Thursday 30 October 2014


It's Hallowe'en… and I thought I'd share my own ghost story… the one and only time I think I saw a ghost…

Cathy says:
Earlier this year, we were having a meal with friends and talk turned to ghost stories. Our friends told their ghost story, and we told ours… it went like this: 

Long ago, before we had kids, my husband and I went on a camping holiday to the Isle of Iona. We made friends with another couple while cycling across Mull, and when we reached Iona we set up camp with them on an outcrop, a kind of promontory sticking out into the sea. To get to the camping place we had to climb up a hill to reach a flat place just perfect for two tents; beyond us the rocky hill rose higher, dropping away to cliffs. We were surrounded by sea on three sides.

It was approaching dusk when I looked up and saw the figure of a woman standing up on the hill up above our campsite. I almost jumped out of my skin, so shocked I couldn't speak and just shook the others, who soundlessly looked up to see her too. She had long, untidy hair and was wearing a long cloak… I imagined her to be some kind of hippy-dippy type. What none of us could work out was how she had got up onto the hill, because the only path led right through our camp and we had been there for hours. Worse, she looked distressed and upset, looking out to sea; it felt wrong to stare, and slowly, all four of us looked away, whispering our worries that she seemed to be in trouble. We couldn't help but look back, and when we did she had vanished. Terrified and convinced she had fallen, the boys clambered up the rocks to where she had been while the other girl and I ran down to the beach beneath the cliff where we'd last seen her. We were terrified she had thrown herself into the sea. We searched until it was too dark to see, and then we went to sleep, all of us very shaken.

The next day we woke to find our friends had packed up and gone, leaving a note to say how spooked they were. We searched again, expecting to find a body, and when we found nothing we walked into the village, expecting reports of a missing person. We asked about a little, but nobody knew what we were talking about; nobody was missing. At this point, it began to dawn on us that the woman we'd seen could have been a ghost - her cloak certainly lent her an other-worldly air, yet we'd been so sure she was real. We called in at the tiny island bookstore looking for ghost books, but found nothing; later that day we too left the island. No reports were ever made of anyone committing suicide or going missing, and we began to refer to the incident as our 'ghost story'.

So… that was the story we told our friends over dinner. 'Was she a ghost?' they asked. 'Did you ever google her?' We explained that this had been long before google or the internet. 'Of course… but haven't you googled her NOW?' they asked. We had never even thought of it. My daughter fetched her laptop and typed in 'ghost Iona'… and a chill ran through us all. There she was… a woman called Netta who had lived on the island briefly in 1929. She had been involved with the occult and had been distressed and anxious when she vanished from her lodgings. Her body, wrapped in a long cloak, was found on a 'fairy hill', still clutching a dagger as if she had been trying to ward off danger. An inquest said she'd died of natural causes, but many believed she had been harmed by the dark forces she had run to the island to escape from. The details and even the photograph of Netta were so close to what we had seen; our ghost story suddenly seemed very dark and sinister, and our friends even joked that we'd set the whole story up to scare them. We hadn't. We were really shaken by it… all over again.

Do I believe in ghosts? I think there times when history leaves strong traces on the present day, when shadows of the past fall over our present day lives. What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to share your views. And be careful if you ever visit the Isle of Iona...


Reader Blue tells us about her experience of living in a haunted house… a true life Hallowe'en story to make you shiver!

Blue says:
As a child I lived in a haunted house. If you don't believe in ghosts that may sound ridiculous, but hear me out; the house had been built in the 1700s so had been through all sorts of stuff. The back faced the old cemetery and a ruined church, and the front of the house faced another church. We once saw a strangely translucent woman gliding between the hedge and the church - she turned and stared straight at my brother and I, frozen in our bedroom window, then turned and vanished through the wall of the church. Creepy stuff.
As was the shadow in the corner of our old bedroom. So what, corners have shadows, you may be thinking. Not this type of shadow! It was so dark it looked like a black hole, and it made noises… like groaning and wheezing and occasionally mumbling. My brother theorised that it was the spirit of a disabled person, unable to move around like other spirits. There were others too… like the red-eyed demon I saw hovering over my brother as he slept. I'd popped to the bathroom and didn't turn the light on when I got back so all I saw was a huge pair of glowing red eyes which turned and stared at me for what felt like hours but was probably only a few seconds. Then there was a blur of black as they shot to the window and slid through the crack at the top. I tried to dismiss this as my over-active imagination but my brother began to report dreams of a red-eyed demon, even though I'd never told anyone about it!
We also had a poltergeist which made noises and messed with our electronics… like the time the kitchen radio started blaring loudly. We went to tell Mum to turn it down - but she was still in bed. Seconds later, the TV clicked on all by itself… and no, nobody was sitting on the remote, it was on the coffee table. The TV did that a lot, as well as changing volume and channels and switching itself off.

That same day, I saw a top hat and suited shoulders as I walked past the kitchen window and a hand with a suit cuff reached around the living room door. We think that was a friendly ghost, as he appeared behind my sister in the mirror once and though she should have felt terrified she just felt calm and reassured. The poltergeist, by contrast, was not friendly at all. As well as being noisy and fascinated by electronics, it had a penchant for stealing things. My copy of Driftwood, my sister's favourite t-shirt, even a toilet roll holder, towel rail and soap dish still in their box, all vanished into thin air. Smaller stuff went too, and we got scared to put anything down. Once a knife flew across the room at my brother and we think that was the poltergeist, too.
Not all the spirits were meanies. There was a little girl ghost who moved my sister's Barbies around and played with my Sylvanian Families toys. I watched her for a while; she was pale and blonde and tiny, and I'd guess she'd perhaps died of pneumonia or 'flu, but it didn't seem right to ask. The best ghost of all was our cat Mau, who died in a road accident when I was eleven. For years afterwards we'd hear his distinctive 'maaaaaauuu!' and see his tail flick around corners. So you see, haunted houses aren't always spooky and ghosts are not always malicious. We moved away from there a couple of years ago and I do miss those spirits… they were a part of my childhood. Although I do wish that poltergeist would give us our belongings back!

B&W 'ghost' pic posed by model Molly; taken by Emma Tunbridge.

Cathy says:
Eeeeeeeek! Scary stuff! I haven't had as many experiences as Blue, but I did see a ghost once… maybe I'll tell you my story too! Do YOU believe in ghosts? COMMENT BELOW to share your story or comment on Blue's blog post!

Tuesday 28 October 2014


Do YOU believe in ghosts? Four readers discuss ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night in the run-up to Halloween…

Britney says:
I have never seen a ghost myself, but I am open to the idea that they exist. At my grandad's house, where my dad lived for most of his childhood, there was said to have been a plane crash from World War Two… a Lancaster bomber, I think, was involved. Both my gran and grandad have seen the ghost of the man who was killed in the crash, still in his flight gear, standing in the corner of the dining room, next to the window. Dad reckons he has seen him too, and the story always gives me goosebumps!

Laura says:
Today I went to a castle and read all about its legendary 'Green lady', a ghost wearing a green dress and carrying a wailing child… especially creepy as the sightings are always in the old nursery. I was in the nursery and suddenly I heard the rustling of skirts behind me… Turned out my dad was unwrapping a Werther's Original sweet. I do NOT believe in ghosts.

Liah says:
I do believe in ghosts, and in fact I think we live in a haunted house. Ever since we moved in, seven years ago, we've known things weren't right; and my little sister Jenna can see and talk to the spirits. When my little brother was born, Jenna asked who the baby was. Mum explained it was her new brother, and Jenna replied that she didn't mean him, she was asking about the 'glittery one next to him…' When she was six, she saw a boy standing in the corner and thought he was real, too. Our dog-sitter thinks the house is haunted and our old dog used to bark at the ghost. The ghost seems nice… but it is still a ghost, and we've lived alongside it for seven years!

Chloe says:
That's really interesting, Liah. We have always been haunted, too, although I'm not sure the spirits are attached to the house itself. Once ghosts locked my brothers out of the house - there was no logical explanation for it. Mum and Dad both claim they have seen ghosts; Mum saw a ghost-dog that ran right through a wall at night, while Dad saw a ghost in the sawmill where he works. I have never seen anything so far, but I do sense that spirits are around me at times and it doesn't scare me as much as you'd imagine. My cousin is a medium and the whole family are very open to the idea of ghosts and spirits… they make me feel safe and secure in a strange kind of a way!

Laura says:
Liah, I had to think for ages before responding to this because there is undeniably something going on. Could your sister have been exaggerating? Maybe there is just a bad feeling about the house, and your mind is putting things together to imagine why? I don't believe in ghosts, all the same. If ghosts did exist, why don't our late loved ones reach out to us? I have livd in an old house for years, with rattling roofs and creaking floors, the lot. When I was younger I used to imagine ghosts floating about, but it WAS just my imagination. I've lived here all my life, so surely a ghost would have given itself away by now? Memories can linger and you can sometimes get a 'bad' feeling about a place, but no, I don't believe in ghosts.

Chloe says:
Laura, I understand that we have no certain proof that ghosts exist, but we also rely on many other things we cannot see so why not this one? Perhaps nobody can be sure whether ghosts are real or not, but I like to think I am open-minded to the possibility. There are so many amazing and scary things in this world - I am trying to imagine the possibilities, trying to learn more.

Britney says:
Chloe, do you know much about mediums and what your cousin does? I am quite interested in the idea of mediums and have watched a few TV shows about them… I'd like to know more. Like you, I've never had an experience myself, and I am quite a scientific and logical thinker so I am very undecided about the existence of ghosts and spirits. I do find the idea of them fascinating, all the same!

Chloe says:
I do know quite a bit about what my cousin does, Britney. Some people believe that mediums are all liars and cheats, but I know my cousin and he would never lie about something like that. I'm still not sure what I believe myself, but sometimes I think that ghosts live around us, just trapped behind a veil of sorts. There are so many reasons to believe, and I feel I do. What we have to do is get rid of the logical and think outside the box… all things are possible then!

Cathy says:
Oooh… a very interesting debate! Tomorrow we hear from a reader who used to live in a haunted house… yikes! COMMENT BELOW if YOU have strong beliefs either way on the existence of ghosts...

Monday 27 October 2014


Another in our regular problem-page series… reader Mandy asks Chocolate Box Girl Skye Tanberry for advice on a hauntingly difficult question…

Mandy says:
My problem sounds so strange I can't tell anyone about it… they wouldn't understand. I'm asking you because you also fell for a 'ghost boy', or sort of, anyway. I was working on a history project for school about an old sawmill near where I live. It is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a fifteen year old boy who drowned in the mill-race in the 19th century. I found a picture of the boy online, and all I seem to do since then is to think of him. I feel like I know him, and I can't help wishing I had known him; perhaps I could have saved him somehow. He looks so nice and so different from the boys I know. It sounds crazy, but this is a little bit like being haunted… and it is making me so unhappy that my friends have noticed something is wrong. What can I do?

Skye says:
I know you don't want to hear this, but although this feeling may be very real and very intense, it is still a crush. It's a one-way feeling for someone out of reach - you cannot get more out of reach than a boy who died more than a hundred years ago, after all. Yes, he was handsome and yes, he may have been nice, but he was from a different time; it is your imagination which has conjured up a romance, a story around his image. That is what a crush is, really. Put any thoughts of hauntings or ghosts out of your mind… those things won't help, because this is not a supernatural happening but a fantasy. It's time to step back and let go. Throw yourself into school, work, hobbies… anything to take your mind off this. In time, the fascination will fade and you will be free to fall for a real-life boy, someone attainable… and not a boy from long ago who can never be yours. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Hard-hitting advice from Skye… do YOU agree? Is this a ghostly crush or just a fantasy? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!


Baking… it's all the rage just now! But what if you're not quite at 'Bake-Off' standards yet? Fear not… reader Kym has   the answer with her extra-easy muffin ideas. They really are foolproof! (I know, I've tried them…)

Kym says:
I love baking, and most of the time I make things from scratch… but sometimes life is just too short to be measuring and weighing and whisking things up, and at times like that a packet mix is perfect. Don't think of it as cheating - just as taking a short cut! And you can still add some extras to make the muffins special and unique.
So… first select your packet cake mix! Do some shopping around to see what's on offer… and remember that the expensive ones are not always better! As long as you have the basic muffin mix, you're good… you can easily jazz things up from there. Do check whether your mix requires any extras, like an egg/ milk/ extra sugar!

So… what extras can you use to make your muffins extra special?

* add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to make a plain mix chocolatey
* add chocolate chips to make it extra yummy!
* grated chocolate (dark, milk or white) makes a good substitute for chocolate chips
* a spoonful of nutella placed into the middle of the muffin and covered with more sponge mix when placing mixture into paper cases creates awesome muffins…
* instead of chocolate, try adding fruit… blueberries, raspberries or even grated or stewed apple or chopped tinned peaches or apricots.
* instead of adding a spoonful of nutella to the mix as you fill the paper cases, try adding a spoonful of lemon curd for lemon muffins, or a spoonful of jam.

Traditionally, muffins don't have icing, but you can break the rules and add some if you like! The simplest icing is made by mixing a few spoonfuls of icing sugar with a teaspoon of boiling water and a drizzle of lemon, for example, to ice lemon muffins… add more icing sugar or water to get a nice consistency and drizzle on top of cooled muffins. Or cheat a little bit more by buying a tub of buttercream icing from the supermarket!

Cathy says:
Long ago I had a friend called Ellie who always baked chocolate fudge cake whenever it was someone's birthday. It was amazing - I thought she was a baking queen! It was years later before she admitted the cakes had all been made from packet mixes! Do YOU like to bake from scratch or do you feel safer with a packet mix? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Saturday 25 October 2014


The media says that teenagers today are out of control… we asked reader Cat to give us the inside story!

Cat says:
I think the media used to paint a pretty grim view of teenagers, but not so much anymore. I do think people can feel threatened if they see a group of teenagers on the street at night, because of what the media used to say. I think parents and adults in general are trying to do the best for us but of course we want to be independent so we are always going to disagree! They think the worst of us sometimes; yes, we do make mistakes but we also learn from them!

I am a really individual person… some would say strange, but I don't care! I used to worry what people thought but I don't let it get to me anymore; I have the people in my life that I need. Anyone who doesn't approve or agree with who I am can just jog on! Most of the girls I know don't feel pressured to dress a certain way… but we do dress to impress. I'm not talking about impressing boys especially - just other girls! If some girls choose to wear revealing stuff, so what? Why judge? I would be what people call a Goth. I don't feel like the 'real' Cat when I wear 'normal' clothes; my style means a lot to me.

I go into town a couple of times a week with my friends, and sometimes there are Friday discos. My parents do worry that I'll drink or something, but most of the time all we do is dance, cry and fall in love! I don't smoke or drink… I just want to  have fun. All I want in my life right now is to let go of the troubled thoughts of everyday life and be happy; I only feel emotions when I am in my boyfriend's arms, really.

Teen life is very hard. Your body and mind are developing and everyone expects you to be this different person all of a sudden and work hard all the time, and yet you're so mixed up… and you just can't. Sometimes, it's a hug from a friend or a night out having fun that gets you through the difficult times…

Cathy says:
Cat's post is very honest and gives a real insight into teen life. Do YOU feel misunderstood by adults? Or pressured to dress/ act a certain way? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday 24 October 2014


Sometimes, readers travel a long way to come to my book signings… one reader tells her story!

Aaliyah says:
This all started when I was at my dad's house, on his laptop, looking at as usual. I discovered that Cathy does book signings and events and I was over the moon! I told my dad, hoping he could take me to an event in Manchester in the summer. He said he'd think about it but couldn't promise, but I was hoping and hoping. And then the months slipped by and it was summer, and I knew it was too late to go to Manchester.

In August it was my birthday. I went to see Dad for the weekend and we went to Eddie Rockets - I ordered a vanilla milkshake and he handed me two presents, a medium sized one and a tiny one. I opened the medium one first - it was SWEET HONEY, which I had wanted for ages! But when I opened the tiny present, I couldn't believe my eyes - there right in front of me were tickets to see Cathy Cassidy at the Bath Children's Literature Festival!

The day finally came… I stayed at Dad's overnight and on Saturday we set off from Dublin airport. I drew pictures of Honey Tanberry on the flight! Soon, we arrived in Bristol, the smallest airport I have ever been to! We got a bus and arrived at our hostel, which was gorgeous, with ivy growing around the door and big windows!
The next day was the day of Cathy's event. It was a dream come true! We got up and walked around and look a lot of photos. We had breakfast at a small cafe and I ordered a chocolate muffin and toast! We explored some more and then went back to the hostel to pack up our stuff and go into town. We looked at the shops and drank hot chocolate, and after what seemed like a year it was time to go to see Cathy.

We got our seats and settled in and the event began. Cathy talked for forty-five minutes and answered questions, and then she signed books. We were near the back of the queue but it was worth the wait and Dad explained how we had come all the way from Dublin which amazed Cathy! She was such a kind person and she really inspired me. Do you ever get that feeling when you have wanted something forever and finally get it… and you can't help smiling every time you think about it? Well, that's how I feel. Cathy has made me think I could be a successful author myself one day. I will never forget that day!

Cathy says:
Meeting Aaliyah was brilliant - I genuinely do have the coolest readers ever and I was SO impressed at how far she and her dad had travelled to be there! Have YOU ever met someone special or travelled a long way to be at a special event? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!


With Britain in austerity measures and cuts ever on the increase, more and more families are struggling to make ends meet. Food banks are springing up to help out when things go dramatically wrong. Reader Lucy decided to take up a challenge to donate to her local food bank… could YOU do the same?

Lucy says:

I recently took part in something called the Food Bank Challenge and I wanted to share it with you all. I wanted to help the Food Banks and the people who use them because I couldn't imagine not having any breakfast when I wake up in the morning and then not having any lunch or dinner later. How horrible it must be to be hungry… and yet many people are. I think it is important we donate to people who genuinely need it.
All you have to do to help the Food Banks to help people in need is to go along to your local supermarket and pick up some items that they can use. Things to buy include:
tinned foods
toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, nappies etc)
pasta and pasta sauces
tea bags/ instant coffee
instant mashed potato
tinned rice pudding/ fruit
milk (powdered or UHT)
cartons of long life fruit juice
biscuits/snack bars
tinned meat/ fish
tomato puree/ tinned tomatoes
All of these can be bought very cheaply if you look for supermarket value ranges, and small bags/ tins/ portions are better than large as they can be distributed to more people. Choose items that can be stored, so no fresh fruit/veg, bread or frozen food! Once you have your supplies, make a quick video of yourself with the items - I just stood in front of my bags of shopping, explained the challenge and nominated three people to do the same. Nominate people from different cities or even countries to spread the love around the world! The challenge was started on Twitter by someone called Barbara Dempsey… it is such a good cause.
As it's a challenge where you nominate people, I nominate everyone reading this! You don't have to spend a lot of money on it… every little helps. Many supermarkets have Food Bank collection points, so you can hand over your donations very easily.

Cathy says:
I love this challenge! My local supermarket has a collection point for the local Food Bank and I try to buy items to donate each time I shop… to make it routine. I hate that people in the UK need to resort to Food Banks in the 21st century, but they do - and it could happen to any one of us. COMMENT BELOW to share if you will be taking the challenge, or even just adding a few items for the Food Bank to your family's weekly shop!

Wednesday 22 October 2014


Do you love to snuggle up in a onesie on chilly autumn nights? These readers tell us why changing into something fun and fluffy is a part of cold-weather comfort!

Caitlin says:
My onesie was a late Christmas prezzie from my brother. He promised he'd buy me one about three years ago but nothing materialised… so I found this one myself and bought it and he still hasn't coughed up the cash! Brothers, huh? I love it because it's so, so soft and also because it's a reindeer. I believe that a reindeer is for life, not just for Christmas! I wear it to bed in the winter, because I am one of those people who really feel the cold and it's really warm… but some days are just onesie days, and all you want to do is curl up inside and drink hot chocolate and read. Dressed as a reindeer, naturally.

Blue says:
This is my favourite onesie. I don't think I need to tell you why it's so cool. I'm a BEAR! *growls* Tell me that's not cool! When I get home from college I go straight to my room and change into my onesie. It makes me feel warm and secure as well as making me look utterly adorable. I then carry on with my normal routine while wearing the onesie - I watch TV, hoover the flat, catch up on Facebook, feed the kitties - but it's all better, because I'm a bear. Humans doing chores? Boring. Bears doing chores? Delightful!

Hannah says:
This is me in my favourite onesie. Mostly I sleep in it or lounge about the house, but if I was allowed to do everything in it, I definitely would! I have a feeling this onesie came from New Look, but I'm not totally sure. I love the pattern on it - plus, it's just really, really comfy! For me, it's just about relaxing and letting go of the day's stresses, and just being yourself… besides, isn't everybody happy in a onesie? This pic is me just about to go to bed…
Rachel says:
I love my onesie! It's a great excuse to dress up as Eeyore… even when you're fifteen! After school, if things have been incredibly stressful or tough, there is nothing better than cuddling up in your onesie with a cuppa, in front of the TV. I got the onesie for my birthday last year, and I decided to go swimming with my best friend Emily… I rang her up and asked her to bring her onesie (which just happens to be a purple cow) over. When she arrived, I suggested we get dressed in our onesies and guess what? We wore them to the leisure centre, getting a few horrified looks along the way from an elderly couple in the cafe! My excuse is, it was my birthday - and who doesn't need a onesie day sometimes?

Cathy says:
There is nothing as cute and comfy as a onesie once the weather starts to get cold… do YOU have a onesie you love? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!

Tuesday 21 October 2014


Do you have the best brother in the world? Four readers share the ups and downs of brotherly love!

Lauren says:
This is a picture of my brother and me from when we were little. We fight a lot, and by a lot I mean almost every day. He can be as horrible to me and I am probably the same to him at times, but we always stick up for each other when we need to. We can have a laugh and a joke and we do have fun most of the time. I guess most siblings are like that! He's a year younger than me, although he looks older than me these days - he's so tall!

Hazel says:
My younger brother Kieran is the best brother ever! He was born eleven months and fifteen days after me, which makes us 'Irish twins' apparently. Kieran and I have always been close and we get along very well… he is one of my best friends, and as we are home educated we get to see a lot of each other. He's a great brother - kind, funny and very smart. I couldn't imagine the world without him!

Chloe says:
I have two brothers, and both are a lot older than me. We have our fights, but we get along most of the time! When I was little we always used to play together and make up games; later, when I was bullied for a while, they would always try to make me smile… and they still do. We will always be there for each other and if anyone ever tried to hurt one of my brothers… well, let's just say they would regret it!
Autumn says:
Me and my baby brother (he's actually seventeen - two years younger than me - and bigger by seven inches and six stone!) get on really well. He's very intelligent, so I have some form of intelligent conversation, thank god! Plus, he's absolutely hilarious. My life would be very dull without him, and he sticks up for me if someone is being an idiot about me. We're not just siblings, we're bros. It's a sacred bond of brotection.

Cathy says:
Awwww! I have a brother too, and he is the best… even though we live hundreds of miles apart these days, we never fall out. Do YOU have a fab brother? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday 20 October 2014


At my recent Tidelines book festival event, the fab librarians set up lots of fun activities and a wishing 'hive' with honeybee wishes was one of them… readers had to write their wish onto the back of a honeybee made from card, then hide it away in the honeycomb! I asked readers to share their wishes on my Facebook Fanpage and added some of those in too… here are some that caught my eye...

I wish I could grow up to do my dream job…

I wish there would be no more war and violence, and that there was a cheap and easy way to cure deadly diseases like cancer and Ebola… the world would be a much better place if war and disease were under control.

I wish for health and happiness for all our bees!

There are far too many children all over the world who are unhappy, scared, hungry, homeless, in danger. I wish we could unite as a community all across the world to help the children!

I wish to be an extremely successful author and be the 'next' Cathy Cassidy!

I wish that wars could be avoided through negotiation and peace talks. People should not have to die just because politicians and leaders disagree.

I wish we could be a happy family…

I wish people understood more about mental health issues and supported those who suffer… nobody should have to go through it all alone.

I wish that I'll be able to make the right decisions for a happy life!

I wish that those who feel they don't have a voice could be heard. If we listen to each other we might actually be able to make a difference without resorting to violence...

I wish that me and my best friend could be close again the way we used to be.

I wish the mayor of Liverpool would change his mind about closing eleven libraries because he is going to destroy my city and I feel so sad about it.

I wish my granddad would get well…

I wish I could see the future because I worry a lot about what will happen to me and my family and whether we will manage. My dad lost his job and money is short and it makes you scared.

I wish I had a cute labrador puppy!

I wish people would stop being selfish and try to understand those around them because it would make the world a happier and more peaceful place.

I wish for another amazing Cathy Cassidy series after the Chocolate Box Girls is finished!

I wish I could have more wishes!

Cathy says:
Awww, some very bittersweet wishes there! What would YOU wish for? COMMENT BELOW to tell all!


Recently it was Dyspraxia Awareness Week… but how many of us really understand what dyspraxia is? Reader Jess explain what it's like to live with the condition.

Jessica says:
Dyspraxia is an invisible disability. Like dyslexia, it is a specific learning difficulty and like dyslexia, it does not affect your intelligence. Instead, it causes problems with co-ordination, movement and spatial awareness. I'm no longer a teenager, but those years can be particularly difficult for someone with dyspraxia. Getting dressed, brushing hair and brushing teeth are difficult, and school holds many challenges. PE is very hard; in science, doing experiments can be a problem; and in Maths, using compasses, rulers and scissors are often seriously challenging. Busy situations and lots of noise can be distressing, and of course it is difficult to be different from your peers and to struggle with things they find very easy.

There is a book called Caged In Chaos by Victoria Briggs which is aimed at teenagers with dyspraxia. It's a fantastic book which I really recommend to anyone. There is also a great forum called Dyspraxic teens which is very useful and can be a good support. It is always good to find people who understand and accept you. At school I was bullied quite badly - dyspraxia isn't always easy to understand and that's one of the reasons I wanted to write this, so that young people can understand more and be more accepting. I had a hard time at school but now I've left it is much easier… I have friends of all ages now who accept me for who I am.

Teenagers with dyspraxia may seem different as they are struggling with a range of challenges, but give them a chance - they are well worth getting to know. They often feel lonely and isolated, as people don't always understand the frustrations, difficulties and issues they face every day… and trust me, they have just the same feelings as everyone else.

Photo posed by model Hannah

Cathy says:
Jess's post about what dyspraxia is and how it impacts on teenage life is an eye-opener… I think it will help lots of people to understand the condition better. COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday 18 October 2014


Meet twelve year old Jake… and find out how a cool hobby led him to becoming a published author at the age of just ten!

Jake says:
Two years ago I signed my first book deal… and if you think that's strange, it gets weirder still. I have an unusual hobby; not many other people my age are interested in it, and some people think it's odd. And most people who do it are scientists who write in a way that is difficult for children to understand.

You see, I collect bones. I live in Scotland where there is the most amazing countryside and wildlife. When I was six I was out walking with my dad and found a skull; I took it home and worked out that it was from a rabbit. I started to wonder what other mysteries were out there waiting to be discovered in the woods and moors around my village. Soon, I was discovering all sorts of amazing things, not just skulls and bones. I discovered old WWII army bunkers, old deserted water mills, 150 year old pottery hidden in the ground, unexploded bombs from 70 years ago… even an ancient Roman tunnel beneath my village!

Five years ago I started blogging about my finds and my adventures. I made myself a promise that I would blog at least once a week for six months, and pretty soon I was hooked! Other people began reading my blog and sending me bones from around the world. Sometimes they were able to help me with puzzles I had blogged about. And the more I blogged, the better I got at it.

Explaining bones can be difficult, so I used lots of photographs. Skeletons can be complicated, so I explained things simply. Telling my stories in a funny way made more people read my blog posts. Soon, I got quite good at it, and newspaper ran a story about me. And that's how a publisher in London saw my blog and decided it would make a great book for children! It's strange now to walk into a bookshop and see my book, or get stopped in the street because someone recognises me. Sometimes I go to book festivals like the Bath Festival of Children's Literature - which is where I met Cathy Cassidy - and I have to do a presentation about my book and meet my readers!

Blogging has taught me a lot of things… including how to write for myself and write about the things I am passionate about. If you think something is interesting, other people will too. I've learnt that the more you write, the better you get. And I've learnt that amazing things can happen, but it takes a lot of hard work at first. And it's amazing fun as well!

You can check out Jake's book here…

and read his blog here…

Cathy says:
I was thrilled to meet Jake at Bath Kid's Lit Festival… and I was so impressed at how cool, enthusiastic and professional he was! Do YOU have a fascinating or unusual hobby? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday 17 October 2014


Another in our series of inspiring mum and daughter teams… we meet Latifa from Indonesia, whose mother Tri is a diplomat….

Tri says:
I am a diplomat currently working in Portugal. Working here feels the same as working in any other country, it's just that the traditions are different from back home in Indonesia. You don't have to follow the customs and traditions, but you do have to respect them… it's the least you can do. Sometimes the weather affects things and a meeting time has to be changed… in Indonesia the weather is more… friendly! It is not easy to work at such a distance from my family. Kids whose mothers work away do have to be more independent and mature than other children, usually from a young age. They have to learn how to do things themselves and take the initiative if they're feeling ill or if there is a problem. It is a challenge for everyone in the family, but we cope with it and Latifa is managing well.

Latifa says:
My parents are always worried about me and my siblings, concerned about whether we can adapt to the different countries we may find ourselves in and if we are OK with school. When I was younger, I didn't like moving around too much. It felt like I was always being dragged about and having to adapt quickly to new situations, wherever they might take me. I had a lot of mood swings before we moved away from the UK and back to Indonesia. I cried a lot, threw tantrums… it was a very difficult time. Things are better now. My mum is pretty fluent in portuguese and so is my brother, which can be awkward when we have a holiday because they get to act as tour guides!
A lot of people don't know that we are travellers, so they kind of wonder why the younger brother can speak Portuguese and the older sisters can't!
I am living in Indonesia now and Mum is in Portugal, so that can be a challenge, but she will be home at the end of the month and I can't wait. I am very proud of my mum, and my family say I am a lot like her personality wise. I have learned not to be over dependent on her, and also not be afraid to say no when you need to, and those are very useful things I think. My ambition is to be an artist one day, so perhaps in the future I may travel back to London or visit the Czech Republic, somewhere I would love to see. I would do things a little differently from my mum, though - perhaps not move around quite so much, if I had the choice!

Cathy says:
Wow… a fascinating insight into a long-distance mum/daughter relationship which helps us see that having a high-flying parent is not always as easy or idyllic as it may sound! COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts with Latifa or to volunteer yourself for an upcoming mum/daughter feature for DREAMCATCHER!

Wednesday 15 October 2014


Eleven much-loved and well-used Liverpool libraries are about to be closed, and as the council are not listening to protests or petitions, a campaign to bombard Mayor Joe Anderson with love letters to the libraries has been launched. The letters will show him how much the people of Liverpool - and beyond - care. Schools, colleges, teachers, families, businesses, individuals… we can all write letters to Mayor Anderson to ask him to change his mind.
Here is mine…

Dear Mayor Anderson,
I grew up owning no books of my own, apart from the occasional Christmas annual… but I had a library card. I went weekly to my local libraries and they opened up a whole new world for me, of imagination, possibilities, learning, life; libraries changed my life and thanks to them I am now a children's author myself.

For many ordinary people without a privileged background, libraries are education, opportunity and refuge; they are civilisation, inspiration and magic all rolled into one. They also provide support to job-seekers, advice, expertise, access to computers to those who have none. In times of austerity, these things are needed more than ever.

New figures tell us that one in three children in the UK in 2014 do not own a book of their own. Can Liverpool really mean to deny those children a chance to borrow a book, too? Liverpool is being promoted as a 'City of Reading' yet what message can the closure of eleven libraries send to the children you hope to switch on to reading? Please, please think again. Libraries are essential for a healthy community. They are needed by young families, schoolchildren and students; the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled… we all need libraries at different points in our lives. Take them away and people will suffer; communities will suffer too.

Liverpool was a 'City of Culture' long before it earned the title officially. The city's creativity and talent grows from the grassroots up via the kind of education only a library can offer. Mayor Anderson, I understand that you are between a rock and a hard place with cuts imposed from above, but try another route - please, please think again. Closing eleven much-loved and well-used libraries is little short of a massacre.

There has to be another way. Please, Mayor Anderson, don't let yourself be remembered as the man who turned his back on culture and education and closed the libraries; be instead the man who finds a way to save them. These libraries matter; we cannot stay silent and watch them close forever.

Best Wishes
Cathy Cassidy,
Children's author

Picture shows Cathy with eleven year old Liverpool schoolgirl and library protestor Elysce; you can sign Elysce's online petition here.

Cathy says: 
We have support for our campaign from over 500 authors, poets, actors, musicians, academics & creatives of all kinds, including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman and many other big names. Could YOU support us too by writing a 'Love Letter to Liverpool's Libraries'? Send your letter to Mayor Anderson at the Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool L2 3SW or email to:
Don't forget to COMMENT BELOW - and THANK YOU so very much for your support.

Tuesday 14 October 2014


Ace reporter Emma is back with some top tips on beating stress… read on and let go of all those worries!

Emma says:
Stress. As a girl who just got her Junior Cert results, stress is definitely something I can relate to! That feeling of being frustrated, nervous and mentally overwhelmed all at the same time. However, through an acronym - because let's face it, who doesn't love an acronym - I completely believe that together we can manage stress!

S - Sleep: Sleep definitely takes the 'edge' off stress. Sleep relaxes our over-worked muscles and reduces our cortisol levels… and cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress. Pay attention to your dreams, too… dreams give us an insight into what's really going on in our minds, and may show us that there's a deeper meaning to our stress.

T - Time Management: When we are stressed we feel as if we have no time to get our assigned tasks done; we feel as if we have no time even to breathe. It's important to make time for yourself, even if it's something as simple as sitting down for five minutes and becoming aware of your surroundings. As a result of taking a well-earned breather you will feel more able to handle whatever it is you are going through.

R - Release Your Emotions Healthily: An effective way of dealing with your emotions when stressed is just to let go of all the negative emotions inhabiting your brain. A healthy way of doing this is talking to a trustworthy friend - or even belting out the lyrics of your favourite song! My personal favourite way of letting it all out is to go for a run while having a chat with a friend… exercise and sharing chat rolled into one! By letting your baggage go you will feel as if you've been set free/ Releasing the negative emotions allows the positive ones to come in!

E - Eating Right: When you are stressed and on the go it's all too easy to just grab a chocolate bar for a quick energy fix. However, when you're feeling stressed, comfort eating or letting your health go is probably the worst thing you can do. It has been found that choosing healthy alternatives will give you more energy for longer… and makes you feel better in general. It is also much better for your health in the long run!

S - Staying Positive: When you are stressed, it is easy to get absorbed by your misery. Let's face it, when you feel low, everything seems to go wrong and it can feel never-ending. I find the easiest way to stay positive is to keep your friends close and the playlist of your top feelgood songs closer!

S - Say No When Necessary: When you have a lot on your plate there is no point in voluntarily taking on extra assignments and projects. Why add an extra load to your plate when you can't even cope with the first serving? Even if you are amazingly ambitious and think you can handle it, resist the temptation; focus on what you are working on now and take on extra assignments in the future when you have the time and energy to give it the attention it deserves.

Until we deal again…
Emma xx

Pics above posed by model Lillie

Cathy says:
I love Emma's tips for beating stress… the last point is one I will be trying to keep in mind myself! Do YOU have any suggestions to add? COMMENT BELOW to add your suggestions or tell us if Emma's advice has helped YOU!


We asked readers to tell us about their fave Cathy Cassidy book… and why! This is what they said…

Agnia says:
At the Edinburgh Book Festival this year I bought the book SUMMER'S DREAM. It was great to hear Cathy talking about the Chocolate Box Girls series, it made it all come alive. This is the first CC book I have actually owned, as usually my books come from the library… so it is very special to actually own the book! It's about a girl called Summer who is offered the chance of a scholarship at a ballet school… something she has been dreaming about her whole life… but the hard work of preparing for the audition begins to spiral out of control until Summer finds herself in the grip of a terrifying obsession. I really recommend this exciting and addicting book!
Becky says:
I want to start off by saying that I didn't just like this book, I absolutely LOVED it! One of the main reasons I love COCO CARAMEL so much is that I adore horses just as much as Coco does, and so the first time I read it I could imagine myself as Coco. Every bit of description became a real image in head - it was a real page-turner for me. That has been the same with all of your books, especially the Chocolate Box Girls series. Coco is so determined and stubborn at times but she fights for what she loves. These qualities reminded me of how I am a bit… I could really relate to Coco's story. It has such an amazing plot and every time I read it, it never fails to amaze me!

Lauren says:
GINGERSNAPS is a superb book. It was the first Cathy Cassidy book I ever read and it definitely did not disappoint. After the first few pages I was hooked - I couldn't put it down. The book is about Ginger Brown, a once friendless girl who falls in with Shannon, a cool, popular girl; life is looking up… until she meets Sam, a saxophone playing outsider. Suddenly Ginger feels like she's drifting away from Shannon… I think Sam was my favourite character - he's so different, and you can't help loving him. The book really gets you thinking about how you shouldn't change for other people, that you should be unique and true to yourself. It also makes you see that you shouldn't judge others by the way they look, as inside they may be totally different. GINGERSNAPS is an amazing book - I'd recommend it to anyone.

Grace says:
ANGEL CAKE is my favourite Cathy Cassidy book. I discovered the book when my Auntie, who lives in England, sent the book to me. My favourite part in the book is when Anya shows Lily the rat and she screams the whole school cafeteria down… that made me laugh! My other favourite part is where Anya and Frankie see Dan wearing angel wings, because I had no idea what was happening at first! It was brilliant. I have also read Indigo Blue and I am asking for the other CC books for Christmas - I can't wait to read more!

Cathy says:
Which is YOUR fave CC book? COMMENT BELOW to tell us… and don't forget to say why!

Monday 13 October 2014


School really can be cool… if you approach it the right way! We asked readers to share their tips on taking school in your stride…

Zainub says:
Do things with your friends - like homework, revision or projects - to make the work more fun. You can also customise some of your school supplies to make them feel more personal and encourage you to enjoy school and all that goes with it.

Lucy P says:
Be yourself and don't worry about asking others for help - we all have to do that at some point. Don't act or behave differently for anyone, and do your very best to answer questions for teachers so they know you're trying.

Emily says:
If anyone ever tries to make you feel 'uncool' for putting your hand up and doing the best you possibly can, do NOT listen to them. You'll see in the end how much further you've come compared to the ones who didn't want to learn.

Lucy M says:
Be a teacher's pet! There is no shame in being a model pupil or trying your hardest. If people tease you for it, take no notice - work your hardest and behave well and don't listen to anyone who tries to stop you.

Deborah says:
When you know something is wrong, sort it. It doesn't matter who this involves or how far you have to go - as long as you are doing the right thing, it is totally worth it.

Kiera says:
Just do the best you can! Always try your best and put effort into everything, whether it's class work or making friends. Push yourself as far as you can… nothing is impossible. The word itself actually says 'I'm possible', right? Never forget that!

Chloe says:
Do any homework the day it is set if possible - it will still be fresh in your mind. Leaving homework to the night before it's due in is a sure way to hand in something rushed or second-best, or worse still, forget completely and fall behind as a result. I speak from experience… I left everything to the night before when I was doing GCSEs and I paid the price. Now I am doing A levels and I am doing my homeworks the night they are set - far less stressful.

Aimee says:
Try your best at every subject, even those you dislike or find hard. In fact, try harder at them! Don't listen to anyone who says that studying hard is being a teacher's pet or uncool. It's your life and your future!

Sara says: 
Try your best at school but don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. You have to be educated, but it's not a prison so ask for timeouts if you are very stressed. Don't be afraid to be a teacher's pet - you'll be laughing when you get good grades and those who once laughed at you don't. Never be scared to make mistakes, because mistakes teach you more!

Sophia says:
I was always procrastinating when it came to homework, so it was a big rush when it came to handing it in and I really regretted that. My advice is to get your head down and crack on with homework as soon as you get it.

Lyra says:
School doesn't have to be 'the best days of your life' but it shouldn't be something to dread. Ask for help to sort out problems and make time in every day to have fun with friends. Make room for that alongside the hard work - life isn't all hard slog!

Pics modelled by reader Mariam T; thanks Mariam!

Cathy says:
Loving the common sense advice here… there's something for everyone to learn, and it's all very practical because it comes from YOUR experience! COMMENT BELOW if YOU have some advice to add on helping to make school cool!

Sunday 12 October 2014


Some of you may know I am campaigning against the closure of ELEVEN lovely, much-loved and well-used Liverpool libraries at the moment. I'm asking people to write love letters to the Liverpool libraries and send them to the Mayor of Liverpool, and I asked you what YOU think about libraries, too. Here are some of your awesome and inspiring replies…

Hazel says:
I love libraries because there is always something interesting you can find, an amazing book that changes your perspective on something or takes you into another world. Libraries are places of discovery. When you find an author whose books you really like, finding another of his/her books is like finding gold. Maybe even better! I am shocked that Liverpool council is planning to shut down not one, not two, but ELEVEN libraries. It is such a waste. There are so many things that you can learn in libraries. You have so much information in your hands, and Liverpool council is taking that away. Yes we have the internet, but is it really the same? I think everyone deserves to have a library nearby, for fun and for learning. I hope Liverpool can be persuaded to change their minds and keep the libraries.

Autumn says:
The library is my natural habitat. I can't believe that Liverpool council is thinking of shutting down ELEVEN WHOLE LIBRARIES. What about the people of Liverpool? Not everyone can afford to buy books; borrowing may be the only way they can get new reading material. What about people who study there? Where else will they find peace and quiet, computers and printers, textbooks and research? Libraries are a necessity and one that no one should be deprived of.

Laura says:
It's safe to say I virtually grew up in a library! I love everything about a library; the atmosphere, the hundreds of bookshelves with books just waiting to be picked up and thumbed through, the smell of the pages, the little crinkling sound of them being turned. When I was little my grandma would take me to the library every Saturday morning with her biggest wheelie trolley and we'd spend hours picking books to read. If the council closes eleven libraries in Liverpool, how can the younger generations learn how amazing reading is? What world do we live in where the simpler and pleasurable things in life are being taken away from us with no fight back? I fought to keep my local library open and it still closed down, but if enough people fight maybe we can save these libraries? Reading is about listening to another person's voice; you hear their thoughts and feelings through the words. The council in Liverpool should listen to their people's voices, and let them be heard too.

Harley says:
Libraries aren't just about entertainment and education, they're an escape. I mean, bullies won't hit you in a library, will they? What about kids who don't have computers and can only access the learning content online? Or when the teacher says, 'no using the internet for this assignment.' What do we do then? These closures will have serious social, academic and economic repercussions for so many people. Libraries have been a huge part of my adolescence… for fun, for education and so many other reasons. I'd hate for that to be taken away from so many people. There is also the argument that closing libraries goes against our human right to education and our right to access information… rights that are meant to be guaranteed, and, most importantly, for everyone.

Elysce says:
I was deeply upset when I heard about the libraries closing and what was worse, my local library is one of the ones that is threatened. I decided that something needed to be done, and that is why I started a petition… in the hope that my favourite place will not be taken away. I have been to some of the protests and spoke at one of them, and even done an interview for Radio City. I really hope we can stop the libraries from closing because so many people care. You can sign my petition here… please do!

Marisa says:
I love my local library. I go with my sister, who is in Year Nine, and we feel at home there because it's warm and there is always something to do. We're in a reading group too. We often go after school because Mum doesn't finish work until after six, so it is quiet place to do homework. I have had books from the library that have literally changed my life, and made me see that there is a big world out there. I have ambitions and dreams that I would never have had except for the library. I am upset for Liverpool that eleven libraries will be closed. What about the people who need those libraries? Don't they matter? I thought the council was supposed to look after the people, not punish them. I hope the libraries will be rescued, because in my opinion it is the children who will suffer.

Cathy says:
Do YOU love libraries? COMMENT BELOW to tell me, or post a selfie with your message of love for the threatened Liverpool libraries over on my Facebook fanpage… 


Reader Emily, aged ten, explains how a Cathy Cassidy book inspired her to raise money for a refugee charity... Emily says: The Cathy Cassidy...