CC website!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

SCARLETT-INSPIRED SWEET TREATS TO BRIGHTEN UP YOUR AUTUMN!

Looking for some sweet treats to try out this half term? Head to the bookshelf and check out some CC inspired recipes to brighten up your autumn?

Scarlett's Yummy Fairy Cakes...

You'll need...
12 medium paper cupcake cases
Baking tray
125g softened butter
125g caster sugar
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

To make...
Preheat oven to 190c/ 375f/ gas mark 5.
Arrange paper cases on baking tray.
Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add beaten egg gradually, mixing as you go, and then add vanilla extract and mix in.
Sift in half the flour, folding gently.
Add the milk and rest of flour and fold in until well mixed.
Spoon into paper cases and bake for 12 minutes until golden and risen.... cool for 10 mins on a wire rack.

To decorate...
Beat 115g icing sugar with 60g softened butter, adding a drop of vanilla extract to taste.
Add a drop of food colouring for extra cool cakes!
Spread buttercream over cooled cakes and top with a fresh strawberry and a mint leaf, Scarlett style... or sprinkle on hundreds and thousands!

Clare's Lemonade...
You'll need...
1 cup sugar
6 fresh lemons

To make...
Place sugar in a heatproof bowl and add a cup of boiling water, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Use a lemon squeezer to juice six lemons.
Mix sugar water and lemon juice together in a tall pitcher, adding 3-4 cups of cold water to taste.
Refrigerate for 30 mins and serve with ice cubes and lemon slices.
Or... slice up a bowlful of fresh strawberries and stir into the mixture to make pink lemonade!

Fab illustrations by talented reader Caoimhe - many thanks!

Cathy says:
Haven't read SCARLETT yet? It's the perfect book for half term week... check it out at your local bookstore or reserve a copy at your local library! If you HAVE read SCARLETT, share your reviews in a COMMENT BELOW to let other CC readers know what you think! And if YOU have some recipes to share, EMAIL CATHY via the link on the website cathycassidy.com and we'll use the best on here!

Monday, 2 October 2017

I LOVE LEXIE! MORE FAB READER REVIEWS...

More readers share their reviews of LOVE FROM LEXIE... it's flying off the shelves... have you got YOUR copy yet?

Aaliyah says:
Yesterday I loaned LOVE FROM LEXIE from my local library and read it for two hours... then another three hours until, past midnight, I finished it. It made me cry it was SO good, and the storyline kept me gripped throughout. I loved how Lexie took all the lonely people and made them feel like they belonged - and I took a great liking to Marley too! Every time I read a CC book I think how awesome it would be to make it into a film, and I think LOVE FROM LEXIE would be the perfect place to start. When the Chocolate Box Girls series ended I was so upset but Lexie is my new favourite character - all I can say is that it was well worth the wait!

Angharad says
I LOVED this book. It was a sensational, heart-warming story that made me sit up in my seat and beg for more. LOVE FROM LEXIE is all about a girl called Lexie who accidentally finds herself forming a band called the LOST & FOUND with some of the kids from her school. Lexie is lost and lonely because her mother abandoned her, moreover, she never knew the reason. I really liked the book because it has a strong musical theme and that's fab for me as I play piano, clarinet and violin (like Happi in the story). It's also a cool, fun and frankly very good book. There is a clever twist in the tale and I am really looking forward to reading the next one in the series!

Cathy says:
Thanks girls for such fabulous reviews... I really appreciate it! Have YOU read LOVE FROM LEXIE yet? COMMENT BELOW to have your say or email me to have your own LOVE FROM LEXIE review on DREAMCATCHER!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

JOSIE: A DREAM OF DANCING...

Reader Josie has dreamed of a career in dance ever since she can remember... but will her dreams come true?

Josie says:
When you're little, it all seems so easy. You have big dreams, of dancing in pointe shoes and a white tutu at Covent Garden, being handed a bouquet at the end as the audience goes crazy. I read too many ballet books, or maybe not enough. I lived and breathed ballet, and I never for one moment thought that my dreams would not come true.

As I grew older, I learned that dreams aren't quite as simple as the Disney cartoons make out. You don't just wish on a star and get your dream future handed to you on a plate. You have to work, and hard. My ballet lessons went up to twice a week, then three times, then four. There would be extra practices when we had a show, and extra pressure to be chosen as something other than the chorus line. Still, I loved it. The joy of dancing made all the hard work worthwhile. I progressed through my grades, began dancing en pointe, watched my ballet friends fall away as teenage life and its pressures and dramas took precedence over ballet. Only a handful of the girls I'd danced with since the age of four are still taking lessons now.

Reality seeps in, and it can sour a dream. I wasn't chosen to audition for the Royal Ballet School, nor the regional school, when I was younger. It's a bit like not getting that letter telling you you're going to Hogwarts... a huge reality check. My parents started telling me to think about careers, and they didn't mean careers in dance. They said that only a very few dancers can make it to the very top, and that I should start to see it as a hobby I loved rather than anything else. That broke my heart. I am in Year Eleven now, taking A levels, and my friends are starting to talk about sixth form and universities and whether to pick things like English or Business Studies. I couldn't picture myself in that kind of future. I spoke to my ballet teacher about this and she had a different story to tell. Not everybody takes the same route in ballet, and not everyone gets to be a prima ballerina, but they can still have a career in dance. She pointed out that I was also studying Tap, Modern and Musical Theatre, and suggested I apply for a place at Performing Arts College. It's like a foundation for a degree. Next week I am attending an open day at one of the big Performing Arts colleges in the city where I live, and if it goes well I will be applying. It will be two years of dancing and if I do well, I plan to apply for a Musical Theatre course at university. My dream is alive again, changing a little, but better than ever and even more exciting because this time they are genuinely possible. Never give up.

Photograph by reader Hollie; posed by model.

Cathy says:
This is such a powerful piece. Dreams do evolve as we get older, and there are always many routes to your end goal, or different versions of it which can make you happy. Determination and sheer hard work can take you a very long way! I wish Josie the very best of luck! Have YOU got a dream that sometimes seems impossible? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

NEW YEAR SEVENS... THREE WEEKS IN!

A few weeks ago, we heard from a whole bunch of new Year Sevens to find out what they were looking forward to about their new schools... now we've caught up with them to see if secondary school is living up to their expectations!

Louise says:
Year 7 is going great so far - I've made lots of new friends! The school dinners are fantastic though the queues are quite big, but it's worth the wait! My favourite is the pizza! I've joined the drama, netball and language clubs so far and would say to anyone feeling anxious about joining a club to give it a try - a great way to meet people with similar interests! My CATS tests went well - they just took a morning (unlike SATS which seemed to last forever) and I'm very happy with the set I'm in. I think I'm settling in just fine - and I've only been lost once!

Esther says:
My first day of secondary school was fine, but I prefer primary. School is OK, but sometimes overwhelming, and I don't seem to be learning anything in Maths. Overall, I'd prefer not to go! It's weird, because we are in Year 7 and we have to show respect, yet we get no respect from the rest of the school.

Nell says:
The first week was fun - nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. The students are all very kind and welcoming, especially the Year 8s who have just been through the experience! There are lots of clubs to choose from, and I've joined a drama group and one all about making food look good! I worried about homework to start with, but realised that if you tackle it in bite-size chunks it doesn't seem so daunting. The teachers are nice and I've enjoyed lessons a lot - my favourites are drama and science. In science we've been learning about forensics and contamination at a crime scene, which is really interesting! The food is really good - may fave is pitta with garlic mayo, tortilla chips and salsa! To anyone in Year 6 now, don't worry - I'm sure you'll enjoy Year 7 as much as I have so far!

Robin says:
I've just had my first few weeks of high school and I LOVE it! Here are five cool things about high school!
1: The FOOD! My school has brilliant food, plus a McDonald's style pre-order machine!
2: The TEACHERS! They aren't mean or strict, they are kind and caring - even when I was late to a class because I'd got lost!
3: The LESSONS! I have brilliant lessons - we used bunsen burners in science and designed an electronic pencil in Tech!
4: The AFTER-SCHOOL CLUBS! I love stuff like the Trading Card Club and the Lego Mindstorms Club!
5: The INSET DAYS! Actually, INSET means a day off school, but hey - it's great to get an extra day off after all that excitement, and it's only right to celebrate with ice-cream, isn't it?
High school is brilliant - all you new Year 6s out there, you'd better start looking forward to it!

Cathy says:
Mixed reactions, but overall a big thumbs up for Year Seven from our Roving Reporters! Good luck for the rest of the year to brilliant Louise, Esther, Nell and Robin! What are YOUR best bits of advice for new secondary school students? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 22 September 2017

SO LIKE SUMMER...

If there's one CC book which has struck a chord with many readers and helped them to see there is light at the end of the tunnel, it's SUMMER'S DREAM. We talk to readers who have been through what Summer did...

Sophie says:
I am fourteen and I live in France, so sorry for my bad English... but I need to thank you for the book COEUR MANDARINE (SUMMER'S DREAM). I am probably not the first girl to say this, but I lost one year of my life because of anorexia. I find it hard to explain my illness, or to talk about it because it is not something people usually talk about. When I read Summer's story I was sad but also happy because finally there was a book about this horrible illness. The book is a very good way to warn young girls about the danger of anorexia. I hope that Cathy will go on writing about this kind of subject because we need books that are brave and real.

Matt says:
I am so grateful for the book SUMMER'S DREAM. I read it because my sister had it (I am a fifteen year old boy and it's hard for boys to pick up books that look like this!). Anyway, I realised after reading this book that I had big issues with food and that I needed to get a grip. I had been bingeing and then purging and it had become a sort of addiction, and I thought it was under control but the book made me see that I was just kidding myself. I talked to my school counsellor and I am getting help now, and the binge/ purge thing is under control. I feel very strongly that boys need books that deal with real life issues too, not just girls - we are all under the same kinds of pressure. SUMMER'S DREAM was a bit of a lifesaver for me.

Jessie says:
SUMMER'S DREAM was the book that made me see that I was in trouble with the way I was with food. Like Summer, I was limiting food and eating only things I thought were low calorie and fat-free, and I thought that was OK. The book showed me that it actually isn't OK at all but very dangerous, but it did this in a very natural and realistic and un-preachy way. I suppose I saw what happened to Summer and how she lost everything because of her eating disorder, and I didn't want that to be me. I was able to pull back before it got too much, and although I still try to eat healthily I am very careful now to make sure I eat enough. I'm not scared of certain foods any more. I saw that Summer used food as a way to try to handle her stress and that was what I had been doing too, and it clearly wasn't a good way of coping. SUMMER'S DREAM taught me a lot and made me think a lot, and I am thankful for that.

Vee says:
I was in hospital being treated for anorexia when my mum gave me SUMMER'S DREAM. She later told me she was nervous about giving the book to me in case it triggered bad thoughts but it had the opposite effect. It made me feel like someone out there understood and that there was hope, because if Summer could put up with the treatment then so could I. I have read some other books about eating disorders but some make it seem like everything can be fixed quite quickly, and that's not true - sometimes they can't be fixed. I have lost friends to this illness. It's not something to mess about with. It's not a joke. SUMMER'S DREAM was one book that seemed to get this, and managed still to be hopeful. I have now read the other books in the series and followed Summer's progress to getting better, and I am making progress too. She is one fictional character I will always be hugely grateful to, because it feels like we have gone through this nightmare together.

Cathy says:
These posts are so moving. SUMMER'S DREAM was a tough book to write because I wanted it to be realistic and yet hopeful too, while dealing with a very difficult subject. Has a book ever helped YOU to cope with something in your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 16 September 2017

BLUE: WHEN I WENT TO PRIDE...

Reader Blue travelled up to the Glasgow Pride Festival this summer - here, she tells us what her day was like!

Blue says:
I'd travelled quite a way but didn't get to take part in the parade itself - all I can tell you is that there were lots of rainbow flags, a police car decorated with rainbow balloons and a Tesco float that somehow produced rainbow smoke! I did get to Glasgow Green where there were lots of stalls and fairground rides and a stall selling things like flags and badges and flower crowns. I managed to find some vegetable tempura and there was even a dog show - I saw a Staffie dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog and various small dogs dressed in rainbow tutus and bandanas.  My friend swears she saw a rainbow dyed Dalmation, too!

As for the people, so many were dressed up in various fantastical styles! Many of us were wearing our respective Pride flags as capes, and lots wore plastic rain ponchos because the weather was flipping between blue skies and sun one minute and downpour the next. That just gave the host a chance to make jokes about the sun 'coming out' though!
The main stage was where the magic really happened - I watched a group of drag queens dancing, and one of them, dressed as an alien and dancing to Katy perry's 'Extraterrestrial' joined the crowd to pose for photos with fans afterwards. A band called Collabro played a great set too, including 'The Circle of Life' from The Lion King! DJs played music in between the bands and the 'Macarena' got the whole crowd dancing in sync - I absolutely loved the carefree atmosphere.

Pride is just such an accepting place and a great celebration, not just for LGBT+ people but for everyone! People were dressed whatever way they wanted to, whether that was Lolita, punk, drag, their own eclectic style or just men putting glitter in their beards! Nobody laughed at anyone else because we were all comfortable being who we were, without judgement. In fact, total strangers were complimenting each other on their look, which was lovely! I'll definitely be going back next year, and I'll try not to miss the parade next time!

Cathy says:
I watched the Liverpool Pride Parade this year and loved it too... such a happy, positive and peaceful way of showing the world that love is what matters, no matter whether someone is straight, gay or otherwise. Would YOU take part in a local LGBT pride festival? Do you think we still have work to do before the LGBT community feel fully accepted? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

JAY: THE END OF SUMMER...

Reader Jay will be glad to see the back of the summer of 2017... read on to find out why...

Jay says:
It started out with every promise of being a great summer. My family were going on holiday to Blackpool and my older sister Lucy, who is at uni in Birmingham, was coming too. I was so looking forward to seeing her because I had missed her so much. I went clothes shopping with my mum and got some great bargains, and even downloaded the new CC book onto my Kindle to read while I was away. The first sign that things weren't going well was that Lucy seemed a bit withdrawn and moody with me, sometimes snapping at me that I didn't realise how lucky I was. (I'd just finished taking my GCSE exams, so I didn't feel lucky!) Then, as we drove north, the rain started and when we looked up the weather online it said the whole week was going to be wet. The hotel wasn't as good as it looked in the pictures either, and the mood was a bit subdued although we went through the motions and did the funfair, the shops, and booked a couple of shows.

It got much worse, sadly. Halfway through the week, Mum got a call from Grandad telling us my nan had been taken into hospital with a stroke. At that point we abandoned the holiday and drove to Wales to see Nan. It was the first time I have seen anyone so ill - she couldn't talk or move much, though she could squeeze your hand, and she had an oxygen mask on to breathe. Mum said she could hear us so we told her how much we loved her and to get better soon. On the second night, sitting in the family room in the hospital, my sister Lucy told me she was miserable at uni and was dropping out, she had been seeing a counsellor and taking anti-depressants but no matter what she did she still wasn't coping. I understood why things hadn't seemed right and promised to help her tell Mum and Dad.

We didn't get a chance though because Nan died the next morning, and after that the summer was all about funerals and choosing hymns and flower colours for the wreath and everybody crying the whole time. It felt unreal, like everything was happening underwater. I spent a lot of time with Grandad, letting him talk about when Nan was young and they were first together. I have so many memories too, and I can't believe she's gone. Lucy told Mum and Dad two weeks ago and they were upset but they just accepted it in the end. Lucy is still struggling and looking for a job now. It has been the most horrible summer I can ever remember, and I will be so glad to see the end of it. It feels like the end of my childhood and the start of a much greyer, sadder future, but hopefully that feeling won't last forever.

Fab photograph by reader Davina... thank you so much!

Cathy says:
Sometimes in life, all the difficult stuff seems to come at once... no wonder Jay feels low. Things WILL pick up, though, and life will go on. Have YOU ever had a time when everything seemed to go wrong at once? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

YOUR STARS FOR SEPTEMBER...

Skye Tanberry has been stargazing again... read on to discover what thrills and spills lie in wait for you this month!

VIRGO: 24th Aug - 22nd Sept
Drop the worry and think positive - you're at a crossroads, and you can change your life for the better if you just have faith in your hopes and dreams, and the determination to see them through. Ditching the fears is the first step - and by far the most important!

LIBRA: 23rd Sept - 23rd Oct
A period of good luck is heading your way, and this could mean you have some spending money for once! It's OK to treat yourself, but don't go too crazy - plan carefully and make sure there's enough set aside for later!

SCORPIO: 24th Oct - 22nd Nov
Things are looking up... it's a LONG time since the stars have looked so good for Scorpios! Fun, friendship and happy times are all on the menu, and if you keep on working hard too you could be looking at an awesome year ahead!

SAGITTARIUS: 23rd Nov - 21st Dec
You've had a wild summer, socially, but things are calming down a little on the friendship front. It's time to top up your batteries and chill out a little - swimming, yoga, meditation, painting, reading or music should all help!

CAPRICORN: 22nd Dec - 19th Jan
Life has been a little stressy lately, but all of that's about to change! Friends and fun are the priority right now, and although old friends will become closer than ever, you may also meet new people who will become hugely important to you in the months ahead!

AQUARIUS: 20th Jan - 18th Feb
You have big ambitions, but up until now you haven't always been sure of how to make them real. Play to your strengths at school/ college/ work and don't hide your quirky creativity - these are the things that will get you noticed!

PISCES: 19th Feb - 20th Mar
Travel and adventure are on the cards for you, but to take advantage of this you need to stop worrying and trust the future. Focus on what you want from life and you're more likely to attract it - try it and see!

ARIES: 21st mar - 19th Apr
Romance and money are both fizzing away in your stars this month... enjoy! To keep things looking good, stay on track with study and do whatever you can to boost your self-esteem - fate will see to the rest!

TAURUS: 20th Apr - 20th May
Romance and friendship are moving into a much brighter zone for you, and relationships of all kinds should run more smoothly and bring joy. If you're struggling with a possessive friend/ partner, now is the time to cut your ties and break free.

GEMINI: 21st May - 21st June
You'v had a lot on your plate lately, but life should start running much more smoothly now. You're not a fan of routine, but make sure you keep on top of things - and take time out for fun and relaxation. All work and no play just doesn't work for Geminis!

CANCER: 2nd June - 22nd Jul
You love a bit of drama, but lately there's been a little too much of it... thankfully, things are going to be less intense now. Creativity and home life will take centre stage, so let your imagination go wild!

LEO: 23rd Jul - 23rd Aug
You've weathered some huge storms recently, but the rough seas are calming at last. Suddenly, everything will seem easier and you'll start finding fun in everyday things - a walk in the park, a day out with friends. Amazing chances could open up to anyone moving house/ school/ job!

Cathy says:
Hmmm... some exciting predictions here! Did they ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 11 September 2017

CHRISTINA: READ AND SHARE

Greek school teacher Christina Kasinti knows her pupils love reading... here she tells us about the brilliant 'Read and Share' eTwinning project they all took part in!

Christina says:
I am a teacher in the Third Junior High School in Corinth, Greece, and my students are great admirers of Cathy Cassidy and familiar with her books, especially Indigo Blue as a number of interesting exercises linked to this book are a part of First Grade in a Greek Junior High School. This year, we decided to get involved with a European eTwinning project called 'Read and Share', in which we worked with students from eight other countries across Europe. The aim was to create a love of reading in the students through various activities!

The project is cleverly woven around seven 'adventures' - these ranged from making and exchanging bookmarks, running a photographic contest for the best spontaneous photo of somebody reading, looking at unique and inspiring libraries and meeting an author. The project blossomed, and students from across Europe were able to exchange opinions on book issues and adopt ideas other schools had thought up, while adding in our own creative touch. At first, our team studied haiku poems and created their own haikus which were displayed in a 'poet-tree' - a pot of giant sunflowers at school. The Portuguese team were inspired to write their own haikus too, and their 'poet-tree' was a chestnut tree which they planted in the school yard!

The Polish team came up with the idea of reading picnics, and the Portuguese team adopted this too. The Spanish team took it a stage further and invented a special portable library, a travelling basket full of books to carry along! This was just a small taste of what we did - we shared so many experiences and feelings! We took a fairy tale trip to faraway China and celebrated Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Safer Internet Day at the library, as well as searching for the recipe for a good book, creating online games, painting legends and fairy tales and even creating jewellery, flowers and animals from old books! We staged a theatrical performance, set up a reading Flash Mob, a scavenger hunt and wrote a message in a bottle to future eTwinners!

One of the main outcomes of the project was the making of an eBook with a fairy tale structure which presents our adventures in story form. When we reached the end of the book, we realised that there is no end to our story - reading never ends, and for those of us who took part in the 'Read and Share' project, the adventures are only just beginning!

Cathy says:
Wow... this reading project sounds so, so awesome! I loved the eBook Christina's students made and the enthusiasm and passion for reading that the project awakened in those who took part. I wish all schools could do something like this! Have YOU ever taken part in an exciting book-linked project? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more! And BIG CONGRATULATIONS to the fab students of Third Junior High School of Corinth... you're just amazing!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

EMILY: A WORLD OF DOODLES!

Have you ever dreamed of making money from your drawings and doodles? Talented Emily decided to do just that... find out how!

Emily says:
For as long as I can remember, I've loved to draw and colour. From doodling to designing my own 'fashion magazines', drawing was such a fun and limitless thing to do.After GCSE art I went on to A level, and that point I realised that my style was different to the others in my class. 'Fine art' was the expected style - lifelike still-life paintings and detailed drawings. My art was different - it consisted of lots of line drawings, outlines, abstract ink sketches of vintage sweet shops and all types of jars and containers.

My art teacher in secondary school told me she thought some of my designs could be used on postcards and prints, and encouraged me to sell them. I felt so happy and motivated by this idea that I decided to try, and not long after I set up a Facebook page called Emily's Artwork to showcase my work. People started to buy, and for a long time it all went pretty well, but eventually it began to feel like hard work. When somebody bought a canvas, I had to buy the canvas, draw it, paint it and send it to them - this took a long time and energy just for one order, and had to be fitted around my GCSEs and A levels too, which was not ideal.

Not long ago, I decided to go in a different direction. I thought back to my love of colouring - something I have always found enjoyable and relaxing. When the 'adult colouring' craze began a couple of years ago, I was amazed... suddenly everyone was joining in with the thing I'd loved for so long! I looked at these designs and decided to try making some of my own, and that's when World of Doodles began!

I bought some sketchpads and some good ink drawing pens and stayed up past 1am sometimes, drawing and imagining and getting all my creativity down onto the page. Now I am designing my own colouring pages and bookmarks for those who want to share my love of colouring! In May I opened up a brand new Etsy shop for my pages. It has gone pretty well so far and I've even started selling custom designs!

It doesn't take a lot to find a passion for something - and if passion is too strong a word, then perhaps just an interest is enough to start with. Find something you are interested in - whether that be drawing, colouring, drama, horse riding, maths - whatever you are good at! Standing out from the crowd and finding your style is different to others is by no means a bad thing. It's an amazing, confidence-boosting, inspiring thing! Find your niche, find your passion and let it fly. Trust me - it's the best feeling in the world to be doing something you love!

You can visit Emily's Etsy shop by clicking on WORLD OF DOODLES... we think you'll like it lots! Check out Emily's FB page too, here: https://www.facebook.com/worldofdoodles/   

Cathy says:
I love this post - Emily's creativity and determination are opening up new doors for her, and tapping in to the current craze for colouring is genius! Do YOU have a secret passion you'd like to make into something more? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE?

Lovely children's writer CAS LESTER tells us all about her newest book... and it's a total must-read!


Cas says:
Imagine starting at a new school where you don't know anybody. I guess that might seem like a bit of a challenge. Now imagine that you don't even speak any English. Think about it -  standing around at break, being bombarded with questions you can't understand, and then, even worse, everyone abandoning you when they realise you can't actually talk to them. How gutting would that be?

But what if someone stayed, smiled at you, and offered you a piece of chocolate? Ah, well that might just be the start of a brilliant friendship! It's also the starting point for my latest book, DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE? The story is about the friendship between Jaz and Nadima, who is a newly arrived refugee from Syria.

In fact, the story was inspired by a true story about a friendship between two real girls who were determined to become friends even though they didn't speak each other's language. They featured in a children's documentary I was cutting down for the BBC. Their friendship started with a smile.

Somebody once said, 'The language of friendship is not words, but meanings.' But I reckon that the language of friendship is chocolate! So what's your 'language of friendship'? A shared song? Football? Cheese and onion crisps?

Cathy says:
This sounds like my kind of book... well, I'm fluent in chocolate, for starters, and one of my most valued friendships was sealed over a shared slice of hot chocolate fudge cake! DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE is out now... give it a go, and COMMENT BELOW to tell us about any other cool books you've read this summer!

Monday, 4 September 2017

KATIE: MY TOP TIPS FOR STARTING YEAR SEVEN!

Anxious about starting secondary school? Reader Katie has just finished Year Seven, so who better to share her tips on how to make it all go smoothly?

1/ Secondary school can feel like a big step, but focus on the positives not the negatives... it helps!

2/ Meet up with your friends to talk about it - you won't be the only one feeling nervous and together you can share ideas for making it all go smoothly!

3/ If you have an older brother or sister in high school, now is the time to ask for their advice and have a serious chat about how best to handle things.

4/ Be prepared. You have all summer to get uniform, gym kit and stationery sorted, so don't leave it to the last minute... you'll feel less stressed if you know it's all in order.

5/ Try to get a good night's sleep the night before you start - and sit down for a good breakfast, too. You have a big day ahead, make sure you're ready for it!

6/ Fix a smile on your face and be open, chatty and friendly to everyone. You need new friends, even if you're starting school with friends from primary, so be as friendly as you can be.

7/ Remember that it takes a while to really get to know someone, so give yourself time before trusting those new mates with your deepest, darkest secrets... a month or two in, you'll know who is a true friend and who isn't.

8/ If you are still unsure and nervous a few days in, talk to your friends and parents and get those worries out in the open so they can be sorted. Your form tutor is a good source of help and support at this point, too.

9/ School is what you make it. Don't fall into the trap of playing class clown - try hard in all your classes. You're there to learn, and if you forget that, it's your own future that will suffer.

10/ HAVE FUN!!!

Cathy says:
Excellent tips from Katie - I hope they help! If you've already done Year Seven, what would YOUR tips for new starters be? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

BACK TO SCHOOL... FOR TEACHERS, TOO!

Ever wondered what it's like for a teacher at the start of a new term? Our secret correspondent Mrs McG gives us the inside story!

Mrs McG says:
Here's the secret - the night before returning to school after the summer holidays, teachers up and down the country are in bed, wide awake, for most of the night. The feeling of excited anticipations mixes with anxiety and dread... 'What if I've forgotten how to teach?' 'What if the parents don't like me?' 'What if the pupils hate me?' After what feels like the longest night ever, you're up, checking over all the resources and equipment you've prepared. For six weeks you've lived in jeans and t-shirts, but now it's time for something more professional... oops, must have put on more weight than you thought during that holiday in Majorca! Resolution: No more munching biscuits in the staff room!

You arrive at school and are greeted by colleagues chatting about the holidays, who has got engaged and all the latest gossip. You notice the new teacher quietly staring at her phone and go across to say hello. The head teacher arrives and the atmosphere changes; staff briefing begins, introductions are made and plans for the year outlined. The feeling of dread is back. It's going to be a nightmare - Ofsted are due, exam results weren't as good as expected, so much work needs to be done.

Now the school is buzzing with activity. There is a beautiful sea of excited faces and a few anxious pupils too, all new shoes and uniforms. Parents congregate outside your door, eager to tell you anout their child's needs and who they should/ should not sit beside. Close the door and it's just you and your new class - they're usually shy to start with, but soon you'll get to know each other. By the end of the week, your anxieties are fading and you're having fun, hitting your stride, and yes, OK, counting down to the October break! Summer is a very distant memory.

No matter how young or old you are, the first day back at school is always a bit of a worry - for teachers, parents and pupils! Schools these days are much better at identifying pupils who are finding the new start difficult, and there is usually a pastoral care department that will ensure those pupils get a little extra help. Mostly, they are settled by the end of the first week, though for a few the transition may take a little longer... but with the help of the teachers, most problems will soon be ironed out. Here we go - happy new term!

Cathy says:
I love this... Mrs McG has done a great job of showing us the teacher's view of things, and it puts things into perspective to see that they have worries too! I think Mrs McG's pupils will be lucky to have her as a teacher. Do YOU have a fave teacher? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 1 September 2017

LOUISA: BACK TO SCHOOL BUYS...

Reader Louisa tells us about all the things she's been getting ready in preparation for starting Year Seven...

Louisa says:
I'm excited about starting my new school, but there are only two other people from my primary going so I'm a bit anxious about making new friends, and anxious about my CATS test in the first week back. Also, I'll be one of the youngest in Year Seven!

The uniform for my school can only be bought at one shop in town, so we had to order it and then go for a fitting. I went with my mum and sister and it didn't take long, and afterwards we got to have some cake! I love my uniform, especially the PE kit as it looks great and has my initials on it, so hopefully I won't lose it! I'll enjoy not having to tie my tie as it's a clip-on! I don't like the idea of wearing a blazer and having to ask permission to take it off in a lesson; even if it's warm you have to wear it in the corridor, but it will look very smart. My school shoes just seem adult, they're like a pair my mum has! Then again, my mum is a teacher so it might just be a school thing! They are patent leather which I love.

When it comes to back-to-school shopping I'm excited - I love getting bright stationery. I didn't have to buy much as I asked for lots of it for my birthday, and got my backpack then as well. My sister says people don't have lunch boxes much anymore, just containers, but I did buy a water bottle - and it has broken already, before school has even started! Oh well. I've been told the school dinners are much nicer, but I admit it will be hard being the youngest in the school again, and I am nervous about making new friends and doings well in my CATS. Once the tests are over we'll be given our sets and we'll find out our timetables and teachers.

I don't think I've really got the concept that I'm going to be in high school - Mum hasn't either, she still says I'm her 'baby'! There'll be lots more homework, stricter teachers and the school is way bigger, but there will also be lots of clubs to try, great school meals and the chance to make new friends. I think once I start it will all become clear!

Cathy says:
I used to love the back-to-school shopping... and I still remember my own school blazer, which was so big it fitted me for the next five years! What's YOUR fave part of shopping for school or college? COMMENT BELOW to have your say or to share your advice with Louisa!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

STARTING YEAR SEVEN... WITH MY TWIN!

Twins Archie and Lily share their feelings about starting Year Seven... 

Lily says:
I'm so excited about Year Seven - my new school is just a few minutes from my primary, and all my friends will be going too. I even know some kids from older year groups because we've performed at the local theatre together! My twin brother will be in my tutor group so I'll be with him every single day until we hit Year Thirteen, but we won't have every lesson together. We get on OK and have similar interests, but we have our own groups of friends. Archie's best friend is going to a different school, so he's a bit anxious about finding new friends, but I think he'll be fine.

The school uniform is a brand new one that the school have designed, which is going to make everyone look smarter. I like the skirt but I'm not sure about the blazer - I tried mine on a few days ago and it's huge! Our dad works at the school and it's a bit weird because I think he's going to be my English teacher - I'm not sure until we get our timetables. Dad runs the after school drama club and school production and I'm going to be in that, so I'm a bit worried it'll be awkward - I think my dad is, too!

Archie says:
I feel mostly fine about going into Year Seven. We had transition days from primary which helped us get to know new people and find our way around the school, but I think I'll probably still get lost at first! we had a taste of different subjects - art, PE, music, science. I liked using the Bunsen burner to burn the magnesium ribbon. Also the canteen is awesome and I'm looking forward to buying snacks at break. We'll have way more subjects than at primary and I'm looking forward to that. I'm a bit worried about having to use a timetable and remembering where I'm supposed to be, as I'm not very organised! I'm looking forward to drama lessons, music club and the school play, and I want to join the orchestra and do lots of other clubs if I have the time.

I'll be in the same tutor group as Lily, which will be weird as we were in different classes at primary, but I think we'll be in different subject classes. My best friend is going to a different school so I'm a bit upset about that, but I'll be able to catch up with him at Scouts every week and I'll make new friends. Dad is a teacher at my new school, and that could be awkward at first, but he's one of the popular teachers so that's cool. I know other kids at the school who have a parent who teaches so I think it'll be OK! The one thing I'm not looking forward to? Lots of homework!

Cathy says:
I reckon Lily and Archie will have a brilliant time in Year Seven, but I'll be checking in with them in a couple of weeks to make sure! What advice would YOU give to them about starting Year Seven? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

NELL: HERE COMES YEAR SEVEN...

Reader Nell writes about her hopes and fears for starting Year Seven in a fab blog post all of us can relate to...

Nell says:
I had an excellent time during Year Six Leaver's week; there was so much going on. We had our Leaver's assembly, which took a lot of preparation, but was worth it. We also had several parties! My primary school was a single-form school so our year was just one class, and by the end of the week we'd all got even closer and I really didn't want to leave. Then it was time for the summer holidays, which has been rather like floating around in limbo for a month and a half. We still had a lot of fun and I messaged and met up with old classmates, but going back to school will be like a shot of reality. In the holidays we've been hovering between our old primaries and the new secondary school, and we haven't been sure which school we belong to!

Preparing for secondary school has been an important part of the summer holidays for me. If you don't have every last bit of kit you're bound to feel anxious - I think by now I probably have two identical sets of everything! The rush of 'back to school' has all the shops competing over who has the biggest rucksack or the most colourful pens, but now the waiting is almost over.

In a few days I am starting secondary school and I hope I am able to take part in more clubs and that my classmates are nice and friendly and are there to lend a helping hand. My biggest worry is getting lost as my new school is huge compared with my primary, and has many different sections, including a large courtyard in the centre of the main block. I will also need to get used to having a multitude of teachers as there is one for each subject! I am a little nervous about the whole thing. I'll update you on how I get on... wish me luck!

Cathy says:
Love this honest and hopeful post from Nell... I hope all goes well for her! Have YOU ever felt anxious about starting a new school or college course? Have YOU got any advice for new Year Sevens? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 28 August 2017

OLLIE: LOOKING BACK AT YEAR SEVEN...

Ollie is just about to move into Year Eight, but here he gives us a great round-up of his experience of Year Seven... great advice, and all from a boy's viewpoint!

Ollie says:
I've just finished Year Seven of High School. Some of it was good; some of it wasn't... but I have made it through! With two teachers as parents, and my older brother already at the school, I wasn't really anxious about starting Year seven. My biggest issue was that I don't always enjoy school, and find it hard to fit in with things just because it's what I'm meant to do. I didn't like learning to tie a tie, for example - but that's just a small part of it.

To begin with, I found it hard to organise my time when doing homework. It's a big change getting used to sorting out a lot of stuff for yourself. Writing things down has been really important, as there are so many things you could forget! Trying to remember all my stuff, and making sure I knew where I was supposed to be at any given time was hard work for a bit. Talking to people about things you are finding hard/ odd is definitely the best thing to do. Nobody can read your mind, and it's very easy for people to forget just what a big change High School is in some ways.

There weren't many of my friends going to my High School, and it has taken time to find people I like spending time with. I've now found clubs I enjoy and I'm pleased, because the people I am getting to know share my interests. I think it's really important you don't feel pressured into acting in a way you're not comfortable with just to try and fit in.

I don't think I will ever be a big fan of school, as I like learning in my own way. But there are some great subjects, and I do really like being treated as if my views count.

Cathy says:
I love Ollie's honest and practical post - with lots of great advice to new Year Sevens, too! Are YOU about to start Year Seven - or, like Ollie, have you already made it through? COMMENT BELOW to share your own views and experiences!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

HOW YOU FEEL... ABOUT STARTING SECONDARY SCHOOL!

We asked readers to share their hopes and fears about starting secondary school... happy? Hopeful? Excited? Anxious? It's a bit of a mixture!

Faye says:
I'm about to go into Year Six and I'm excited about the adventures it will bring - school trips and SATs! I am also thinking about starting secondary school a year from now - I'm excited to go to a new school and make new friends. I like the idea of new teachers and new lessons, especially PE, but I am worried too that I'll get lost and be told off for being late to lesson. I have Autism, so I'm also quite worried that there won't be as much routine as in primary, because I'd find that difficult. I worry a bit about making new friends and being accepted, and of going back to being one of the youngest in the school! I suppose it's always hard to leave the comfort of what you know and have that doubt about whether you'll like the new school... but first I have Year Six to get through, so that's OK!

Robin says:
I'll be starting high school in September and overall I am definitely NOT scared of what is to come. There are many more things I am looking forward to than fears! The thing I am SERIOUSLY looking forward to is the Year Seven trip to Disneyland Paris - that's just my school, but don't worry, all high schools do trips abroad at some point. I'm also looking forward to food tech, meeting up with friends from other primaries and more hands-on science. Food tech is basically baking, and I lobe baking - my family even has a super-cool top secret gingerbread recipe. Plus, I like the eating afterward! My greatest fear is getting lost. That sounds wimpy, but I didn't get to see even half of my new school on taster day and I still don't even know how to find the toilet. But I've already met my friendly and funny form prefects, and I'm sure they'll help. To all Year sixes out there... don't be afraid of high school!

Freya says:
I loved my junior school so much, but I am ready to go to the senior school now. I suppose my feelings are mixed - I am both excited and nervous at the same time! I will have six friends from my old school with me in my new senior school form, so that should help! I am really excited about some of the lessons because they'll be very different from what we did at primary school - cookery and sports sound brilliant!

Esther says:
I am looking forward to all the new things in secondary school, like the uniform (I didn't have one in primary!), new stationery, meeting new people. However, new things are also what I'm worried about - I am excited to try them, but I am also scared of the unknown. When I left primary I felt as if I was being chucked out of my home. I don't think I was ready to leave - I had enjoyed Year Six so much and had an amazing teacher. In secondary, I am not looking forward to having so many different teachers - I don't think you'll have time to really get to know them. Another things is that my older sister goes to the same school, so I feel as if I have only been told the negative things that have happened there and not the positive. I suppose the thing is that I am young for my year - I don't feel as if I really deserve or am meant to be going to secondary school yet.

Ella says:
I'm about to start Year Seven. I've never had to wear school uniform so I am partly excited, but also dreading having to wear school shoes as I am used to wearing trainers and my own choice of clothes. I'll be going to secondary with lots of my friends from primary, some of them my best friends, and I'm excited about going on our Year Seven residential and sneaking sweets past the teachers for midnight feasts. I'm looking forward to PE and Food Tech too! I worry about getting lost and being given detentions - I don't want to be the first one to be given a detention! Mostly, though, I am excited about all the new challenges and experiences I will get to be a part of!

Cathy says:
Thanks so much, Faye, Robin, Freya, Esther and Ella for your honesty! We'll be checking in again to see how you all get on! So, readers... how was YOUR first day at secondary school? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

WALL OF THOUGHT...

Reader Deborah tells us about an exciting campaign to raise awareness for young people with mental illness...


Deborah says:
Our event is called WALL OF THOUGHT. We're going to set up a whiteboard and pens outside Enfield Town Library and allow people passing by to write their feelings, problems or anything they would like to get off their chests on the board, in exchange for a sweet and a hopeful message to brighten their day. We'll be starting around 11am and finishing around 3pm on the 26th August 2017. Our campaign is supported by NCS The Challenge and partnered with the charity Exposure.

Exposure is a charity founded specifically for young people. It provides a platform for them to be able to express themselves and also wish to raise awareness for young people with mental illness. Their goal is to make sure that no young person feels they have nowhere to belong.

This charity really inspires me as it shows that there are groups of people in this world that do not class young people as anything less than what they can be. Exposure helps people to find their own voice and make their mark in the world regardless of their situation. I would love to take part in their work sometime  soon!

Cathy says:
This is a simple idea but it could be very effective... I hope it goes well for Deborah and her friends! Have YOU ever been part of an event to raise awareness for a cause you really care about? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

SARA: ON THE OUTSIDE

Reader Sara shares her story of being pushed out of a friendship group and finding herself on the outside looking in...

Sara says:
When Lucy joined our school halfway through Year Seven, everything changed. She was lively, fun, different to anyone else I knew, and she seemed to like me. Quickly, we became best friends and she joined my friendship group, where everyone else got on with her too. The first two months were great - I thought she was going to be my best friend for life, that she understood me totally and that I could trust her with anything. It all went wrong when I caught her stealing money from my mum's purse at a sleepover. Lucy was furious and tried to make out it wasn't what it looked like. She finally broke down and started crying, saying that money was tight at home and she was desperate. I ended up giving her some of my pocket money and I thought everything was OK, that we were closer than ever.

I was wrong. The next week at school, Lucy blanked me, and my other friends were acting strangely. I found out she'd told them I had stolen money from HER - and to my horror, people seemed to believe it. The people I had thought were my friends turned against me and suddenly I was on my own, with nobody to sit with in class or at lunch. It was a horrible feeling. I had always had friends before and never gave much thought to those who were on the outside - now I was finding out what it was like. Nobody from my old friendship group would listen or let me explain - they completely believed Lucy's version of events. I almost believed her myself, she acted the part of wronged, hurt friend so convincingly. Lucy was popular with the teachers too, and nobody seemed to think she was lying about it all.

For weeks I was miserable, pretending at home that everything was OK and trying to act like I didn't care at school. I knew Lucy had turned on me because I'd caught her out, and I thought that eventually she would show her true colours and that people would see her for what she was. I talked a bit to one old friend about this, but she seemed to think I was bitter and trying to blacken Lucy's name. Things changed when Mum noticed how low I was, and though I couldn't tell her what had happened I did say I'd fallen out with my friends. Mum wanted to come into school to talk to the teachers, but I couldn't bear that idea. In the end, she made an appointment at the grammar school in town, and after some discussion and a short test paper, I was offered a place there starting in Year Eight. I was so thankful - it felt like a fresh start, and that was what I needed by then.

I have new friends now, but I keep a part of myself back because I find it hard to trust people. I sometimes see Lucy and the others in town, and I wonder if she is still fooling everyone. It looks that way. I am happy now, but I wonder if I will ever really get over what happened. Sometimes, life really isn't fair.

Names have been changed to protect those involved.

Fab photos by reader Casey; posed by model Martha. Thank you both!

Cathy says:
Friendships can go badly wrong, and not everyone is as nice as they appear to be. Although I wish Sara had told her mum and teachers the truth about what happened, I am glad she got the fresh start she needed. Have YOU ever had a major fallout with a friend? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...