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Monday, 23 April 2018

APRIL BOOK CLUB: NEVERMOOR

This month, reader Caitlin recommends the book Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend...


The reason I loved Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is because it is an entertaining, magical, intriguing and mysterious read! I picked this book up the other week from Asda after hearing brilliant reviews about it. I admit, the reviews just don't do it justice! I also heard it recommended for fans of Harry Potter so I had to get it because I mean, who doesn't love Harry Potter? I loved everything about this book, from Morrigan Crow being a cursed child, to the Hotel Deucalion.

The name of the author is Jessica Townsend and I'd have to say the genre is probably adventure or fantasy. The story is basically about a girl called Morrigan Crow who is cursed and destined to die on her 11th birthday. On that particular night, a remarkable man named Jupiter North whisks her away to a land called Nevermoor in the free state. Security could be hers although first she has to partake in four trials to receive a place in this wondrous society. Will she succeed? What twists and turns will lie ahead? You'll have to read it and see! I'd say that the age is probably nine-ten and upwards.

I couldn't put this book down, and parts of it had me biting my nails - which I don't normally do! I had the desperate urge to meet the characters in the book and experience just one more day of Morrigan's life. This amazing book definitely deserves five stars and I seriously recommend it... if you are looking for a new, exciting adventure, this is the book for you!

Cathy says:
It sounds captivating... thanks for the recommendation, Caitlin! Have YOU read this book? What are YOUR thoughts? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

MANDA: WAITING

Reader Manda shares her touching poem which left us with a tear in our eye! Read on...


Dressed up, like I used to
Like you’ll appear any moment
Waiting

Twinkling, they ask
Who I’m all done up for
I say -
Does there have to be a ‘who’?
Waiting

Vain, insane
And maybe all in vain
I am waiting

Gold watch ticking away
The minutes since you left
Waiting

Counting the hours til you come home
Home from far away
Waiting

Heart full of promises
Weighs heavier than your patched-up knapsack
And far less useful
Still waiting

Months and years
Smudge and blur
With the weight
Of waiting

Last rays of sun
Drain away from the horizon
Until I stop waiting.

They tell me: never.
You’re never coming home
What is there left to wait for now?

Cathy says:
Beautiful, Manda... just lovely. What did YOU think of this evocative poem? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.

Monday, 16 April 2018

KATIE: INSPIRING TEACHERS

Reader Katie shares wonderful stories of her fave teachers and how they have inspired her! 

All of my favourite teachers, the most inspirational teachers I’ve had, are Ravenclaws. Mr Hill is Head of Ravenclaw House. He is.... eccentric. He wears all black every day, and had a philosophical conversation with me about fandoms on a bus in Italy. He was my Drama and Classics teacher, and with his guidance I skipped a year of Drama and still came top! He helped me through Classics and it came to be a subject I really loved. I don’t think my school has a Classics teacher any more, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, because both of them are gone. Mr Hill went to follow his dream of being an actor, because teaching drove him crazy, and Mrs Fitzpatrick retired.

So yes, Mrs Fitzpatrick was also a Classics teacher, but I only had her for Spanish. Mrs Fitzpatrick joined forces with the French teacher and attempted to drag me back into languages (heaven knows where I was going!) and after choosing Mrs Fitzpatrick’s Spanish class, I have never looked back. Mrs Fitzpatrick is also eccentric. She knows just the right way to get burned at the stake and not feel as much pain. She would always shriek when I shrieked and told me “You must write a blog, Katie!” She was a teacher in all forms of the word.

Mrs Knapton is a Maths teacher. Maths, I know! Shudder. Every lesson I would walk in worried that I wouldn’t understand anything and walk out late because I had been too busy discussing Harry Potter with her. Sometimes all it takes is a shared passion. I passed my exams without anybody’s help but Mrs Knapton’s and may never have to do algebra again!

I have just inadequately described three people I will never forget. They are the reason I see secondary school teaching as a viable option and I want to educate more than anything. I would say I hope they never forget me but I think my voice is still ringing in their ears from the last time I was overly exuberant in one of their classes! (Mrs Knapton is still a teacher here and just last night was discussing Cornelius Fudge’s middle name with me over text!)

Cathy says:
Teachers have such a big impact on the way students develop, it's great to hear such lovely stories!! Do YOU have any cool stories of your fave teachers? COMMENT BELOW!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

PINK: WHAT LOVE FROM LEXIE MEANS TO ME...

Reader Pink offers a very personal response to LOVE FROM LEXIE... and explains just why it means so much to her!

Pink says:
I'm seventeen and have been a huge fan of CC books since I was in primary school, and an avid reader of DREAMCATCHER for these last few years. I am also bisexual, and wanted to let you know how happy I am that you've made a character in one of your books gay. Growing up, I often tried to imagine that various CC characters might be LGBT+ and even wrote fanfic about them... it helped me, I guess. This time, I had suspicions that one character could be gay, but didn't dare think I might be right. I was - I won't tell you the character, because no spoilers, right? Let's just say that when I came to a certain point in the book I began to cry, because I knew that this time it wasn't just wishful thinking, that it wasn't just me hoping for a character like that. I cried so hard I had to put the book down for a few minutes. It seemed momentous. It sounds silly, an almost-adult crying over a young teen book, but I do not care as Cathy Cassidy books mean so much to me and finally, to see someone like me represented in a book by my favourite author... it made me happier than you can imagine!

So thank you, Cathy Cassidy, thank you so much - not just from me. Thank you for all the young LGBT+ kids who can read the book and see the love and support the characters give to the gay character. It means that those kids are not alone, they are normal, that there are other people like them, and that they too will always be loved.

I hope it's not too much to ask, but can this character not be the only LGBT+ one? Could there one day be more? THAT would be amazing! For all the gay kids out there who need reassurance that they are perfectly ordinary, that they can pick up a book with a life changing story, a story that reflects THEIR life somehow. It would mean so much to me, and to others. Thank you Cathy Cassidy for writing LOVE FROM LEXIE, an absolutely wondrous book from start to finish. I fell in love with each and every one of the characters... and I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Cathy says:
Wow... that's an incredibly moving review! THANK YOU so much Pink! I can't say too much without giving away the storyline, but the character Pink mentions has had SUCH a warm reception from my readers, and that's just plain AWESOME. Do YOU feel there should be more diversity in teen and pre-teen fiction? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

MY HERO: COCO CHANEL

Reader Stefi writes about the inspirational fashion icon Coco Chanel and how she changed the course of fashion history forever.


A girl should be two things, classy and fabulous


Fashion designer, revolutionary fashion icon and all round (YAS) queen Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel changed the course of women’s fashion forever by designing non-contriscting clothes. In a retaliation against the corset she introduced loosely fitting clothing with a low waist-line so women could move around freely. This liberated the female silhouette,helped to create the iconic 1920s flapper look and launched Chanel on a career as fashion guru and legend.

Coco Chanel was born in to abject poverty in 1883 as an illegitimate child. When Coco was just twelve, her mother died of tuberculosis, leaving her and her sisters with their father who shortly after chucked them into an orphanage and legged it to live the life of a pedlar. Growing up in a very strict Catholic children's home run by nuns seemed to harden Coco and spurred her on to take control of her life... and to rebel against all the strictness.

She developed into an eager, intellectual and dramatically beautiful young woman and found herself having love affairs with men who lived a far more privileged life than she had done. She first started her career 1906 when she met a French textile heir and racehorse owner who used his money to set herself up as a milliner. Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel showed her the life of a the upper-class, how they talked, lived and most importantly dressed! By 1916, Chanel had made such a success of her business she was able to repay the loan, and had branched out from hats into fashion design, helping to create the ground-breaking flapper look of the 1920s.

Her career spanned her whole lifetime, with Chanel acknowledged as a visionary fashion leader. Her most iconic looks are the Little Black Dress which has proved to be classy and timeless and one which generations of women have tried, tested and loved! It is said that the inspiration for this outfit came after the end of World War I when, for a vast majority of women, there was a need for mourning. Mothers, wives, sisters…most women were were directly affected by the death of a loved one. The black dress was also a celebration of simplicity in a time with so much chaos, and of course it proved to be an enduring and timeless design.

Her other well-known look is the Chanel suit - which consists of a collarless suit jacket and a slim-fitting pencil skirt, pearls and nautical shirt. This originated in the 1920s but remained an iconic design right up until the 1960s and beyond. She was also the creator of a number of perfumes, including the famous Chanel No.5. Chanel designed the clothes that took the women of the 20th century through their journey of increasing freedom, and they did it with style and class.

There are a few things about her personal life I don't admire, but in spite of this, from rags to riches, Coco Chanel was truly a force to be reckoned with. She inspires me to believe in myself and keep going when things get tough and one day hopefully design the kind of clothes that will become legendary too. Be your own woman, but do it with style!

Cathy says:
Chanel was indeed a fashion legend... and her influence remains strong even today. Do YOU have a female hero you'd like to tell us more about? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more and you might even be invited to write about it for DREAMCATCHER!

Friday, 13 April 2018

CURL UP WITH A CLASSIC: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Reader Katie from New Zealand shares her passion for the classic American novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD... read on to find out what you’re missing!


Katie says:
The English class collectively groaned as classroom copies of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD were passed around. I smiled as I pulled my own copy out. This was the perfect opportunity to finally read the little paperback which had been sitting on my shelf since not last birthday but the birthday before. I quickly passed the first chapter, which in my opinion is the only chapter that could possibly be considered dry, and began reading in earnest, only slightly aided by the competitive nature of classroom reading. 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, written by Harper Lee, has made the infamous list of “Banned Books” time and time again. Certain words in the book are outdated and considered offensive these days - we weren’t even allowed to use them in our monologues based on the characters in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - but it is the meaning behind Harper Lee’s words that drew me in, and the message is also why everyone should read it, now more than ever.

Harper Lee very cleverly disguises a hugely important message for adults in a children’s book. Scout is, to me, the loveable main character who is also a young girl who the story is told through. She quickly learns her obstinate nature will not get her anywhere, and resolves to befriend Boo Radley, a local hermit, and maybe even save some other people along the way. 


TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is, first and foremost, a book about prejudice. Racial prejudice is not helped by class or age, but racial prejudice is still rife even today. So when, and only when, everybody has read it or can understand its key messages, will the world be able to move forward. Harper Lee introduced the revolutionary concept of respecting everybody, and not taking advantage of a person’s innocence, at grassroots level. She introduced this concept to children. So maybe children will be able to understand more than adults. Scout, Jem and Dill don’t have preconceived opinions about anybody, and do not let others’ opinions impede their progress. We all need to live a little bit more like the children in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and it starts with reading the extraordinary novel by Harper Lee. 


PS. I also really enjoyed a book called I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD, which is a novel where children try to take TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD off the Banned Books list and get people reading it. It helped me understand the impact of the original book... well worth checking out!

Cathy says:
Wow, great review from Katie! I agree, its impact and importance is one that is universal and it should be a staple for everyone, not just children! Have YOU read it? Do YOU agree with Katie? What did it mean to YOU? Pop to the COMMENTS SECTION below and let us know!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

PAULA: AM I AN INTERNET ADDICT?

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Paula has a question for HONEY TANBERRY about social media and how it seems to rule her life...

Paula says:
I think I am addicted to social media sites on the internet and it is getting me down. If I post a selfie or make any kind of post online, I panic that not enough people will 'like' it and if only a few seem to comment I take it down and feel really upset, as if nobody understands or cares about me. I feel irrationally jealous of other people's posts because they always seem to be having more fun than me. My dream is to have a super-successful Instagram account so that everyone knows me and maybe then write a book, but deep down I know that this will never happen and that even if it did, it really wouldn't be good for me. I have got to the point where I'd rather stay in with my phone than go out with my friends. Should I worry?

Honey says:
We are all addicted to social media to some extent... it's easy to feel envious of others or upset if a picture doesn't get enough 'likes' because the whole point of social media is to hook us in. And when we follow accounts of people who post about their designer clothes, their rock star boyfriends, their showbiz social life, their perfect pets and spiritual yoga sessions, it's not hard to feel a bit inferior. The thing is, social media isn't real... pictures are staged and filtered, comments carefully edited, timings all planned out. Whatever your phone implies, the rest of the world is NOT living a perfect life. When I lived in Australia briefly I was quite dependent on social media and boy did it backfire on me... it was only by stepping away from this and focusing on real life that I began to understand how toxic the internet could be. Now I limit the time I spend online, because the actual people in my life are more important than the pictures on my Instagram feed. I'm more interested in living my life than trying to document it all online. Try to spend more time with your friends and limit screen time to find a healthier balance... we all know the kick of a post that gets lots of attention online, but the internet has a darker side too. If your real life is filled with friendship, fun and adventure, you'll find you naturally rely less on social media... give it a go!

Cathy says:
I agree with Honey on this one... social media can be bad for our mental health and most of us know it can be addictive. Have YOU got any good advice for Paula? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 9 April 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: ALL GROWN UP

Reader Katie has a fabulous Fan-Fic story for you, peeking into the future of favourite character Summer Tanberry...

'I’m going to catch you!' Summer’s 'Dancing Tots' scattered around on tippy-toe as she closed her eyes.

'One, two, three....' and then Summer grew up. She was still sitting on the floor of the dance studio, head in hands. Only now she was a seasoned dance teacher with years of experience under her belt, a little weary today and nostalgic for what might have been.

Tap, tap, tap. Summer looked up and saw Abby, in her tap shoes. Just a few years ago she had been a dancing tot, and was now eager to apply for all the major performing arts schools in the country, well aware she was qualified for more than half already. This young girl with her whole future mapped out smiled down at Summer, offering a hand.

'Run through my solo with me? Please?' Summer took Abby’s hand and began to shimmy across the studio. Soon it was only a matter of correcting Abby’s elbows and knees, before she was off prancing around the studio by herself. Swept up in the music, Summer tried for the tricky combination she could not master and - it clicked!

'That. Was. Incredible.' breathed Abby, tired out from her jazz solo. Summer smiled, modestly bowing her head.

'I had been trying for hours to get that right! I thought the whole dance was ruined! It was your influence, my protege!' Summer performed a graceful grand jeté and landed just shy of Abby. She scarpered, dashing into the broom cupboard on tip toe as if they were playing hide and seek again.

Summer sighed and leaned on the barre. 'All grown up.'

Cathy says:
So poignant and lovely... thank you, Katie! Would YOU like to take part in the regular story challenges and maybe see your work here on DREAMCATCHER? Go give a 'like' to the FB FANPAGE to stay up to date with what's going on! And remember to COMMENT BELOW to tell me how you liked the story!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

JESS: MY HERO - MARY SHELLEY

Reader Jess writes about her hero... acclaimed Gothic novelist and 19th century bohemian Mary Shelley...


'As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to write stories...'

You probably know her as the woman who wrote the iconic novel Frankenstein but did you realise that at the tender age of nineteen, she all but invented the genre science-fiction as we know it today? Her creation has been chopped, changed, evolved and creatively re-imagined over time, giving us one of popular culture's most iconic horror personalities in the world. I thought she would be a great topic to write about for this blog because this is a space dedicated to inspiring young girls and boys to write and dream and never give up.

She was daughter to radical philosopher William Godwin and famed early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, author of The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, so from the word go she was bound to create a stir. At the age of 16, she met the poet Percy Shelley, who was destined to change her life forever.

He was still married to his first wife when he and Mary ran away together to mainland Europe. They traveled for some time but their radical, bohemian lifestyle eventually came to an end when they ran out of money and faced the loss of their first child. It was while they were staying near Lake Geneva, in Switzerland that the idea for Frankenstein was first hatched. After a session of folk tales and ghost stories, their friend Lord Byron daringly challenged all present - himself, Percy, Mary, Mary’s sister Jane Claremont and friend John Polidori - to dream up their own horror story. Mary immediately began to hash out the first drafts of her brilliant and most famous novel Frankenstein. It was published in 1818 to great acclaim, eventually becoming one of the great classics and helping to create the horror/ science fiction genre in literature.

Eventually,  Percy's first wife died, allowing Mary and Percy to marry. Mary only had one surviving son, Percy Florence, the other three having died in childbirth, and in 1822, Percy Shelley himself drowned whilst sailing with a friend. Although Mary remained dedicated and prolific with her writing, her life was one of heartache and tragedy. This great sadness may have seeped into her writing… her own personal horror show.

Her feminist legacy is often overlooked when people name-drop famous female heroes but for me, this teenager who changed the course of literary history, out-writing her contemporaries such as Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, she is my hero.

Cathy says:
Mary Shelley is a character who has fascinated me for a vey long time... to live the rule-breaking life she did back in the early 1800s took great courage and conviction, and her literary achievements often out shadowed her more famous male contemporaries. Read more about the real Mary Shelley in Fiona Sampson's acclaimed biography, In Search of Mary Shelley, and check out my book LOVE FROM LEXIE to read about the cool tortoise character who shares her name! Don't forget to COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 7 April 2018

YOUR STARS FOR APRIL

Time for your stars! Skye has cast your horoscopes and shed her wisdom... read on to see if her predictions ring true!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20

Take a deep breath, let your hair down and stretch into the sunshine! This is your month to be your best self. Energy from the new moon will help you through a tough time and out the other side.

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Use your own inner magic to create positivity around your family and friends. This comes naturally to you but this month, some may need your magic more than ever. On a personal level, make sure you take extra care of your health.

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
This month is for honing your craft. Whether it be writing, dancing, football or singing…whatever it is, make sure you leave enough time to immerse yourself into it. On a deep level, there is always a reward for passion.

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Outside is where you feel most at peace, in a forest or a park…but often you neglect this side of you. With the promise of sunshine comes a promise of happiness. Wriggle your toes in the grass, breathe the air at the top of a hill. Give yourself a new perspective!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Planning, planning, planning! Get your organisation cap on and get stuck into structuring your dream. Imagination, passion and confidence are key of course but without solid foundations, a building would fall right over. Time to get practical!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
There is some tension in the air this month between you and a friend. Try to overcome this with strength and humility. Even though it may stem from something minor, it has potential to blow up out of all proportion. Put things into perspective.

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
There is a strong source of energy telling you to spread your wings! You are known to be organised and ordered but why not introduce a spot of fantasy into your life and practice the art of dreaming! This will create balance and peace!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
There is a love interest on the horizon this month, it may not be from someone new but a change in dynamic to this relationship may cause you to realise feelings that may not have been apparent up until now. Don’t be too scared to make the first move!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
You’re never one to have both feet on the ground - you’re always up to several tricks at once! Be careful not to over-complicate your life though, maybe it is time to have an emotional spring clean? Focus on the things that bring you the most joy.

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
Your humour is often your way of avoiding difficult situations and although this is a gift, it’s good to face your problems. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and show people your serious side. You may find people take you more seriously.

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
You’re a dreamer, everyone says so! Often fantasy is preferable than real life… while this has it’s obvious creative perks, it can sometimes make you appear unapproachable. Don’t neglect what is right in front of you…friends and family may need you this month! Observation is important.


PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
You love being able to do everything… and often you can! However, be careful not to make promises you can’t keep… you may upset someone you love. It’s ok to say no if you feel it’s too much on your plate. Look after your own health.

Cathy says:
WOWEE! Lots in store this month! Do Skye's predictions chime for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Monday, 2 April 2018

MY DREAM GETAWAY...

This Easter Monday, readers tell us about their dream holiday destinations and perfect escapes... 

Lara says:
I'd go to a desert island, the kind with white sand and turquoise sea and sunshine all day long. No crocodiles or snakes or giant cockroaches... but maybe some friendly monkeys and a ready supply of pineapples and other fresh fruits. If I get bored, I can explore and maybe meet a cute boy recently shipwrecked and washed up on the beach nearby. We'd never get bored and never light a fire to try to attract attention so we could be rescued. At least, not until after my GCSE exams are over, later this year, anyway!

Katie says:
Well, I’ve kind of just escaped in real life - we had a problem with the water supply in the town where we live in New Zealand. While it was being fixed, we had a mini beach holiday, but without Mum, because she had to stay and go on working. So next time I get to escape I’m taking Mum! I have a lot of trips planned - Ed Sheeran, Armageddon, Europe - so I’m just counting down to those! We can use the water now, but we still have to boil it to drink it.

Anne says: 
Mine is quite simple... a caravan park, with sandwiches to eat on the trip!

Zaila says:
I'd like to get in a night flight to Thailand and stay at one of the best spas they have, and get massages and seaweed wraps all day. If someone could arrange that it would be great?

Blue says:
I'm not in much of a "leaving the house" kind of mood today. In fact, I'm not in a "leaving my room" kind of mood. Seriously, I realised I needed the bathroom a while ago yet it's been about half an hour and I've only just managed to move myself from lying down to sitting up. The door seems very far away but I'm sure the room is the same size it's always been. So if I could go anywhere, I guess I'd go to the bathroom. I wouldn't take anyone with me though, because that would be a bit weird! I'd like to cuddle with my cats when I come back though. Elsa fell asleep in my arms earlier and it's the best I've felt in the past few days. Everyone needs an Elsa.

Lindy says: 
I can go anywhere, right? Well, my great escape would be to the 1860s or the 1930s!

Arlia says:
I'd go to Hobart to visit my boyfriend!

Sonia says:
Dream destination? Has to be Tanglewood, because I could get to know the Tanberry sisters and their friends and share their lives for real and not just through the pages of a book! Although if that's not possible, a weekend curled up with my CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series will do!

Cathy says:
I'm loving the imaginative answers here, a holiday into the past sounds fab! What is YOUR dream escape? Click to FOLLOW the blog and leave a COMMENT BELOW...