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...

Friday, 18 August 2017

CHARLOTTE: NEVER GIVE UP!

Reader Charlotte has some excellent advice on school, options and future careers... read on and make those choices wisely!

Charlotte says:
School can be a scary time. You're pressured to decide what to do with your entire future - and yet you might only be fourteen or even younger! You have to choose your GCSEs, your A levels or your college course, even whether you want to go to university or not. If you have no idea what you want to do, it can sometimes seem like you're being forces to decide right now. I am here to tell you (from experience) that it actually doesn't matter as much as some people make out. Let me explain!

When I chose my GCSEs and A levels, I didn't have a career in mind - I picked things I was interested in. Then, very quickly, I had to chose what I wanted to study at university. I knew I wanted to go - it had been my dream since I was fifteen - but I had no idea what to study! In the end, after debating what I felt most passionate about, I went to a lovely university near Liverpool to study Film and TV Production. I loved my time there, but I had a sinking feeling that I knew this wasn't what I wanted to do for a living. I worried that I'd wasted all my time and money on something I didn't want to do. What if I never found something I was truly good at?

So I started thinking about what I was good at. I began writing my blog in 2015 and I loved every second! It became my biggest hobby and I realised that my passion was in blogging an social media. Did you know you can actually get paid to manage other people's media, like Twitter and Instagram? You totally can! I now work as a Virtual assistant, which is a fancy name for someone who does all sorts of online jobs for people. It can include writing social media posts and articles, creating images to share, editing videos and even building websites. It's so much fun, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I work with the best team, and the even better thing is that I work from the comfort of my own warm, cosy home!

All through school and all the way up until only this year, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Now, not even a year later, I couldn't be happier that things have worked out the way they have! When I was in school. I had no idea this is what I'd end up doing... but now all the worrying I did in school is forgotten!

So, what's the moral of this story? Don't give up. And most of all, please don't worry.You'll find your passion one day, whatever you decide to study in school!

Blog - https://wonderfullybookish.co.uk
Facebook - facebook.com/wonderfullybookish
Twitter - twitter.com/wbookishblog

Cathy says:
I love this post - it's so, so true! Few people know exactly what their path in life should be to begin with... and it's never too late to change tack! Do YOU know which career path you want to follow? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

KRISS: SAVE OUR ENDANGERED SPECIES!

Reader Kriss is so concerned about the plight of endangered species she is campaigning to raise awareness...

Kriss says:
Did you know that the Northern White Rhino is extinct in the wild and that only a few survive in captivity? That Polar Bears are endangered because of melting polar ice caps due to climate change? That elephants are hunted for their ivory tusks and have lost much of their natural habitat as humans build more towns and villages? That tigers are poached for their skins and parts that are used as folk medicine on the black market? That whales are still hunted for meat and for so-called scientific purposes, and that the pollution of our oceans threatens many species? That only 1,864 Giant Pandas exist in the wild?

Did you know that wolves once roamed through Britain and have been made extinct here? Luckily they still survive in some parts of Europe, but for some animals the picture is not so hopeful. Many of the animals that make our world so diverse and beautiful are on the verge of extinction because of human greed, pollution, habitat loss and global warming, and once they are gone they can never be brought back. In my lifetime, we could see the extinction of the Sumatran Elephant, the Leatherback Turtle, the Pangolin, the Western Lowland Gorilla, The Orangutan, the Amur Leopard and many more. All because humans cannot look after the planet and protect the environment, because we take what we want without a thought for other creatures and cause so much damage we put lives at risk. When I realised that one day the Orangutan or the Giant Panda could be gone, I was very sad. I wanted to change things, and I started to try to raise awareness.

I started by copying Coco Tanberry's idea of a panda cake sale from COCO CARAMEL, and it went well, and a teacher talked to me about it and together we set up a lunchtime club at school called ANIMAL ALERT. There are a lot of members now, from all the years in the school, and our school collects bottle tops to help gorillas, and raise money for various conservation charities. We recently banned straws in the school canteen and got many cafes in town to stop using them because they pollute the sea and harm seabirds and turtles. We often don't realise that seemingly harmless things like a plastic drinking straw or the plastic that keeps a multipack of tins together or even a carrier bag are dangerous and often find their way into the sea or are discarded and picked up by animals who then drown, starve or suffocate. This September our club is doing a weekend litter pick at the seaside town twenty miles from here, and we have done several inland ones as well. We all tell our families to use less plastic and try to explain why it matters by having school assemblies about the subject.

It might not seem much but in just three years we have changed things quite a lot in our school and made people more aware of things. I will be going into Year Twelve in September and I am thinking ahead to university, where I want to study Environmental Conservation so that I can do more to help endangered animals and one of my friends from the club is hoping to study Marine Conservation. Bit by bit, we can change the world if we only care enough to try. I do - do you?

Artwork: Amur Leopard and wolf drawn by the very talented Oskar Eriksson-Lee. Thank you!

Cathy says:
I have huge admiration for Kriss and her friends, as they are making small but important changes in the world around them... I wish Kriss the best of luck in her chosen career. Do YOU care enough about animals to give up using plastic or work to help them? Is there another issue you care strongly about and want to see featured on DREAMCATCHER? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

NINA: ARE MY PARENTS SPLITTING UP?

It's agony aunt time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Nina is worrying about her parents in today's problem letter. Can Summer Tanberry help?

Nina says:
My parents have been going through a bad patch recently and arguing a bit when they think nobody is listening. Now Dad has said he isn't coming on holiday with us because he needs his own 'space'. We always go away to a caravan site in Scotland with my aunt and her family, and Dad has never stayed home before. I am really scared they will split up and don't know what to do.

Summer says:
You've picked up on the tension in your parents' relationship, but don't jump to conclusions. Work, money, health or family worries could all be part of this, and you dad may need to stay at home for any number of reasons. It's difficult to come right out and ask what's wrong, but unless you do you will go on assuming the worst. Find a quiet time to talk to your parents and see what is going on. It's possible they are under strain, and that a break may be what they need right now. It's even possible that they may separate or divorce, and although I know that sounds scary it can sometimes be the best thing, as it was for my mum and dad in the end. I do know one thing, and that's that everything feels worse when you don't know the facts. Get talking and get the reassurance you need.

Cathy says:
Summer is spot on with this advice - Nina must confide in her parents and get the full picture, whatever that may be. What advice would YOU give to Nina? Post your COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 14 August 2017

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Readers share their happy holiday memories to get you in the mood for a sizzling summer!

Kerry says:
My best ever holiday was in Greece, Corfu. It was three years ago and I remember it because all of my family went, my grandparents on both sides, my aunt and her family, my uncle and his new girlfriend, my cousins and us of course. We stayed in two big villas with a pool that was just for us, and we took boat trips and went on visits to the towns and to historical ruins, but most of the time we just chilled on the beach or by the pool and had huge family dinners at the nearby tavernas in the evening. One of my grandparents has died since and my aunt has been ill, but on the plus side my uncle got married and has a new baby now. I don't think there will ever be another holiday quite like that one, but life doesn't stay the same, it moves on and changes. But we will have that memory forever, and I am glad of that!

Leanne says:
My mum and sister and I went on holiday to Lanzarote and loved it! We went to a place called Rancho Texas which has a 'Western' theme with lots of cowboy activities. You can eat food that fits the theme and learn lassoo skills... we got dragged along the floor at one point but it was so much fun! They had tepees and horses you could ride... it was just amazing!

Jess says:
I've had lots of great holidays but last year I went on a music tour to the Rhine Valley and that's the one that stands out right now! We had the chance to sing as part of a school chamber choir in Cologne Cathedral... wow! I'll never forget the impromptu performance of Locus Iste in an old wine cellar at Scloss Rheinfels, or the views from the fortress at Koblenz, which were spectacular. The socialising was the best bit of all... all of us, year sevens up to my year, twelve, felt like one big family by the end of the trip. Unforgettable!

Holly says:
We first went to Dumfries and Galloway in 2010 and stayed on a farm. My sister and I helped to collect the eggs, feed the lambs, visit the calf shed and groom the ponies. It was Scotland, but this area has it's own microclimate so it wasn't too cold and the sun shone! It was definitely the best holiday ever, and we've been back three times since!

Grace says:
Most memorable holiday? Hmmm! We went to Haggiston Castle and stayed in a caravan... it rained a lot and a little Scottish lass from the caravan next door woke us all up by knocking on the door at 7am to introduce herself and to challenge me and my brother Jack to a water fight!

Val says:
One lovely childhood memory is a holiday in Ireland with my mum, my brother and our two sisters while Dad stayed at home to work. We went on the ferry and it was a long, rough crossing - I was just three at the time but remember it so clearly! We returned again when I was seven and I remember my grandparents' garden, haystacks, home grown fruit, bats at night, mass on Sundays and Mum crying when it was time to come home again. We visited again when I was fourteen, but by then my grandma had died and my grandpa was very ill. It was a chance to say goodbye. We never visited again, although we still have relatives in Ireland... my mum won't return, but I don't know why.

Chloe says:
We went to Spain a couple of years ago and loved it... this year we're going to one of the Spanish islands and I can't wait!

Cathy says:
Holiday memories are so lovely... they bring back the happiest times! Which holidays do YOU remember with affection? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

JODIE: INTO THE FUTURE...

Reader Jodie shares her hopes, fears and dreams about the future in this brave and poignant blog post...

Jodie says:
I have just finished Year Eleven. I was there for the last day, when my classmates threw flour and eggs (it wasn't allowed but the teachers weren't too angry about it) and everyone signed each other's school shirts. I was there, but a part of me felt I was watching it all from a distance, as if I was behind a glass wall. One of my friends threw her shirt in the bin that night, but I will keep mine forever because I want to remember the last five years at secondary school. I didn't realise it at the time, but they were very happy ones.

Next term my friends will be doing different things. Some will be going to the local sixth form college, some staying at school to study A levels, some going to specialist colleges locally to study art, drama, animal care, childcare, all kinds of things. Some will be starting work. It feels like a turning point, a crossroads in life, but no matter how hard I look I cannot see the future. I cannot work out where I will be or what I'll be doing, even though I've had dreams of studying music at A level and taking it further at university for as long as I can remember.

Suddenly, all that is up in the air and even the ground beneath my feet seems to shift. I can't be sure of anything, except that my exam results will not be good enough to stay on at school or take A levels. I missed four of my GCSEs because my anxiety was so bad, and though I sat the others I know I was so eaten up by worry and fear my grades will be poor. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a year ago, and in that time I have gone from high-achieving A grade student to someone who can't even make it into school most days. When I look into the mirror I don't even recognise myself. I do not like what I see and there is no point in applying for courses right now because I don't think I could handle them. This makes me so sad.

What will my future bring? I used to think it would take me forward to fame and fortune, or at least a career as a musician. Now I just hope my tablets work and my therapy helps and the depression and anxiety that sabotages my life will fade away like a bad memory and give me my life back again. My ambition is much simpler now. I want to pull the fear and self-loathing out of my soul and throw it away, burn it in a fire, drop it into the deepest part of the ocean. I want to be me again. I want to be free.

Awesome photo by talented reader Ribh - many thanks!

Cathy says:
This is such a brave post... Jodie's honesty about her illness shows just how damaging depression and anxiety can be. Have YOU ever struggled with mental health issues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Friday, 11 August 2017

EMMA: LESSONS FROM FAIRY TALES

Can 'Once Upon A Time' apply to real life too? Blogger Emma takes a fresh look at fairy tales and what they have to teach us...

Emma says:
Fairy tales get a bad reputation. There have been claims they are 'unrealistic' and give young children a warped view of life, that fairy tales have nothing beneficial to teach the next generation and that they will only set them up for failure with that message of 'happy ever after'. However, reading these stories ten years on, I find that now I get a different message. Being older and more analytical, I have a less rose-tinted perspective. Looking at those classic fairy tales now, I see a message of empowerment with lessons that would only have a beneficial effect on generations to come.

Belle: If Belle teaches us anything, it's to think with our mind and not our eyes. Judging from appearances, the Beast seems emotionless and intimidating, more than enough for anyone to refuse to give him a chance. However, Belle decides to be a diamond in a world full of rhinestones and gives him a chance and can famously 'see the man behind the beast'. A man who turns out to be gentle, loving and unfairly written off. It's a well needed reminder not to judge a book by its cover and to make your own mind up about people. Outer Beauty is said to be 'skin deep' for a reason!

Cinderella: Cinderella shows us that good things come to those who work for them and never give up. The fairy godmother din not choose Cinderella at random - she gave her the break she needed because her work ethic combined with her belief that 'if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true,' didn't just mean that Cinderella deserved it, it meant she had earned it.

Rapunzel: Rapunzel's story teaches us that no matter how impossible a situation seems, there is always a way out. This heroine was isolated and cut off from the world and no way out seemed plausible. However, by accepting help, Rapunzel came to see that she had the answer all along (ie, her hair!). It just took a different perspective and a bit of creativity to see it. This take personally reminds me that when you cannot think of an answer inside the box, think outside of it, get inventive and try again. If there is a way in, there is always a way out!

In conclusion, the chances are that a fairy godmother won't appear with a magic wand. You may not wake up with the ability to communicate with animals. In my opinion, these are just colourful ways to grab the attention of the reader and draw them into the story, so that the life lessons these tales carry don't sound like just another lecture on what is right and wrong. We remember fairy tales throughout the course of our whole lives, and what they teach us and the fact that they slip in a bit of magic here and there, makes these lessons more memorable and adds a little sparkle to our everyday lives!

Cathy says:
I love Emma's re-interpretation of these famous fairy tales... how cool! I'm a big fan of fairy tales... I think Red Riding Hood is probably my favourite - what's YOURS? Just COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

READERS AROUND THE WORLD...

Another round-up of cool CC readers from around the world... take a peek!


Jemma says:
I am Jemma, I'm twelve years old and I live with my family in Papamoa, New Zealand! I love, love, LOVE CC books! I have just finished BROKEN HEART CLUB and it is so amazing. My heart was beating so fast at the dramatic bits and almost cried at the end. There were so many things about the book I loved - and that goes for all the others too! SWEET HONEY is one of my favourites, and I did end up crying in that one; LOOKING GLASS GIRL was the first one I read and it is still a favourite. I was sorry to miss out on the MY BEST FRIEND ROCKS comp for 2016, but I'm going to give a shout out to my two best friends anyway... their names are Eden and Elyssa. They are so awesome and I don't know who I would be or what I would do without them!

Jade says:
I live in Canada and my first language is French... I read Cathy Cassidy books translated into French and am a huge fan of them all. I first found the series FILLES AUX CHOCOLAT (Chocolate Box Girls) thanks to one of my friends, and I began to read them. I have read the whole series one by one, and so far my favourite book is COEUR VANILLE (Sweet Honey). I like the book because it is really cool and believable. This book is real - there are so many books that are not realistic out there, but these, they are situations that can happen in real life. I love the books, they are the best!

Bhavya says:
I have travelled a lot in my life and lived in United Arab Emirates for a while, and now I am living in India. I first came across Cathy Cassidy books during a book sale at school, and thought they looked interesting. I decided to give them a try. I can relate to the books - one way or another, they always seem to link to my life! I never get tired of them, even though I must have read them like fifty times over! I love them all, but COCO CARAMEL is my favourite - and Coco Tanberry is the character I most identify with, too. I have the same madness for animals. I hate doing make up, hate boys and I love climbing trees and walking on beaches! I dream of being a writer, but perhaps writing is not really my thing - reading definitely is!

Cathy says:
What a fascinating post - it's great to 'meet' my readers from all around the world, even if just on DREAMCATCHER! Do YOU live outside the UK? Would YOU like to be featured in a post like this? Just COMMENT BELOW and email me via the EMAIL CATHY link over on www.cathycassidy.com

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

PRIYA: IS THIS A CRUSH?

It's agony aunt time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Priya has a question for HONEY TANBERRY to solve...

Priya says:
I don't know if you will take this seriously but I have fallen in love with a boy who has a summer job at a shop near to my house. I am there most days buying things for my mum, and he is so sweet and friendly I have fallen head over heels. I dream about him at night and think about him all day, and when I see him, I go all shy which is not me at all. I don't think this is a crush, but how can I make him feel the same? And if he did ask me out, what would I do, because my parents would never approve anyway!

Honey says:
You won't want to believe it, but this IS a crush - still, it's no less intense for all that. A crush can reach obsession levels, as you've found, but is is essentially a one-way thing, a dress rehearsal for real life love if you like. This boy is friendly and chatty, but you don't know much about him - his likes, dislikes, family, school, interests. Instead, your mind fills in the blanks and your imagination creates a fantasy romance too perfect to be real. You have pointed out that if he did ask you out, your parents would not approve, so you already know there is no future in this in the real world. Instead, enjoy the fantasy and practice your flirting and chatting skills with this boy if you want to! In time, the shine will wear off this crush and you'll move on, one day falling for someone you actually do know and can build a relationship with. Until then, what's the harm in dreaming?

Cathy says:
I agree with Honey, a crush can be very intense... but still, it's not real life love. What advice would YOU offer to Priya? Add your COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

CHLOE: WHAT IS A GIRL?

Reader Chloe has some thought-provoking questions to ask of you... a total must-read!

Chloe says:
So... what is a girl? Is it a gender? Is it simply a group of people who are all the same? That's for you to decide, but choose wisely I can assure you that there's a chance you'll change your mind by the end of this. There's this insult - I like to call it the 'like a girl' insult. Do you run 'like a girl?' Do you fight 'like a girl?' What's the first image that comes into your head when you are asked these questions? Cat fights? Skipping, stumbling, worrying if you've got sweat patches? Do you know that when you use this insult on someone between the ages of 10-16, their confidence could plummet? Do you know that when you use the term 'like a girl,' you could be offending not just one person but a whole group of people called females?

Currently, for girls everywhere, there is a certain image you must copy in order to be seen as 'normal'. You must be born female, have perfect hair, you must wear make up, you must wear the right clothes, the must have flawless skin and a flawless figure. In other words, you must be perfect. Well guess what, I'm not perfect, and I hate to break it to you, but you're not either. I know that sounds harsh, but I don't think of it that way because, as a matter of fact, I know what a girl is.

My question for you is how many times have people called you names or used the 'like a girl' insult on you? How many times has it brought you down? How many times has it made you feel hopeless and useless? Or like it's just not worth it anymore? Trust me, I've been there.

Now, what is a girl? Is it having pride in who you are? Is it doing stuff 'like a girl' and doing it proudly? Is it being so amazingly imperfect? Is it standing up for who we are as females in society? You chose, because you have the right to be the female you want to be, the female you choose. Remember, female has no figure, size, race, eye colour, hair, body. It's free for you to choose that and everything about you...

Chloe's piece was inspired by this amazing video clip... take a look!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

Cathy says:
I love this post, and the video clip is SO powerful too... would YOU like to make sure 'like a girl' is never an insult again? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

LUCIA: HOW CAN I GET MY POETRY PUBLISHED?

Reader Lucia has a dilemma... find out what options she has!

Lucia says:
I'm sixteen years old and love writing poetry - do you have any advice on how to get my work published? Would I be taken seriously? I suppose I'd need to make a portfolio of the best ones but I've no idea where or how to start, or who to show them to. Help, please?

I asked three poets to answer with suggestions for Lucia... Magi Gibson, a professional poet; Faye, a young poet who goes to regular poetry nights; and Jess, a young poet who has recently self-published her first book of poems.

Magi says:
Most poets start by getting poems published in magazines - there are both print and online mags, and poetry competitions too. Check out if there are online groups of poets in your area and link up with them - they can often recommend magazines, which will save you wading through so many yourself! Then read the guidelines, pluck up your courage and send in your poems. Don't worry about rejection - rejection is how we learn, but it's easier if you have some poetry buddies to share both successes and disappointments with!

Faye says:
I don't know much about publishing poetry but I do go to local poetry nights or poetry 'open mics'. This is a great way to build confidence and get yourself and your work out there - even if you just go along to listen until you find the courage to actually read out! When you hear the different poetry being read and the expressions put into it, it can spark new ideas or even a poem within you! Generally the poets are very encouraging and supportive of each other... I'd definitely advise any new poet to give it a go.

Jess says:
I've always loved creative writing but only recently begun writing poetry - the words seem to come more naturally and I enjoy playing around with different structures. Writing poetry has helped me with stress and anxiety and I decided to publish a selection of poems focusing on my experience of this to raise awareness of mental health struggles. I submitted my poems to a small, independent publisher but sadly received a rejection from them, albeit a positive one. I then decided to try Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and publish the collection myself to get the poems out there and remind myself not to stop dreaming! The hardest part was the formatting of the book - apart from that I just had to upload the Word document to KDP, using my Amazon account, and then preview it as it would appear on a Kindle, tablet or phone. It wasn't difficult at all. You can buy my collection of poems, Angel Awaiting, here.

For more advice, check out: https://poetrysociety.org.uk/young-poets/young-poetsnetwork/

Cathy says:
Great advice and lots of ideas for Lucia - I hope this helps her to make the first few steps to getting her poems out there! Remember there is a free poetry forum over on www.cathycassidy.com too, with some fab pieces. Are YOU a secret poet? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Friday, 4 August 2017

MORE LEXIE REVIEWS...

More readers share their verdict on new CC book LOVE FROM LEXIE - have YOU read it yet?

Cat says:
I absolutely adored this book. Plot twist after plot twist really engages the reader and take them on a journey about the power of friendship and discovering yourself - even when you feel too lost to be found. I especially enjoyed the fact that the plot covered a range of current issues close to my heart, such as local service closures and mental health to name just a few. I believe that reading should be a way to safely introduce young people to the problems faced by today's society and LOVE FROM LEXIE achieved this beautifully. A well deserved five stars for thus excellent book - I wait in anticipation for the next instalment of this series. I can't wait to see where the story takes us from here!

Marti says:
After the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS I was keen to read the first installation of CC's new series, THE LOST & FOUND. One of the things I loved most about LOVE FROM LEXIE is that it is universal - you don't have to be the 'target audience' (children/ YA) to understand the issues in the story. They are touched on with the kind of sensitivity and understanding that the world needs much more of! Lexie has been in care ever since her mum went missing, but although she loves her new foster parents and her foster sister Bex, she can't help but hold hem at arm's length in case her real mum comes back, With the help of Bex she sets up a group at the local library and the LOST & FOUND is born - but where does a band, a bunch of letters and the threat of library closures come into it? You'll have to pick the book up and find out yourself! Final thoughts? READ IT. Just read it!

Sophie says:
I got LOVE FROM LEXIE the day before it came out and I loved it from the very first paragraph. It's about a girl with a very sad past who ends up in foster care - Lexie decides to bring together others at school who might be feeling lost or alone, and creates a group. I loved this idea and related to it and wanted to see where it would go! I loved the different characters in the group and really wanted to hear THEIR stories too. Lexie forms a special bond with one band member and the book almost had me shouting advice at her - I had to keep reading and it turned out there was a huge plot twist coming that changed my opinion totally! The band decide to campaign to save the library where they practice, and end up setting up a music festival... I'd like to think it will inspire young people to re-create this cool idea! LOVE FROM LEXIE feels very different and unique and covers lots of different issues... I think it will help young people to be more accepting of everyone around them. LOVE FROM LEXIE celebrates diversity, individuality, music and of course libraries - I cannot wait to read more about Lexie's friends and find out what the LOST & FOUND group get up to next!

Cathy says:
Thank you Cat, Marti and Sophie! The reviews I'm getting are fab, and I appreciate the lovely feedback... LOVE FROM LEXIE needs to be on your summer reading list! COMMENT BELOW to add your own reviews!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

KRISSY: MY FAMILY ARGUE ALL THE TIME

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Krissy has a problem for Skye Tanberry to solve...

Krissy says:
We are only one week into the school holidays and I am counting down the days till we go back to school. My family argue and fight all the time. My parents snipe and row over the stupidest things and my sister and brother are even worse, calling names and being so spiteful and mean. I shut myself in my room most of the time and I'm dreading next week, when we go to Spain for a fortnight. It will be worse... and people will notice, because everyone else is happy on holiday and we're loud and embarrassing and argue all the time. Sometimes I wish I wasn't a part of this family at all.

Skye says:
Sometimes, a family gets into bad habits. Parents bicker (Mum and Dad did loads, before they broke up) and this unsettles everyone and brothers and sisters think it's OK to row and be mean too. It's not... and the love that connects you as a family is getting lost underneath it all. Some families are loud and dramatic, and that's OK, but the constant nastiness is not. Talk to your family person by person and explain how you feel and how much this drags you down. If even one of them shares your unhappiness about the situation, things can change. If you find they won't listen or don't care, you have no option but to find a safe space for yourself where you can zone out when things get bad. Your room can be a peaceful refuge, but activities like yoga, meditation, cycling, swimming, dancing, walking the dog, hanging out with friends and much more can also help you to cope. Something as simple as having a book in your bag can help on holiday... just walk away from the drama, settle down on the sand or in a quiet corner, and escape into the story. We cannot always change our family, but we can learn to cope with the difficult times and maintain a sense of calm inside ourselves. Good luck.

Cathy says:
As Skye suggests, there are no easy answers here, but techniques for coping can make all the difference. Krissy can also confide in a trusted teacher, relative or family friend if she needs extra support. What advice would YOU give? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

STARFISH

A beautiful seaside short story from fifteen year old reader Sarah...

I lie on the pebbly ground, watching the clouds float by... my favourite hobby. It used to be swimming in the sea, but I never really swam, I just lay on the surface and let the swishing waves carry me back and forth. The beach was always my favourite place in the world. I spend my days as a young one here, and somehow over time I learned to appreciate the wonders of nature. I never get tired of looking at the clouds. They help me to reflect, relax, look back on my life. Never had much opportunity to go and do anything. People take me for granted, but they don't really know who I am or what I am capable of.

A dog approaches. He has no owner with him, just a lonely being. He reminds me of myself, but then I realise I am not lonely - definitely alone though. I try to sigh, but feel I don't have the energy to do even that. The dog checks out his surroundings, drawing his wet nose close to one of my arms to sniff. It bothers me, but I cannot push him away. I hate to admit I am weaker than a dumb dog. He sits for a minute, deep blue eyes staring at me, head cocked, confused. I notice that he's just a puppy, and this brings me back to the days of my own youth. I stare at the dog until he wanders off, finding more interesting things to do.

The waves go on crashing onto the shore. I have always hated that deafening noise, so i focus on the clouds again. Fluffy today, like they have just been whipped up in a candyfloss machine and given to a child at a fair. The sky is a dank, grey colour. It looks as if a painter has just hung up a sheet to paint, but never actually begun to paint.

It starts to rain and I try to shield myself from the large, panging drops, but I cannot. I stay still on the now-shiny pebbles. What's the point, anyway? You only live once, as the children these days say. I remain where I am, the sky's teardrops falling around me. A storm is on the way. This is the last thing I think before I shut my eyes and fall asleep...

Cathy says:
I love the sad, poignancy of this short story... full of feeling, yet so simple. Would YOU like to see more short stories on DREAMCATCHER? Just COMMENT BELOW to have your say!