Saturday, 31 March 2018

BECKY: I WANT TO BE A WRITER!

I met student Becky at the Bath Kid's Lit Festival in the autumn of 2017 and asked her to write a little about her cool degree course and career plans... this is what she had to say!

Becky says:
I am nineteen years old and I'm meant to be a 'grown up' but I still feel like a kid. I'm thinking lots of you may enjoy writing - I love writing too! It's pretty cool, right? You get to make up stories and daydream, two things that i did a lot growing up.

I grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Bristol. I lived there with my parents, my brother, my twin sister and my black and white cat Izzy. My favourite subject was Literacy, and then, when I went to secondary school, English Literature and Media Studies. I worked really hard at school and Sixth Form, and it really paid off. I live in Bath now and attend Bath Spa University - I am in my first year of a degree in Creative Writing and Media Communications, which sounds both terrifying and fancy. Terrifyingly fancy!

This course is SO much fun - you guys would love it! We talk about books and writers, we discuss Harry Potter and magic, we look at each other's writing and offer advice. That's just one part of the Creative Writing side of my degree. The other part has us creating worlds and writing scripts for them, working in groups to write what the characters might say on screen. The best way to describe it is that I get to write what people like DIZZY or LEXIE would say if they were on your TV screen... that's cool, don't you think?

I'm not yet sure where I will end up when I finish my degree, but I am excited about my future and my writing. I am hoping it will end in a job where I can write my stories and people will want to read them! There are plenty of ways to get where you're going and you don't always have to know where that destination is... but if it's something you love to do, then believe in yourself  and go for it. You've got this!

Cathy says:
I wish Becky all the luck in the world... her degree course sounds just about perfect! What are YOUR career hopes and dreams? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 30 March 2018

ISOBEL: A BOOK WITH A STORY TO TELL

Reader Isobel was over the moon when she found a copy of her favourite CC book in a second-hand bookshop... but that book had a story of its own to tell!

Isobel says:
I first borrowed Cathy Cassidy's book GINGERSNAPS from my school library a while ago, and loved it so much that I kept borrowing it over and over, and basically kept it for the whole of the school year... I loved it so much!  Every year, we go on a family holiday to a place called Kippford on the Solway Coast in Scotland, and whenever we go, we always make sure to visit Wigtown, the book town. We're all great readers in our family, and love nothing better than spending a few hours in the book shops there, browsing and having coffee and lunch. Anyway, we were in a bookshop called Reading Lasses and my granddad was looking in the children's section, and he came across a copy of GINGERSNAPS. Mum told him it was my favourite book, and so he bought it for me as a surprise.

When he gave it to me, I was over the moon, and started to read it again straight away. To my surprise, I found a little note tucked in the inside cover! The note said:

Happy Birthday Soph! Just wanted you to know you are one of my best friends. You give great advice and give me a smile when I need one! This book is about friendship but unlike Shannon and Ginger, ours will NEVER fall apart! Geri xxx

My family and I talked about how good it is to share books that you love with others, and I wrote about the whole thing for school when I went back home... it all made such an impression on me.

In May of 2017, we were on another family holiday, this time near Peebles, and my mum, my gran and myself were all taking turns reading ANGEL CAKE out loud to each other in the car. Mum looked the Cathy Cassidy website up on my phone, and that's when we discovered that there was going to be a design-a-cupcake book event with Cathy Cassidy in Manchester at their book festival. It sounded great, so on the spur of the moment we decided to drive down to Manchester and meet the person who wrote GINGERSNAPS! I got to meet Cathy, have LOVE FROM LEXIE signed, and I also told her about my copy of GINGERSNAPS and the lovely note I'd found. Cathy thought this was a great story and suggested putting it on the DREAMCATCHER blog!

I am at secondary school now, but if you ask me what my favourite book in the world is, I’d still say GINGERSNAPS!

Cathy says:
This is so special - thank you for sharing the story, Isobel! Sharing books is one of my favourite things to do. I really hope Geri and Sophie are still great friends! Tell us what YOU think in the COMMENTS SECTION below...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

LIFESKILLS: A LITTLE GIVE & TAKE

Regular columnist Laura has some advice on how to give a compliment - and how to receive one without ignoring or arguing about it!

Laura says:
I used to be very bad at getting compliments. If someone said something nice about my hair or style, I’d argue that they were wrong, that my shoes were old and dull, that my hair was a mess. I thought I was being nice, showing that I wasn’t big-headed, but actually I was throwing the compliment back at the people who’d said something nice. And I know that would hurt me a bit if someone did it to me. So here is how to say something nice to others... and how to accept a compliment when one comes your way!

GIVING A COMPLIMENT!
Make sure you mean it! If you’re just trying to flatter, it will seem insincere.
Wait for the right moment! Be natural and make it clear you don’t expect anything in return!
Don’t overdo it! Too much enthusiasm will make you look needy and may embarrass the person!
Be original! Wait until there’s something that really catches your attention!

TAKING ONE!
Smile! Look the person in the eye and say thanks... it’s really that easy!
Be friendly! Giving a compliment is a good way to make friendly contact, so show that you appreciate their effort!
Don’t argue! Arguing about a compliment is rude... you wouldn’t reject a present, so why turn down a compliment?
Be modest! Accepting a compliment is great, but don’t over-do it by singing your own praises... that’s just as dodgy!
Believe it! Compliments are rare, so appreciate them... someone has reached out to say something positive to you, which is kind of awesome.

Shouldn’t we all give more compliments when we can? I think so!

Cathy says:
Definitely agree with Laura, compliments are so easy and can make someone's day! Do YOU agree? If so COMMENT BELOW with your views!

Monday, 26 March 2018

SIMPLE PLEASURES

We asked readers which of life's simple pleasures they loved the most! Here's what they said...


Priya says:
Cooking - baking to be precise - always cheers me up. I’ve grown up helping my mum, and now I am seriously getting into baking and cake making, plus eating the results is always a lot of fun. (Bake-Off has a lot to answer for!)

Sara says:
Dance class. It’s where all my troubles check out and I feel really strong and free.

Maia says:
Sounds a bit shallow, but shopping is my favourite way to chill out. It doesn’t matter if I can’t actually buy anything, just looking and trying things on is good enough!

Jenna says:
I love drawing Manga cartoons...

Lara says:
TV... I am a bit addicted to soaps, reality shows and anything on Netflix!

Kellie says:
We have a summer house at the end of the garden and it has a wickerwork sofa with squashy cushions and blankets. It’s my getaway place to read, daydream or chill out with friends (there’s a heater, so it’s even good in the winter!)

Maia says:
Sounds mad but I love books about 'hygge' and 'lykke' the Danish ways to chill out and be happy, and the Swedish 'lagom' as well. I have these little books that really inspire me and one day I plan to travel to Denmark and Sweden and maybe even live there!

Jo says:
I’m knitting a scarf and it is surprisingly addictive! I’m not very good - yet - but I have to knit a few rows every evening!

Roz says:
Music, music, music! I shut myself in my room and turn my iPod up loud, and if anything has been bugging me or worrying me, it all fades away.

Fatima says:
I am not one for hobbies really but a gossip with my besties always puts the world to rights for me. Nothing can touch me when my mates are around!

Photos by the talented Nes Rine - thank you very much!

Cathy says:
Lovely!! I love tucking up with a blanket and a herbal tea and watching a film with my family. What are YOUR simple pleasures? Let us know in the COMMENTS SECTION below!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: ON THE RISE

Reader Blue shares a beautiful, powerful short story that is guaranteed to get you thinking...

Sun walked briskly down the rocky riverside, head high, although he didn't feel confident at all. His bag weighed heavily on his shoulder, dragging him down as his namesake sank lower in the sky. He cursed himself for not choosing a better time for, despite his nocturnal nature, he did not relish the idea of being found in the dark. But he'd gone too far now. He knew he could turn back and go home, smile falsely at his mother and lie through gritted teeth. He'd been out for a walk. He'd been seeing friends. He'd been anywhere but here, doing anything but what he was about to do. He didn't want to though. He'd had enough of running scared. He'd had enough, full stop. This was it.

He'd reached the end of the line, so to speak, a dead end, both of the path and in life. He stopped and dropped his bag, kicking it lightly so it fell open. On his knees, Sun rummaged through the pockets of the bag with only the dying daylight to aid his search. However, it didn't take long for his fingers to close around the craft knife he knew was there. He slid the cover off and unzipped the main pocket of the bag, gawping at the rainbow of clothes within. A green T-shirt, a pair of red skinnies, a blue scarf. All his clothes but none of them felt right. He reached in and pulled out a pink halterneck top. The perfect place to start, he thought, and before he had even registered what he was doing, he was in a frenzy, slicing up the fabric with his craft knife until it was little more than tiny ribbons, some being caught on the wind and drifting away to who knows where. But he wasn't done yet. He pulled each item of clothing out of the bag in turn, smoothing it out before viciously attacking it, his face scrunched in contempt as he fought back tears. Boys don't cry, Sun told himself.

Before long, he was through, panting more with overwhelming emotion than with exertion. The rainbow was scattered around him, torn to shreds. He skipped stones on the river whilst he waited for his heart to stop pounding, admiring the ripples before each stone sank, dragged under by the current. When the red blotches clouding his vision faded and he was able to breathe again, he turned back to the craft knife. It was now or never. He rested the blade against his wrist, seeing his veins pulse under the skin like they knew what he had planned for them. He looked away, focusing on the fabric confetti nearby. He willed himself to press down. But he couldn't. The tiny sense of self preservation was fighting back with everything it had. Frustrated, he flung his hands down, his head back and screamed at the twilit sky. The trees shook and the undergrowth rustled as the birds left their nests and various small mammals headed back to safety, away from the strange human boy, screaming his head off. But he knew they'd see him as a strange human girl. That was the problem. That was always the problem. That was the reason he was out here at dusk, slicing up his clothes and attempting to slice up himself. Because he knew he was Sun but everyone else thought he was Sarah.

He hated that name. It was ostensibly feminine and there was no way around it. His mum loved the name, loved the little girl she thought she had. But whenever she bought him a new dress for a birthday party or tied his hair into plaits with pink ribbon or introduced him as "my daughter", Sun wanted to scream, to stamp his feet, to tell her that he wasn't her daughter, he was her son, her son, her son! It had become something of a mantra, always playing on a loop in his head, and that was how Sun came to call himself that. Despite his miserable demeanour, he thought it suited him. Even the sun had to hide behind the clouds sometimes, just as he hid behind his layers of clothing, his long hair. It didn't feel like his. On impulse, he grabbed a chunk of hair hanging in front of his face and, in one swift move, hacked through it with the craft knife still clutched in his clammy hand. He felt instantly lighter. Clutching at more hair, he repeated the action, again and again, hair slipping through his fingers and fluttering to the ground or getting caught on the wind and floating away. Good riddance.

Then he was done. He smiled as he ran his hand over his shorn head. It was terrible, he knew that. He was no barber. His new hairdo was uneven with strange tufts of hair here and there. He'd get it sorted by professionals tomorrow. There would be a tomorrow now, although he'd been certain that there wouldn't be, not so long ago. He picked up his bag - lighter now, just like him - and turned towards home. The sky was completely dark now, the sun swallowed up by the horizon, but he wasn't scared of the dark anymore. He'd been living in the dark for most of his life anyway. But although the sun may have set, Sun knew that he was just beginning to rise.

Cathy says:
Wow! A topic I feel isn't talked about enough, and a compelling, emotional read. Thank you, Blue. What did YOU think? Tell us below in the COMMENTS SECTION!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

YOUR STARS FOR MARCH

It's horoscope time, and Skye Tanberry has been hard at work... we're a little late this month, but take a look and see if her star-gazing rings true for YOU this month! 

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
It’s time to shake off the winter blues, rub the sleep from your eyes and stretch into spring! Look out for yourself this month…you have a lot on your mind still so make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
Dream big this month, there is an answer waiting for you if you just look for it. Don't be afraid of shining bright…you will attract the right people to your flame. There is also a sprinkling of romance for you this month.

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
It's time to get artistic with life’s simple pleasures! Try scrapbooking or origami…big rewards for little effort! In the spirit of simplicity, make sure to meditate on what makes you happy and make time for yourself.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
With every storm comes afresh start... let the cobwebs be blown away and start afresh. There is a big surprise waiting for you this month! Be it positive or negative, ride the storm…see where it takes you!!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Try to be less pessimistic this month…those who seem negative may be a blessing in disguise. Confused? Remember there is strength in helping others and taking people with you along the way can result in great happiness.


LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Be aware of who you are at this moment in time, don't try to be who you used to be or thought you might be. Listen to your needs. Sometimes caring and loving others too much means you neglect your own happiness. Take time out for number one!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Nestled in the corner of your mind are brilliant ideas waiting to be unleashed. Grab a pen or a pencil and test the waters… be it a song or a poem, there is something unfolding, just waiting to inspire those around you.

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
You sometimes find it tricky to take on board criticism but a bit of humility is always good for the soul. Your clever streak can sometime make you hard on the outside - time to let others see your gooey, loveable inside every now and then!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
In the spirit of fresh perspectives…why not get away for a while? Take a trip with a family member or best friend! There are things you’ve been neglecting over the winter which may need dusting off and focussing on with a fresh eye and a new input of energy.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
There is water in your soul which keeps you strong yet flexible. This is important to bear in mind when you are confronted with a tricky hurdle in a relationship! Someone close to you is having a hard time… try to see it from their point of view while still holding your own. Be strong!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
There’s a fire in your heart and this month is looking great for you!! With a whisper of sunshine around the bend, your spirits are high and there is no stopping you! Ride this wave of creativity and see where you end up, and remember to be brave - there is no failure in trying!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Thoughtful, cool and clever, you seem to have it sussed but don’t take this feeling for granted. Things may be tricky this month - some friends may be a bit too much, pushing the boundaries a little. Take a step back and assess before taking direct action.

Cathy says:
Ooooh, lots of starry stuff here! Do Skye's predictions ring true for YOU this month? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Friday, 23 March 2018

EVIE: AN INTERVIEW WITH CATHY CASSIDY

Reader Evie met Cathy Cassidy recently in Lancashire at one of the school events on her LOVE FROM LEXIE book tour and brought along lots of her books to be signed... she had a few questions for Cathy, too!


Would you ever want to be something else instead of an author?
At the moment, no... I love what I do. But one day, who knows? I've done lots of other things in the past, after all! Maybe I'd start a craft business or even an animal sanctuary!

Would you ever write about science or another subject instead of children’s books or write a journal?
Science isn't my passion, or indeed my skill, so I'm not sure I'd be the best person to write a science book. Some subjects do inspire me - history and art especially, and sometimes politics! However, if i were to write about those things I'd still rather do it in novel form! I do keep a journal, some of the time at least!

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! Things I see, hear, remember, imagine... and then I daydream, and if I'm really lucky, a story takes shape!

Who was your favourite author growing up?
I had so many - as a result of reading all of my books from public libraries, I got to read very widely. I loved CS Lewis, LM Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Arthur Ransome, Richard Adams, Susan Coolidge, Frances Hodgson Burnett and so many more!

I am loving LOVE FROM LEXIE and my favourite character is Bex. What is your favourite book you’ve ever written?
Cheesy answer, but it's always the latest one - because only when a book is 'released into the wild' does it become totally real to me! Very soon, though, I think it will be SAMI'S SILVER LINING, the sequel to LEXIE, because it was such an emotional and powerful story to research and write! (Glad you’re loving LEXIE, too!)

Which is your favourite book fromThe Chocolate Box Girls/Boy series?
I'd pick CHERRY CRUSH as it's the first, but I love them all in different ways... it was so hard to step away from that series!

Pepsi or Coco-Cola?
Ha! I don't like either! I'm not keen on fizzy drinks at all, but Cola would be my least favourite. When I was small, Cream Soda was my fave pop flavour!

Cathy says:
Brilliant interview from Evie - it was too good not to share! If YOU have any questions... fire me an email, I am always happy to answer!

Monday, 19 March 2018

RECIPE: LANCASHIRE NUT COOKIES!

When I posted a pic of Scottish faves 'Empire Biscuits' on the FB fan page recently, Helen commented to tell me they were a lot like a cookie called 'Lancashire Nuts'. She's kindly agreed to share here recipe here... yum!

Helen says:
Ingredients:
8oz. Self-raising flour
4oz. Caster sugar
4oz. Butter
2 tbls. Currants
1 egg (beaten)
1 lemon (rind AND juice)

Also... buttercream icing for the middle, and water icing for the top, plus sugar swirls, sweets or glace cherries to finish!


- Pre-heat the oven at approx. 180℃.
- Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl and rub in the butter until like breadcrumbs, then add the grated rind of the lemon and mix into a stiff paste with the beaten egg and the lemon juice.
- Finally, add the currants and mix in well.
- Roll out thinly and cut into rounds with a scone cutter - the recipe makes approximately forty, and you'll need two rounds for each cake.
- Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven for about 15 mins... or until golden brown!
- Instead of lemon juice I  like to put vanilla in, but they also taste good with coconut. You can be creative and ring the changes!
- So that's the basic biscuit recipe, then all you do is sandwich the cooled biscuit rounds together with a little butter cream, ice the top and decorate with whatever you like! 

Cathy says:
These are going straight onto my 'to make' list... better than a biscuit, not as wicked as a cake! (Well, maybe!) Do YOU love to bake? Share your fave recipe ideas in a COMMENT BELOW... I may invite my faves to tell us more on DREAMCATCHER!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

WHAT MY PET MEANS TO ME!

Readers tell us just what their furry little friends mean and how they affect us more than we may know! 

Hollie says:
My Boris is the light of my life. We got him because I was getting ill with what appeared to be anxiety and depression. He was only 8 weeks when we first saw him; the breeder lifted him up into my arms off the floor and at that moment he was mine. I’d actually wanted a brown pup but from the second that Boris lilted his head onto my chest and sighed the first time I saw him, I knew it was that puppy that had been sent to save me. I was really very unwell, I’d have meltdowns where I’d scream and cry, so loudly my family couldn’t bear to stay in the room. But 12 week old black bundle of scruff Boris would sit at my feet and wait for me to calm down, and he’d bring me back into the world by licking my face. He visited me in hospital (and was so excited to see me for the first time in two months he wet himself on their new floor!) and he was the only reason I wanted to come home at first. He has been my therapy, my angel; he gives me amazing confidence when I’m out with him and always a reason to look forward to going home. He was even invited to my sister’s graduation at reading and ended up as the 7th top news story of the day on the BBC! I have no clue what I’d do without that troublesome mess; he’s a very special sproodle!


Katie says:
Penny is our little Slytherin. She is a black and white cat with enough sass for the whole household. Penny is a keen huntress. She wiggles her bottom, twitches her nose and lifts her paw, getting ready to pounce. I think I’m Penny’s favourite, but I don’t take the role lightly. As soon as her beady yellow eyes catch mine I arrange myself into the perfect position for cuddles. Temperatures are soaring? I’ll still wear a blanket for Penny. She deserves it. We adopted her from the SPCA when she was a kitten! Neo is our miracle dog. He is a Swedish Vallhund. When we realised our road was truly treacherous for cats without Penny’s supreme intellect, my parents started looking for dogs - and stopped as soon as they found Neo. Neo changed our lives forever - he’s truly magnificent and very cuddly, especially when he wants attention. Neo only really barks at other dogs, to call over to them from the other side of the street and say “HEY! PARTY AT MY PLACE!”. He never usually gets any takers! One Swedish Vallhund is never enough, though, and we knew we had to get another puppy.  Dad wanted a red Swedish Vallhund (and we thought they couldn’t look more majestic!) and Mum wanted a girl (a sister for Neo!).I rattled off all the female Harry Potter names and Luna stuck! Her favourite thing to chew is books, and she even chewed through my copy of Love From Lexie!  I absolutely loved having a dog I could pick up and cuddle, she was only tiny when we got her, but Luna is already getting big. It’s nearly time for her to wear her full size Ravenclaw collar, to match the Hufflepuff one Neo will be getting as a birthday present on Monday! And with that, our family is complete!


Trish says:
My Pomeranian, Bella, is my best friend. And she has just had a litter of five adorable babies three weeks ago! Bella has made our little family feel complete and more settled. We have 2 boy Poms as well but it's Bella who means the world to me!

Cathy says:
Ahh just lovely! I love my furry friends, they mean the world to me! Want to give a shout-out to YOUR pets? COMMENT BELOW and click the button at top of page to follow DREAMCATCHER...

Friday, 16 March 2018

LIFESKILLS: A GOOD TALKING TO!

Regular blogger Laura has some tips on how to reclaim the art of the conversation!

Laura says:
We spend so much time online that we often neglect the skills of a face to face chat, especially with those we don’t know very well. Time to polish up those skills and make new friends at the same time!

FOR STARTERS...
Be approachable! Smile and look friendly and interested in others!
Ask questions - open-ended ones, not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions! This can start things off smoothly, as most people are at ease chatting about themselves.
Don’t mention the weather! Yawn!
Don’t talk about politics or big issues right away - you may have very different views, and the conversation may turn into an argument!

MORE THAN SMALL TALK...
Look out for chances to add your thoughts to the conversation... this way, you create a real give-and-take conversation!
Be aware of the other person’s body language - if they look awkward or uncomfortable, steer onto safer topics.
Be yourself! Be open, honest and show your feelings... people like to see a glimpse of the real you!
Listen! This is the biggest quality of a good conversationalist. Pay attention to what others are saying!

DON’T...
... try to hog the conversation!
... overshare! Too much personal info can scare people away.
... try to interrogate people. Keep it natural!
...make things up to try to ‘keep up’ with the others in the conversation. You’ll be found out!

Remember that you can practice on anyone and everyone - the cashier on the tills at Morrisons, little brothers and sisters and their friends, neighbours, family friends... you name it! It’s not always easy, especially if you are shy, but practice makes perfect!

Cathy says:
Yup... I certainly find it hard to talk to strangers or those I don't know too well at times. Great tips, Laura! Do YOU have any tips to share? COMMENT BELOW...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

MARIANA: READING CC IN PORTUGAL!

Portuguese reader Mariana tells us about the book that first got her reading Cathy Cassidy in another of our series on CC readers around the world...

Mariana says:
I received DIZZY (in Portuguese, AN UNFOR-GETTABLE BIRTHDAY) on my tenth birthday, a gift from my best friend at the time. I have always been a bookworm, so getting a book was not a surprise. However, the book had every shade of bright pink and I was not a girly girl; pink was my least favourite colour. I politely thanked my friend and left the book in my room, unread. Of course, being a bookworm, I eventually ran out of books to read and DIZZY was my only option. I picked it up and started reading, and suddenly I just couldn't put it down. I was amazed by the storyline, and felt as if I was the one living it... being friends with Mouse and Finn and Dizzy eating Tess's food and playing with Leggit.

I loved the book. The way the festivals were described, the atmosphere, the lights, music and colours... it made me long to go to festivals like that one day. Just go, make new friends, stay up all night, leave all my worries behind. I loved the books so much I gave it to a friend who wasn't keen on reading. I thought she might like it, but I was wrong - she completely LOVED it! She texted me saying it was now her favourite book and if she could she'd read it forty times or more.

I've lost contact with the friend who gave me the book, but I'd like to thank her for introducing me to the world of Cathy Cassidy; and I'd like to thank Cathy for creating the story in the first place. Like DIZZY, I will never forget the story of that summer. It reminds me of some song lyrics... 'people change, but the memories don't.'

Cathy says:
I love this post... it means so much that readers all around the world are connecting to my books. Which book has made a huge impression on YOU? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday, 12 March 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC: THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE

Our regular look at children's classics returns, as keen reader Cheryl tells us about THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE...

Cheryl says:
This beautiful book first came to my attention thanks to a wonderful BBC adaptation when I was ten years old. It was aired just before Christmas in 1986, and forever inspired in me a festive feeling of big draughty mansions, huge snowy gardens, and mysterious ghost children.

There are a series of six Green Knowe books by Lucy M. Boston. THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE, published in 1954, is the first of these, and really sets the tone for the entire story to follow.

The book begins as lonely young boy Toseland leaves boarding school to go and stay with his great-grandmother for the Christmas holidays. Mrs Oldknow lives in a huge, magical old house called Green Knowe, and visiting her gives Tolly his first real sense of family and of being part of a long lineage of Oldknows.

Throughout his visit, the bad weather leaves them largely cut off, and gives Tolly time to explore the house and gardens, and to get to know the wonderful world of Green Knowe. Here he appears to encounter Toby, Alexander, and Linnet, who are ghosts of children who lived there in the 17th century, a belief that is encouraged by his great-grandmother, who claims she can see them too. Mrs Oldknow spends her evenings telling Tolly stories about the house and its rich history, and instills in him a real feeling of belonging and acceptance for the first time in his life.

The book is beautifully written, with colourful descriptions of nature and lovely imagery throughout, and an attention to detail that draws you right into the room with the characters.

The Green Knowe series may now be largely forgotten by younger readers, but deserves to be a Christmas staple for children everywhere. It is a world that is now passed down from generation to generation, just as these stories were once passed from Mrs Oldknow to Tolly.

CATHY SAYS: Agree, Cheryl - a fantastic read! Have YOU read THE CHILDREN OF GREEN KNOWE? What did YOU make of it? COMMENT BELOW...

Sunday, 11 March 2018

MUMS'S THE WORD...

Readers give a shout out to their mums... today and every day!

Katie says:
I literally do not know where I would be without my Mum. True to her Gryffindor nature, she is a fierce protector, and always makes sure things get done. Mum is the best present giver, and is always very grateful for the interesting items I have put together for her! Mum encourages me and supports me for who I am. My Mum is the best person for the job, and throws herself into her many jobs. Mum is now a committed dog owner, and is very proud of her beautiful dog babies! But she makes sure Penny, our cat, is looked after too. Mum always ensures the family is together during special occasions. So Mum is a Mum, but she is also the best Mum. She is a strong protector who cares for others and makes sure we are always safe and having fun.

Jasmine says:
My mum's the best - she supports me in everything and never gives up on me through my struggles!

Hollie says:
My mumma is incredible. Through the most horrendous five years she has been my rock. I am not afraid to admit that I was horrible; I was violent and manipulative and so so difficult to deal with requiring so much basic care. Yet she managed to approach every problem I had with such kindness and care. She never faltered, even up to this day she continues to stand by me and fight for what I need, whether it be hospital discharge or my PIP or my doctors appointments. She is dealing with the most difficult of situations herself with her own dad, my grandad and yet she carries on caring for me and now cares for him. She’s amazing, beautiful and everything I hope to be one day. I love her!

Millie says:
My mum is my hero... she's had some very hard battles to fight the last couple of years but she never gives up and never let's the bad times get to her. She is kind, generous and always the person I go to if something goes wrong, and she gives the best cuddles. My mum is one in a million!

Lucie says:
My relationship with my mum has changed over the years! When I was little I worshipped her, wanted to be like her... I was her 'mini-me'! When I hit eleven or twelve, all that changed and for a while, it felt like everything she did annoyed me. I was pushing the boundaries a lot at that time, and we used to have some terrible rows. I said some things I am not proud of and I slammed so many doors my mum jokes that she's surprised they didn't come off their hinges! By the time I was fifteen or sixteen things started to calm down, and now that I'm at sixth form college we're back to being really close again. I wanted to give a shout out to my mum for putting up with me through that time and always caring enough to give me boundaries and rules - without them, who knows where I'd have ended up! I realise now we are quite alike, both strong and independent women who can be stubborn and dramatic, but I am so glad to have her as a mum and she's getting the biggest bunch of flowers on mothers day, as well as afternoon tea out with all the family! Love you, Mum!

Holly says:
I don't know what I'd do without my mum, she's my best friend and advice giver and she's always there for me!

Suhala says:
My mum always listens and gives the best advice, and she is a brilliant cook as well as running her own business. She is a great role model and I can honestly say I love her to bits!

Cathy says:
Aww, so lovely! I miss my own mum lots on Mother's Day (and every day) but I will get to hang out with my own lovely kids... yay! Want to give a Mother's Day shout-out to YOUR mum? Go for it - just COMMENT BELOW!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: FREEDOM

Reader Jel shares her gorgeous coming-of-age short story 'FREEDOM'... take a look!

They told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. My eight year old eyes and a toothy smile, looked up into a cosmic sky that stretched from the heavens to the earth. A sky the colour of breath mints written of promise and hope. I choose to be a bird. The most majestic animal that rules over the sky, soaring above craters and valleys, looking down onto children with big dreams and big eyes like me. 

Theres this old oak tree in the park. It sits by itself amongst primary coloured swings and slides- Sickly fluorescent red, blue and lemon. Hyperactive children running, skipping, jumping whilst their mothers try to keep up, like they are wild dogs without leashes. The tree waits patiently for someone to look past its tawny stump and uncover its brilliance. This tree has special powers. I am sure of this. It's not just a  stump with branches and foliage- it's every twig and crevasse and scrape. It's the way its skinny branches have never let me down. It's the way I feel comfortable. Safe.

I grip onto each branch and pull my weight up so effortlessly like the tree is lending me a helping hand. My legs rock back and forth up, up and away until my body is hoisted from the ground. I swing comfortably in the midst of nothing but cool air and buttery warmth. Nothing but a tender wind tickling the soles of my feet. Sunlight kissing my eyelids.  From up here, I am untouchable. The wind converses with me and I whistle back like it is an old friend. Once I swing high enough, I am no longer two walking limbs. I have wings that allow me to feel the depth of the sky and this place around me. I belong in these wide open spaces of azure and cobalt blue and when the sun had set, I soar over strips of tangerine and blushing pink. Up here, I am a bird with the most intimate connection with the sky; ‘a geographic monogamy’. Freedom.

Summers roll by and years escape through my fingertips. A black starless sky that seems to stretch on forever. My wings that were once so beautiful and bountiful are now pinned down. They told me I could be whatever I wanted to be but my sixteen year old eyes don't see the sky the way they used to. They told me I could  be whatever I wanted to be, but how is this possible when I used to be able to fly and now that seems so out of reach. When I was younger I used to believe in that type of stuff. Stuff like magic and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted without any  worries at all. It was a poignant memory; a loss of innocence. Like they had suddenly switched on the lights- a bright awakening.


They say time changes the ways we used to feel and the connections we used to have to places and I guess thats true. For four years I haven't had the same sense of belonging and freedom that I felt swinging across the branches into a  sky the colour of breath mints. For four years I hadn't gone back to the tree that gave me wings.

Instead, I spend my time doing things teenagers are supposed to do. This means no swinging off trees that have super powers. I hang out in my bedroom most of the time. I see Jennifer and Louise at the mall on the weekends. I do my  homework. It's a repeated sequence of eat, sleep, work, socialise. To be quite honest, I feel trapped in a recycled schedule. There's no way out. There's walls built around my eyes stopping me from being able to see what else is out there. Most of the time I feel like an alienated soul isolated from any hopes of freedom to do what I really want to do. To go back to the tree where I belong, into the sky with wings that gave me the allowance to really be free.

Occasionally though, I peer out of of my bedroom window into a great big mysterious sky. It's a canvas filled with fiery wisps of colours  painted on like some sort of child’s artwork. This time, I look out into a sky the same way my eight year old eyes remembered it to be. I reminisce. I am nostalgic. This time I feel something.

Freedom.


Cathy says:

Wow. Beautiful words from Jel. Freedom comes when we accept change in our lives... and that's OK! How did YOU respond to this lovely piece? COMMENT BELOW with your thoughts!

Friday, 9 March 2018

MY HERO: FRIDA KAHLO

Who's YOUR hero? We asked if you'd like to give a shout-out to YOUR female heroes... and Caitlin responded with this lovely piece!

Caitlin says:
You may recognise her as 'the woman with a huge eyebrow and the flowers in her hair' but did you know why she is one of the most iconic female figures in third-wave feminism? And what a tragic and sad life she led? Read on to find out why she means so much to me and inspires me through my life as a young woman.

She is one of Mexico’s most revered artists but it wasn’t until the bus she was riding on got hit by a street-car at the age of 18, that she started to paint. Lying in a hospital bed, whilst her broken body tried to heal, got extremely boring for her, so she picked up her paintbrush and painted all her pain onto canvas.

I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.

The accident left her with a persistent limp and a need for more surgery; a need that would never cease all her life. Despite her injuries, she led quite an active early-life and delved into the stimulating world of Mexican politics. It was here she met her husband, the revered muralist and leader of the Mexican Communist party, Diego Riviera.

Although she painted faces (mostly her own) she rarely painted just what was on the outside. Like a lot of Mexican folk art, Frida's paintings "interweave fact and fantasy as if the two were inseparable and equally real," (Hayden Herrara, biographer)

What makes Frida so inspiring to our generation of budding feminists, is not only the subject matter for her paintings - gender equality, heartbreak and sickness to name a few - but the life she led, despite her wealth of injuries. She defied the female beauty standards of her day, letting her body hair run wild and unplucked. Despite this, she is still considered in the eyes of history as beautiful. To me, this is courageous. One of my favourite Frida-moments is when she posed for a family photograph and appeared wearing a three-piece suit, hair slicked-back, hand in pockets. Completely owning the photograph.

I think we can all learn from Frida, as we carve our way through life. If I'm ever stuck in what to do or too scared to be myself I always stop and think "What would Frida do?" and almost always end up happier for it.

May I also recommend for older readers, the biopic film 'Frida' starring Salma Hayek and implore you all to independently find out more about this real-life wonder woman.

Cathy says:
A perfect post for just after International Women's Day - and Frida Kahlo just happens to be one of MY all time heroes too! Who inspires YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

CHARLOTTE: STRAWBERRY LACES

Reader Charlotte writes about how CC truly inspired her! Read on...

Ever since I was younger, I dreamed of being an author, a writer. I didn’t have a ‘plan b’ or something to fall back onto and I still don’t because being an author is all I aspire to be. I'm only twelve, but you have to start young if you want to make it to the top, right? There's no point just leaping into it when you're older and hoping it'll all turn out for the best – you need to practice, plan it out and dream…

I discovered Cathy Cassidy's books  in year six when  a friend called Tallulah was browsing through INDIGO BLUE. I glanced over her shoulder and read a few pages. Sometime later, a few of my friends began to spend their break times leafing through CC books, giggling at the kissing scenes and talking about it out of school. I thought it might be a bit too old for me but in the summer holidays, without knowing it, I picked up SWEET HONEY! I loved every single page of it and then I realised it was part of a big series of books so, of course, I read them all and adored the whole collection.

My friends are obsessed with them too but we all have different preferences: I love SUMMER'S DREAM because it's about doing the impossible and wanting something with all your heart and soul. I think it's very relatable and I love it, especially with my dream of becoming an author. My friend Hannah is a major fan too – she goes to book signings and is always the first person to get a copy of a new book. If she finishes it before I can get a copy of it, I end up borrowing it after her.

Over that summer, I had read pretty much all of the CC books, including INDIGO BLUE. I cherished it like a treasure when one of my BFFs, Hazel, gave me it for my 12th birthday and I still have it in my room, along with my collection of the CHOCOLATE BOX series. I thought it was the best thing I had ever read – I love colour and my room is painted light blue with hearts, flowers shooting up from the floorboards and birds swooping around the door, so Indigo's flat was like a paradise and what I based my room on. I used to keep the lights off in my room and hide under the covers with a torch and the book. In short, I was gripped to the world of Cathy Cassidy.

I've always been writing stories ever since I could hold a pencil and I have dozens of little notebooks scattered all over the house. When I was in year six, I started using the computer to write up my stories – a huge step for me as I'm terrible with computers. It was good for typos though, because I am unforgivingly bad at spelling. Then, I guess I just started to write.

I opened a new document and – making the best decision of my entire life – typed STRAWBERRY LACES in block capital letters at the top. I spent the whole summer holiday typing away, begging dad to let me use the computer from time to time and partly saving up to by myself my own laptop. I did get one eventually,  a blue laptop bought with my own money. I sent Strawberry Laces to the new laptop and began to work away. I told my friends what I was doing, and they were really impressed, saying they couldn't wait for it to be finished, asking would it be published, who would get the first copy… I was overcome with questions, questions I hadn't even thought of yet. I finished it halfway through year seven and then we got it spell-checked and I read through it again and again and again… correcting, polishing, adding extra words in, deleting phrases. After that, I worked on the front page. I bought lots of packets of strawberry laces then drew out the shape of the girl and then stuck them on, looping and twisting to get them perfect. Mum snapped a photo, then sent it off to work. That was the front cover sorted! We asked for twenty copies to be printed, and one evening we had to go and pick up a huge box filled with all of them.

I lugged a few copies to school the next day to give to friends and to the school librarians, my English teacher, and to the head of our year. I signed most of them and everyone keeps asking when the next one's going to be out. I guess, I've got myself a big job to do. The next one's called PARMA VIOLETS, by the way!

Cathy says:
Thank you Charlotte! I always get emotional reading these kinds of stories. To inspire even one young person to start writing and using their imagination makes all the hard work worthwhile! Do YOU have similar stories? Tell me in the COMMENTS SECTION below...

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

LOULOU: I HATE MY BODY!

Reader LouLou opens up about the difficulties of puberty... and SUMMER TANBERRY offers some wise words of advice!

LouLou says:
I really love gymnastics but recently I've noticed some changes in my body that I don't like. This makes me really anxious to be around other 'perfect' girls in my class. It makes me feel like dirt. I've definitely gained weight and started to develop boobs and I don't know how to enjoy it anymore. I hate wearing really tight leotards because it shows off my horrible tummy. It's not that I am unhealthy, because I do loads of sports. I do karate and play hockey too! It's really getting me down, please help!

Summer says:
I feel so strongly about this... as girls, we are not always ready for or prepared for the changes our body goes through at puberty. I wasn't, and I tried to bully my own body into submission, and it made me very ill - so I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. The truth is, our bodies are meant to gain weight at this time, it's a part of puberty. Curves and boobs are part of the way a woman looks, and though it can feel alien, it's better to accept the changes your body is going through than to fight them. Believe me, I've been there! I'm older now and I genuinely like the way my body is... including the curvy bits! Your body is an amazing thing - keep it fit and healthy and it will be the best friend you ever have. Try to relax and stop beating yourself up... your body is changing and so are your hormones, which can play havoc with emotions. This feeling should ease in time... hang on in there, and good luck.

Cathy says:
I think many young women take a while to get used to the changes puberty brings, but as Summer says, most of us get there in the end! Do YOU have any good advice for LouLou? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 5 March 2018

READERS ALL AROUND THE WORLD...

A little shout out from - and for - all my wonderful readers around the globe!

Fifi lives in South Africa:
My name is Fifi and I live in South Africa. How did I discover Cathy Cassidy books? I would have to go back to the year 2012. The first book I read was CHERRY CRUSH And after that I was ADDICTED! My personal favourite is SWEET HONEY - Honey actually reminds me of myself. What I love most about Cathy Cassidy books is that they don't feel fictional when you are actually reading them. You turn the page and it's like it is really happening. I even told my friend about CC books, and now she's reading them too!

Aisha lives in UAE:
I am a 12  year old girl from Dubai in United Arab Emirates (and very proud of my country). Cathy Cassidy is my favourite author of all time I just love her books - they've got everything a teenage girl would want! She understands us very well. It is kinda hard to find all the CC books here - I’ve read some but not all of them. My top faves are ANGEL CAKE, COCO CARAMEL and SUNDAE GIRL and I have even made a fact file (designed with chocolates) about them for my school project. If Cathy would visit UAE anytime it would be wonderful because I would love to see a super funny, amazing, sensible and thrilling author. It is stars falling into my hands. I am not a very good writer because my native language is Arabic but I am trying! I am in seventh grade and I am a radio host and have my own radio kids show. My hobbies are to sing, have fun, read books and get a bit artsy. I have dreams and ambitions and am hopeful to make them true by my hard work and sass. Whenever I am down I read CC books to throw a bit of glitter and happiness on things!

Ayesha lives in Ireland:
I  have been a huge fan of CC books ever since I was a young girl. They have inspired me to write little short stories of my own since I was in primary school. I'm from Ireland and I live outside a little village. Reading CC stories about Tanglewood and all those  other places made me try to find the magic in my own area when I was young because sometimes it was hard to find  inspiration in a town like mine that has so many problems and a lot of superficialness. I've been reading CC books since I was about 11 and I'm now 21 years old - it may seem strange but whenever I feel down or feel a bit lonely I find great comfort in them.  It's nice to escape back to Tanglewood and the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS and keep myself grounded and not feel the pressure of college and the scary things going on in the world.

ClĂ udia lives in Catalonia:
I love the collection of "The chocolate girls" and I have read "Heart of cherry" to "Heart of Coco". I look forward to each new book coming here, to where I live, in Catalonia, in Spain.  Yesterday afternoon I finished the book "Heart of vanilla." I liked a lot the whole story and I have to confess I cried a lot when I read it all. I hope you have a sequel for Jake Cooke!


CATHY SAYS: I LOVE hearing from my readers all around the world!! Do YOU want to leave a little message too? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Sunday, 4 March 2018

SOPHIA: BEING HOMESCHOOLED


Reader Sophia sheds light on what it's like to be homeschooled... 

Sophia says:
Friends: ‘Primary school was so much fun!..Which primary school did you go to?’
Me: ‘Umm..’
Friends:’Oh yeah! You were homeschooled, I almost forgot!, So, what was it like?..’

That’s an average conversation for me; I was homeschooled for six years of my life, until the age of eleven when I started Secondary School. My dad taught my sister Nadia and I at home; he had been a teacher for twenty years and now he’s a tutor. He prepared me my whole life for the entrance exam for certain schools - the 11+, because he wanted me to have the best chance of going to a good school and I had to study very hard! I studied Maths, English, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning, all to prepare me for the one exam which would determine which secondary school I’d go to. I was a very sociable child and always eager to make friends - I spoke to everyone I met! I had many hobbies; I loved writing and have kept a diary from a young age. I used to write stories about characters whom I invented! I also loved playing with dolls, I used to make them talk to each other! I loved to read, I kept a reading journal and as I look back on it now, I realise I mostly read Cathy Cassidy and Jacqueline Wilson books, which were my utmost favourite!

Being an extremely sociable child meant that I had to make friends, and because I didn’t attend a primary school, this was a little harder. Thankfully, some of my mum’s close friends had children who were around about the same age as me and we made friends and we still are today! I also attended Swimming, Pottery, Arabic, Gymnastics and Piano lessons weekly, and on top of that I was (and still am) a keen baker. Oh, and I also enjoy singing!

I was a very busy person! When I was younger I had always wanted to be a farmer or an author - I have no idea why being a farmer appealed to me so much, although I do love animals. Being an author was always a dream of mine and I still love writing today, although I’m not so sure about being a farmer! I loved being homeschooled and I am extremely grateful to my dad for helping me prepare for the 11+ exam. Thankfully I passed it, and now I go to wonderful secondary school where I am very happy! I have made lots of friends and I still participate in any extracurricular activities.
I hope that after reading this you’ll understand what it means to be homeschooled!

Photograph by Nes Rine, with many thanks!

Cathy says: 
It's so great to hear your experience of homeschooling. People often assume it can be quite a lonely way to grow up, but that's rarely the case. Were YOU homeschooled? How was it for YOU? COMMENT BELOW...

Saturday, 3 March 2018

KATIE: ACTING UP!

Reader Katie tells us what it's like to be a teen TV actress... read on to find out more!

Katie says:
I started acting when I was eight as a new hobby at a stage school - I am now fourteen. I did a few shows with the stage school and then began getting auditions for bigger things through the agency at the stage school. I got a few jobs on TV as an extra, and some on stage, and a couple of years ago I realised I was enjoying the TV more than the stage, so I began to focus on that.

I moved to a different agency and in 2017 I had such an exciting time. In March I got a part in a new BBC TV show called Creeped Out - and in December I got cast in Casualty! Acting is something that has completely taken over my life, even though I didn't expect it! I love using acting to escape real life and 'be' someone else for a little while. It ties in well with my love of storytelling and English in school!

It's safe to say that seeing myself on TV is not something I ever expected to experience, but watching what I've spent so long making )and filming often takes a very LONG time) is so rewarding! Having people compliment me on my work is overwhelming but so amazing, and it feels really surreal!

I'd love to go to drama school in the future and my big dream would be to do acting as a career, but even if I never get that far I hope to keep on doing it as a hobby at least! If I ever get the chance, I'd love to do some screenwriting too!

Cathy says:
Wow... Katie's budding acting career sounds fantastic - if there was going to be a CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series, I'd cast her like a shot, maybe as Coco! (I can dream, right?) Have YOU ever appeared on TV? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: WAITRESS

Regular DREAMCATCHER blogger Emma shares a powerful piece of writing inspired by her own struggles... I can’t believe it’s been four yea...