Saturday, 4 July 2020

SCARLETT & MIRIAM: THE LITTLE LOCAL BOOK HUB!

Readers Scarlett and Miriam are part of a cool lockdown project to help get books to those who need them... find out how their project has snowballed!
Scarlett, age 10, says:
Miriam and I are in the same class at school and we are both avid readers - I especially love Cathy Cassidy books and am in the middle of LOOKING GLASS GIRL! My mum also loves to read, and we have lots of books at home. The libraries were shut due to Covid-19 so my mum decided to put a box of books outside our house for people to choose and take. We asked people to donate any books they didn't want, and we got tons of donations. Miriam's mum did a box too and to begin with it was just a fun thing to do for the community. It gave us something to do. But then it got way bigger and we decided to call it The Little Local Book Hub and my mum made a logo, as her job is a graphic designer. Mum set up a Facebook page www.facebook.com/littlebookhub and the  idea just grew and grew and people in other areas joined in. We have over 24 hubs now! 

Miriam says:
The Little Local Book Hub expanded on it's own really, as people started hubs on their driveways. We gave them logos and now it's almost like a chain. Everyone is on social media so a lot of people could see our idea and like it and because of this we started a twitter, instagram and YouTube too. We set up a YouTube channel that has videos of different people reading picture books for their little kids to see! The YouTube basically started because we wanted to advertise the Little Local Book Hub, and for little kids to watch as they didn't have school. All the books we read have been donated from people.

Scarlett says:
When lockdown is over we might do something like a weekend  special of free books to keep as we now have so many books, and we will also give some to charities. We have  enjoyed meeting new people from around our areas as they have visited the hubs. We have had so many great conversations with people we might have never come across if we hadn't started these hubs. The worst bit is probably when we have just organised the books and then people come and take a book and then realise they don't want that book anymore and put it back anywhere!

Miriam says:
Being involved with the Little Local Book Hub is a great way to meet new people and although it can be hard sometimes, we still have a lot of fun.  It helps gets books to people in the community who want to read and it gives us something to do while we are not at school!


Cathy says:
I absolutely love Scarlett and Miriam's project... I've also had a box of giveaway books at my gate too on sunny lockdown days! I'll be doing a comp with The Little Local Book Hub soon, with a signed book as the prize. Have YOU found a project that's kept you busy during lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 2 July 2020

ANUSHA - A NEW INSIGHT

Anusha, age eleven, lives in India... and writes about the hidden blessing lockdown can bring...
Anusha says:
Businesses have shut down, people are stuck in other countries, schools have closed, people’s salaries are being cut and people are losing their jobs. Who would have thought this could have ever happened? Did you ever even think of facing a pandemic? I did not. Being at home during my summer vacation, instead of riding a camel in the hot deserts... well, it seems I am now the camel on which my younger sister rides at home.

At first, I complained a lot about being at home, but then I realised. I am lucky I am at home; millions of people are stranded in places away from their home and they are struggling to get back. After this insight, I decided I would  make the best of it. So, during my vacation, I spent time with my family, learnt a new language (French!) and spent time on my hobbies - writing, sketching and of course, reading Cathy Cassidy books. 
I had fun baking with my mom and sister, too! I am grateful that me and my family and friends are all safe and healthy and at home. Now my school has re-opened online so I can continue with my school work. I can also catch up with my friends - we video call during the weekends and play games online. I also attend online art classes and I really enjoy them. 
During the summer, I started a hobby workshop to raise funds for charity. It did not work out so well, but at least I learnt how hard it was to teach! Now I am more grateful to teachers and understand their efforts. I have also started writing a novel. Lockdown has given us so much time to do new things and spend time on our hobbies. We just have to use it well. Could this be a blessing in disguise?

Photos with thanks to Pexels, drawing by Anusha.
Cathy says:
Wow, I love Anusha's energy and determination to make the best of lockdown - there's something we can all learn from this! What new hobby or pastime have YOU taken up during lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 27 June 2020

REBECCA - MY LIFE IN LOCKDOWN

Reader Rebecca shares her experience of lockdown as the child of a doctor working on a Covid-19 ward...

Rebecca says:
I'm nine years old and I live in a small village by the sea in Devon. I live with my mum, dad, six year-old sister and four year-old brother, and I love dancing, reading and hanging out with my friends. When the lockdown was announced, I felt sad and a bit confused because I didn't understand what was happening. My mum, brother, sister and I went to stay at my grandparents house because my dad was a doctor on a Covid-19 ward and my parents felt it was safer.

I missed my dad and my friends very much, but some parts of lockdown were good. We played in the garden and helped with planting seeds (we don't have a garden at home) and went for long walks in the countryside. I did the Joe Wicks workout with my mum every morning. I read lots of books and Mum helped me with my schoolwork.

After eight weeks away from my dad, my mum got a new job as a Covid-19 tracker, so we came back home and started school as we were children of key workers. It was great to see some of my friends, but school was very different to how it had been before the pandemic. We do the same work that is sent out to the other kids in our year, but we play outside a lot more and it's easier than being at home all day. I don't get to exercise with my mum anymore though! Now things have changed again as the lockdown is eased and more kids are returning to school.

Reading has helped me a lot though the lockdown - if I am bored or sad or missing my friends, I can read. I got the idea for the Cathy Cassidy Scrabble board picture when I was playing Scrabble with my mum and she played the words 'Finch' and 'Honey' without realising they were characters in a book! Summer is my favourite Cathy Cassidy character because she loves to dance like me. I hope that after lockdown I'll be able to have lessons like her, and I look forward to seeing all my friends again!

Cathy says:
I absolutely love Rebecca's artwork, and I'm so proud of her courage during the lockdown... it is not easy to be separated from  family. What have YOUR greatest challenges been during the lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 25 June 2020

EMMA: CARELESS WHISPERS

Student Emma is working in a shop during lockdown... and writing amazing poetry in her spare time! 

Emma says:
I used to wonder why we have scars.
The body was developed as an instrument of defence
If we cut our hair, it grows back
If we scratch our knee it heals and fades into the background
It raises the question...
Why do some battles mark us differently than others?
What is their purpose? It was then I realised
The scar wasn't the trauma,
But the healing that comes after.
When we see the unruly stain of permanent marker
That is merely the warning shot of what is to come.
A shot led by the unfaithful hand of insecurity
Offering a false sense of security and relief.
Just one shot and it'll be OK they tell you
Have you ever noticed that when you try to rise from their ashes
The unfaithful hand that whispered biblical tales into your ear
Is nowhere to be found. They do not want you to know
How powerful you can be without them
Seducing you to feel as hollow as the marks you bear
In the hope that you'll come back ravenous for their rotting fruit
And take solace in their sinister spell.
However, these whispers always forget that while they
Have borrowed the spell book, you own the wand.
Without that their spells are useless,
They need an instrument in order to live
But you... you are far greater.
You have lived through a million days of Adam
Survived the touch of poison ivy.
You open your eyes and at last you can see.
The explosives are in your hands but
They cannot hurt you unless you ignite them
They may light an enigmatic fire, but you
Are the dynamite of your own life.
You can rewrite these biblical tales in the water you tread
Leaving the smooth sand unscathed and warm
You may even find solace in the marks upon your skin
They act as a starting point... of where your story really begins.

Image - Pexels

Cathy says:
Wow, this gave me shivers... and got me thinking, too. Has lockdown got YOU writing? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

SAFEEYA - FOLLOWING THE DREAM

Thirteen year old Safeeya from India writes about her experience of lockdown and explains how poetry helps her to express her feelings...


Safeeya says:
At first, I thought lock-down was going to be fun (no school, hurrah!) but I'm missing my friends a LOT although I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way. This can be a time where you can learn new languages, pick up new hobbies, try your hand at writing poetry/stories or even learn some new skills like amigurami - the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small, stuffed yarn creatures. You can learn those skills you always wanted to, because during this lock-down we'll all have a lot of time on our hands. Why not make the best of it?

For me, writing poetry and stories help a lot. It's a way I can express my feelings through pen and paper, and the thought seems magical. Those words contain power, and bucketfuls of emotion. Writing a journal, diary or even your own story might help a lot too, because it lets you channel your happiness, fear, anger or sadness into something worthwhile, a piece of work that could change the world, rather than channeling it into a big tantrum. I've always wanted to be a writer, someone who could write something that brings out emotions from the readers, someone who could write something that could change the opinions of even the most headstrong of people. Each moment I spend writing, it feels I am closer to following my dream of becoming a writer.

I always start with a strong, special thought, experience or emotion and let my mind wander around it. Try to express how you feel, or which thought comes to your mind, when you think about the topic, and the feelings will become more specific as you work with the poem. Writing down a couple of words that are related to the poem also helps. Those words could rhyme, but remember, they don't have to. Keep repeating these steps and voila, you'll have your poem! Remember that getting the hang of this takes a bit of time, so don't hold your breath waiting for poetry to flow out of your head! Not to sound like your schoolteachers, but practice makes perfect! Here is one of my poems... I hope you like it!

Destiny:
This is who you are
The real you is never too far
This is who you're meant to be
This is you - your destiny

You might think you're beautiful - or ugly
But beauty is only skin-deep
Yourself is all you need to be
Because it's your destiny

Just hang on to your personality
That's what makes you so unique
Open your eyes, and you'll see
The whole world differently

Flap your wings, get off the ground
Soar up high into the clouds
Get out of that cage, be free
Fly on - to your destiny

Image - Pexels, posed by model

Cathy says:
This is lovely... it's comforting to hear that lockdown is just as challenging in India, and inspiring to hear how Safeeya is using the time to be creative! Have YOU tried something new during lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 31 May 2020

ANOUSHKA - SOLACE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

Fourteen year old Anoushka is a schoolgirl from India, currently in lockdown, reflects on how art and culture can get us through this difficult time...

Anoushka says:
The days seem to blur into one, distinguishable only by the sheer number of hours that we spend wondering whether the world as we know it will ever be the same again. As each day in isolation passes, we try to reflect on ourselves, become better people even. The role of art in this process is vital.

Whether it’s a TikTok meme or a heartwarming video of Italians singing from their balconies, there’s no denying that art is everywhere. Especially now, where we look to art for comfort like an old friend, weathered down by the tediousness of life in isolation. We pick up new hobbies, like baking or starting a book club, things that we’d never do on normal days. We find ourselves coming back to timeless movies and shows that never get old.

I recently saw a video of a pianist and a saxophone player performing a duet of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from their balconies.... no matter how tough the situation is art can unite us all. Some neighbourhoods put rainbows in their windows so that kids on walks alone with their parents, know that this is a safe place and the situation isn’t going to last forever. The simplest of things can have  a long-lasting impact on us. A new grandfather seeing his grandson for the first time through a window. A little girl, finished with her chemotherapy getting surprised by all her friends and family in a wonderful, socially distant parade from their respective cars as she drives by.

These times have forced us to be creative. Time spent finishing passion projects, working on an aspect of ourselves that we never knew existed, even learning more about our family. I find myself  gravitating towards content that makes the situation lighter, urges us to make the best of what we have. The infamously terrible celebrity-infused cover of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ started by Gal Gadot was widely criticized as being privileged and out of touch with the severity of the current worldwide reality. But a YouTuber and musician, who happened to have a jazz degree, took that video and made it into something truly admirable. He arranged the song as the celebrities had sung it (albeit with 75 different key changes) and made a piece of art from something barely salvageable. A drummer created a song from a particularly impassioned speech by an Indian news anchor.

Art lends itself to a sense of authenticity within us. With late-night talk shows halting filming due to coronavirus restrictions, many are going online with special at-home editions. There’s something so genuine about these talk-show hosts when they’re not surrounded by a flood of cameras, lights and an ever-responsive audience. They’re at home, where they also have to deal with their children interrupting them constantly and are free to be their best, unfiltered selves. Here, they’re at their most vulnerable and most relatable. A heartfelt cover of ‘You Will Be Found’ from the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen by the original and current casts of the show on the Late Late Show felt deeply personal. It resonated with many, as we all seek to be found, maybe sometime, days, weeks or even years from now, but, for now the best thing for us to do is to be ourselves, with art to guide us through these dark times. And till then, art is what we can depend on.

Photo thanks to Pexels.

Cathy says:
I agree with Anouska that art and culture can get us through the tough times... not just by keeping us busy but also by offering an outlet for anxiety and difficult emotions. Has art helped YOU to cope with lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

ELLA - A BORING DYSTOPIAN NOVEL

Fourteen year old British schoolgirl Ella has written a powerful, clever poem about her feelings on the theme of lockdown... just wow!

Ella says:
In the last few months, we have become characters in a boring dystopian novel.
Everyone thought that 2020 was going to be the year,
Because, I guess, it had a nice ring to it.
But now all our planners have been thrown into the abyss and we have become trapped.

2 metres

The roads lay empty
Vacant, mute, still
The feeling of guilt enveloping you if you think that you are driving
Somewhere that isn’t important enough.

2 metres

A year ago we wouldn’t have even thought about how lucky we are
To be able to hug people, go to school everyday
And walk into a shop without having to queue or wear gloves
That are becoming sticky in the summer heat
Words like lockdown and pandemic had never been used so frequently.

2 metres

Beaches lay empty
Untouched and unoccupied by man
Now they are full of turtles, protecting their eggs.
CO2 levels are so low, they can see the Himalayas

2 metres

At the start, everyone was hoping for time off of school and children
Were being sent home even if they coughed.
People were making Coronavirus memes
But nobody's laughing now.

2 metres

If we let the light in, we can see the rainbow.
If we stay happy, there is hope.
Even though we will mourn for those who have passed because of this,
This crisis will make us stronger.
And we will get through it.

Cathy says:
I love this... Ella first wrote a series of haiku poems and then built this piece around them, and I think it's very powerful indeed. Do YOU ever feel like you are living in a sci-fi novel? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Monday, 25 May 2020

AMANDA - STUCK INSIDE? NOW WHAT?

Great advice on how to pass the time in lockdown without going stir crazy from Amanda, isolating in France...

Amanda says:
This virus seems to have temporarily taken over our lives, and like many countries, France has asked people to stay home as much as possible. Many events and activities are no longer allowed until the situation returns to normal. Thankfully, we're allowed to take a walk once a day (unless you're walking the dog, then it's more often). I take my walk once a week at sunrise when there are not many people up and about. It's safest for me to go out at sunrise, because I have a chronic illness and should avoid other people for now. We have to fill out a form each time we go out. We have to stay within a mile from our house and be back within the hour if we go for a walk. When I see the sun chase the night away, it reminds me that life goes on. No matter what. These crazy times will end someday. To help you through, here are some activities that work for me.

Most of the time, I stay inside. Since I have no garden or balcony, I often sit by the window. I read A LOT. My books take me to a different world. Isn't it wonderful that you can travel while comfortably curled up somewhere with a (hot) drink and a snack within reach? Add a Cathy Cassidy book and you're all set for adventure. Reading is relaxing. You could also try audiobooks if you fancy doing something else while listening to your favourite books. If you're done reading, don't panic. I have plenty up my sleeve for you!

Try writing. I do this every day. I've been keeping a journal for a long time now. The situation we're all in can be quite overwhelming sometimes. No matter how I feel, paper and pen bring me comfort. Paper is like a silent witness. It's with you. When you put pen to paper, it'll never betray any secrets you write about. It won't judge you. Instead, it soaks up your feelings and allows you to let go of them. Maybe a journal isn't your cup of tea. You could always try writing stories or poems. My inspiration for my own stories or poems comes from small things: a nice quote, an animal I see when I look out the window, people I meet, or something that happened... Go on, you try it! Let those creative juices flow!

The next thing I think of are arts and crafts. Creating something to decorate your room with or something you can use, drawing, colouring, painting... The list of possibilities is endless. This situation sparked my own creativity. Suddenly it went beyond words. I started painting. You could try making a jewellery box using some material you can find around the house. If you have a copy of Cathy's CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS,  you'll find plenty of creative ideas for you to try out.

The next activity is watching your favourite series and films or listening to your favourite music. Maybe you play an instrument and you can make your own music. Songs have always meant a lot to me. Music makes me happy. Sing and dance. Stay as active as you can.

I live alone, but try this if you're with your family: see if they can help you get creative in the kitchen. Bake your own muffins, cookies... Or how about a pizza with your favourite toppings? When you're done, why not play some board games to make that quality time last just that little bit longer?

Lastly, use social media to stay in touch with friends and family who don't live with you. See if you can watch the same series or film together and discuss it. Or maybe you want to read the same book and discuss it together, like a virtual book club. Make sure your parents allow you to use social media before you try this idea! As you can see, there are plenty of activities to explore when you're stuck inside. I'll leave it up to you to find out what works best for you. Good luck. You'll get through this strange time!

Image - Pexels

Cathy says:
I love these thoughtful suggestions from Amanda... reading and writing are definitely helping me, but my attempts at baking were a bit of a flop alas! What would YOU add to Amanda's advice? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 21 May 2020

BLAITHIN - AN IRISH GIRL IN LOCKDOWN

Irish schoolgirl Bláithín shares her experience of the ups and downs of lockdown - and explains how music is helping her to cope.

Bláithín says:
I am twelve years old and I am in my first year of secondary school, and I live in Northern Ireland in a place called Mullaghbawn in County Armagh. Mullaghbawn is a small village surrounded by hills and mountains, and the nearest town is called Newry, about ten miles from our house. When lockdown was first announced I felt scared, but I thought it was only going to be for a short time so I was excited to get two weeks off school. However, we soon found out it was going to last much longer than I anticipated and then I started to feel a bit frustrated about being home all the time and not being able to see my friends. I would give anything now to get back into school.

During the lockdown, I enjoy going on walks up our local mountain, Slieve Gullion. The forest park beside the mountain is now closed to the public, but me and my family know the secret paths up to the mountain,  so we can go there for our daily exercise. I also play Gaelic Football with my older brothers every day which is a good way to keep fit. I also practice music every day - I play the button accordion and the bodhrán (the Irish drum). Since lockdown I have been doing online lessons on the harp which is great fun. Playing music is an excuse for me tp get away from the day to day worries that lockdown brings. I worry about my nanny who lives three and a half hours away from us, and I worry about people losing their lives to the virus and the sadness this brings on their families. Music helps me to feel happy again because most of the music I play is lively music.

Whilst I have lots of time to enjoy these things, I have mountains of school work from Monday to Friday. One of my school projects was on 'amazing authors' and I chose to write about Cathy Cassidy as I love her books. We got in touch with Cathy via her Facebook reader page and she very kindly sent us a letter, bookmarks and newsletters. It made my project so much more exciting! My advice to other readers is to keep washing your hands (obviously!) and try and find something to do to keep yourself occupied. And don't get too stressed about schoolwork!

Cathy says:
I love how Bláithín is managing to stay healthy with country walks and Gaelic Football, and keeping her spirits high with music practice. What has helped YOU to handle the pressures of lockdown better? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 15 May 2020

AMANDA - QUARANTINE IN FRANCE!

Amanda has been in lockdown in France, where quarantine rules are just starting to be relaxed. She tells us what lockdown has been like, French-style, and shares her thoughts on coping...

Amanda says:
This virus has turned our lives upside down. The government wants us to stay at home as much as possible to protect ourselves and others and to stop the virus from spreading. Whenever we do go outside, we must fill out a form that shows the reason why we're outside. Authorities can fine us if we fail to show them the form when they ask for it.

There are other rules we're supposed to follow:
- wash your hands often, and always with soap
- wear a facemask or something similar when we go out
- avoid going outside unless you really have to
- work or follow classes from home whenever possible
- keep a distance of 6 feet from each other (social distancing)
- stay within about a mile from your home if you go out for a walk

These rules mean that many daily activities are not possible until the situation returns to normal. We can't go to our friend's house to have tea with them. We can't go to the park or go shopping, many shops are closed. When we go to the supermarket, there's a queue and security guards let us in in small groups. Team sports are not allowed. I work from home and we have regular video team meetings. Via social media and the phone, I chat a lot with friends and family. There's one friend I can see when she's in her garden and I sit by the window, so we talk like that.

Maybe you're feeling angry, scared, sad, or unsure about what's happening where you live. You know what? That's perfectly normal. We all feel that way sometimes, especially when we're in unfamiliar places or difficult situations. No one knows when this is going to end, but someday it will. Trust me. I've always been a very positive person. When I'm going through a difficult time, I try to find at least one positive thought. This quarantine is a big opportunity to learn and to grow. I ask myself what really matters to me, how lucky I've been to have what I have. I appreciate nature even more than I already did. Even though these times may make you feel uneasy, I'm sure they'll make you an even stronger human being than you already are.

Now that the weather's getting better, it's harder for people to stick to the rules. It's important that we do. The more we stick to the rules, the sooner this will be over. I've noticed a change in people's attitudes - many have become more considerate and compassionate. They appreciate more what they had. We're in this together and we'll climb out of this together, that's a promise! In the meantime, try to keep yourself busy, stay home and stay positive. You got this! Why not grab the opportunity to read your favourite Cathy Cassidy books again (and again)?

With love from France!

Cathy says:
Amanda's words are calm, positive and reassuring - and give a fascinating insight to lockdown in France, too! Have YOU found any positives to the lockdown? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

HANNAH: WHAT TO WATCH IN LOCKDOWN!

Reader Hannah has done a round up of her favourite feelgood movies and TV to help keep you entertained through lockdown!

Hannah says:
Life in lockdown is very strange and it's easy to find yourself falling into boredom. If you are anything like me, boredom leads to over-thinking and then to anxiety... so best to avoid it! I try to fill my day with lots of different things, but when you really need to escape from reality there is nothing like a good movie or TV series. Here are some to try!

- MALORY TOWERS: Follow Darrel's progress at boarding school... the full series is now available on BBC iPlayer. I am hooked!

PRETTY IN PINK: 1980s movie, certificate 15, from £2.49 to rent on Amazon Prime. This is my favourite teen movie and also my Mum's favourite teen movie! I love it!

- THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER: movie, certificate 12, available free on Amazon Prime. Starring Emma Watson, a brilliant growing up teen movie.

- BLINDED BY THE LIGHT: movie, certificate 12, available free on Amazon prime. A teen boy finds his style and his confidence through music and friendship. Really fun and feelgood.

- BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: series free on Amazon Prime. Teen vampire series from the 1990s, totally addictive and fun with loads of action.

- THE SECRET GARDEN: movie, certificate 7+, available free on Amazon Prime. A new version of one of my favourite books, .

ANNE WITH AN E: three series which follow the story of Anne of Green Gables, available free on Netflix. Perfect escapism.

- MOONRISE KINGDOM: movie, certificate 12, available to rent on Amazon Prime from £3.49. A weird and wonderful film about two misfit twelve year olds who run away... funny and different.

- SCHOOL OF ROCK: movie, certificate PG, free on Netflix. An oldie but a goodie... Jack Black stars as a guitarist kicked out of his band who accidentally finds himself teaching high school... full of laugh out loud moments and quite inspirational as well.

Cathy says:
Loving these suggestions, some of my faves here! We all need some quality downtime, even in lockdown - but what would YOU add to the list? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

SCARLETT & MIRIAM: THE LITTLE LOCAL BOOK HUB!

Readers Scarlett and Miriam are part of a cool lockdown project to help get books to those who need them... find out how their project has ...