Friday 31 July 2015


Reader Zaila explains how a physical disability triggered her determination to follow her writing dreams…

Zaila says:
I am thirteen years old and I was born with dislocated hips. I didn't have any hip sockets, and so even after many operations in my life so far, I still suffer pain every day. I cannot run, I can't walk long distances and I have never been allowed to do activities like ballet or horse riding. The thing is, I just live with the problem. I suppose it's not that bad, really. I am used to it. I might be limited in my options, but there is one special talent found from those limitations… writing.

I am writing my own book, and I even have a publisher who would like to see the finished manuscript. For me, writing is a good feeling - an escape. I honestly think that my hip problem inspires me to write more… perhaps it is my way of coping. I love to write. I get lost in my worlds, my new fantasy worlds where my characters are my family and my words are my speech. Recently I went along to a Cathy Cassidy book signing and arranged to meet Cathy for a coffee beforehand, as standing in the queue would have been difficult for me. It was great to meet Cathy and discuss writing issues and ideas - and get my books signed, too, of course!

So for all those girls out there struggling with disability of some sort, you are amazing. You too will have a special talent, you just have to find it. For all the budding authors, keep going. It may seem hard, but don't write something unless your heart is in it. It's also OK to slow down sometimes, as long as you don't stop. I know from personal experience that finding a good publisher can be hard. I found my perfect match, but only you know what and who will work for you. If I can do it, anyone can! I really hope that you will be inspired by my story - look out for me in the bookshops!

Cathy says:
It was lovely to meet such a determined and inspiring young author… Zaila is not the kind of girl to let physical failings get in her way! Does writing help YOU to handle your life? COMMENT BELOW to tell us how!

Thursday 30 July 2015


Readers reflect on how it feels to be leaving school… and how to handle the challenges ahead! Lots of great advice here…

Saffron says:
I left primary school last year. For our leaver's trip we went on a Harry Potter Studio Tour and on the day of the leaver's disco we had a water fight! On the last day, we looked at old pictures and signed t-shirts… awww. Secondary is OK - it may seem big and scary at first but you soon get used to it!

Chloe says:
I left primary last year too. We had a huge leaver's party a few days before the end of term; all the girls went in a party bus and the boys arrived in a limo! On the last day we signed each other's shirts and had our very last assembly… we were given mugs with our portraits on and a scroll with everyone's names on too. It was bittersweet for me as I hadn't enjoyed the last few years of primary, but I knew I'd miss the teachers. I was petrified on my first day of secondary but looking back I don't know why. Secondary school is great - enjoy it!

Grace says:
I will be leaving primary in a few days and it is all about mixed emotions. We have Year R buddies, and we've helped to settle them into primary school… and we have to say goodbye, knowing we may never see them again. And they don't even know it. That can just break your heart in two. You also have lots of questions about secondary. What will the teachers be like? Will you get lost? Will someone help you if you do mess up? Will you make friends? What clubs will you be in? It's end of something, but the start of something too.

Khadijah says:
Leaving primary was the worst… leaving our friends and the teacher's who had watched us grow up. The last few days everyone was signing t-shirts and crying their eyes out. We had a parents' tea party where they came to watch us say our goodbyes… then there was a whole school assembly which made everyone cry. We sang the leaver's song and the Head read out a poem she'd written herself, then we looked at pictures of the last year and that was that… the end of primary.

Rhuadhan says:
I lived in the islands when I was younger but we moved to the mainland when I started secondary. I definitely miss primary school. It was fun going to school next to the sea…

Angel says:
We had a leaver's trip to Drayton Manor and a Hollywood themed prom! On the last day everyone was calm and nobody was crying… then the bell went and everyone started to cry, including me!

Zuzanna says:
As I write this, I am a few days from leaving primary. I've had my induction days for secondary and I am excited and nervous at the same time… it's strange to be leaving the school I've known for years. All this time I've wanted this to happen, but now I'm not so sure!

Kiera says:
I am leaving in a few days too… I'm anxious and upset to leave my friends and also the teacher who has helped me develop my writing skills and pulled me through the bad times. I feel like thetime has gone too quickly, that I am not yet ready to branch off. The Green day song Wake Me Up When September Ends keeps running through my head. 'Seven years has gone so fast… wake me up when September ends…' Those lyrics sink into me at the moment. There is one thing I am excited for… meeting new people. I want to make new friends and meet new people and high school is the perfect opportunity for that.

Molly says:
It can be the best thing ever to have a friend to rely on, but always let her know she can rely on YOU too, as she may need a helping hand sometimes. If you are moving schools, as I am in September, remember to keep seeing your friend and stay in touch with texts too. My friend (Lily) is fabulous and I will miss her lots, but this won't keep us apart. I'll also miss Chloe, Keira, Lucy, Poppy and Leah…

Cathy says:
I remember that mixture of worry and thrill when leaving primary school… but if you are moving on from primary this year, trust me, you are ready for the new challenge! How do/did YOU feel about leaving primary? Any tips for handling secondary school? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday 29 July 2015


Reader Linzi has a problem… a boy problem. Honey Tanberry seems like the perfect sister to answer…

Linzi says:
Recently I was reading Cathy's book GINGERSNAPS and it made me cry. I feel awkward writing this, but it's because that book hit home for me. There's a guy, like Sam in the book, who has a musical soul, a smile worth more than money and a beat in every stride. I like him - a lot - but he's rich and popular and never notices me. Sometimes, he acts like he hates me. He has a perfect family while I am struggling with mine and giving up hope. I need someone to give me the confidence I need and I know I'll never get there by kicking myself in the heart. What do I do?

Honey says:
First of all, you need to stop acting like this boy is somehow better than you. He's not - he's just a boy, and so what if he's rich and popular? So what if he has the 'perfect' family? Those things don't make him better, nicer, cooler. They're just background details. What matters is what HE is like… is he cute, kind, funny, sweet? It's time you got to know him and found out. If you like him, talk to him, get to know him - make him notice you. (A little flirting usually works for this, but it may not be your style!)

Crushing on someone is fine, but if you want to take it further you need to put the work in and build a friendship… if he feels the same way, things should take off from there. If you'd rather keep it as a crush, that's fine too… sometime it's just as cool. What isn't a good idea is to list down all the reasons why this boy would never like you, which is what you're doing. Ditch the negative attitude, work on your self esteem and set yourself the task of getting to know this boy as a friend. It may lead to something more, but even if it doesn't you should gain a new friend out of it.

As for the struggles with family, tell me about it. If I could go back and do it all over again, I'd talk to someone - a teacher or a counsellor - and try to build a more positive relationship. It's too late for me - I messed things up and there was a lot of hurt on all sides. It's not too late for you… reach out to your family and find some ways to compromise if you can. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Strong words from Honey! Do you agree with her advice, or would YOU suggest a different approach? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday 28 July 2015


Want to have a bonfire party just like the ones you've read about in the Chocolate Box Girls series? Cathy's new book, CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS, tells you how… and there are ideas and tips for a whole lot more adventures, too!

* Choose a site for your bonfire well away from the house and from any trees, sheds, fences or overhead wires. Warn neighbours beforehand… or better still, invite them!

* Fire can be dangerous, so ask an adult to take charge of lighting and looking after the bonfire.

* Check a pre-built bonfire before it is lit in case hedgehogs or small animals are taking shelter there.

*String fairy lights through trees and along fences to decorate, and dot solar powered lights along pathways. Tie up some ultra violet or glow-in-the-dark balloons in the trees nearby.

* Ask friends or family to bring guitars, penny whistles, flutes, djembe drums, mouth organs etc to play - and if nobody plays an instrument, have a singalong instead.

* Bring glo-sticks and sparklers for after dark fun!

* Serve soup in paper cups, baked potatoes, hot drinks or smoothies, depending on the season.

* Use a sharpened stick to toast marshmallows over the bonfire - eat carefully, as it will be melty and very hot inside!

* Make DIY s'mores by sandwiching a melted marshmallow between two chocolate digestives. Yum!

Photos modelled by Cait, Mina and Calum at one of our own bonfire parties… awww! Text taken from 'BONFIRE PARTY' on p 98 & 99 of CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS.

Cathy says:
If you'd like more tips on how to make your parties the best-ever, plus LOTS more cool fashion, craft and foodie projects to try, check out my new book CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS… it's choc-full of awesome, creative makes and things to do. Are you the arty, creative type? Or a sociable party-animal? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!


When reader Zarin found out I was visiting a school near her, she campaigned to be allowed to go along - and her lovely teacher allowed Zarin and a friend to attend! This is what they had to say about the day…

Zarin says:
I simply adored the visit - I mean, we are talking about seeing my FAVOURITE author here! In the talk part of the morning, Cathy talked about her totally awesome and gorgeous books, especially  CHOCOLATE BOX SECRETS and FORTUNE COOKIE. She read an extract from the books, and from the very first sentence I knew I would love them! Afterwards, the students went off to do lots of workshops themed around Cathy's book LOOKING GLASS GIRL, but we couldn't stay for that part alas. I did get to meet Cathy, have a chat and get my notebook signed… and I got a photo, too! I loved it all from start to finish and I wish I could rewind it all and do it all again!

Savannah says:
We sat down in this really large hall with lots of purple seats and in front of us was this huge screen featuring Cathy's books; below the screen was a picturesque Mad Hatter's Tea Party table which looked amazing! There was a cake stand with lots of cupcakes specially made to tie in with Cathy's book LOOKING GLASS GIRL - they looked so delicious I could have eaten the lot! Cathy started the session and gave us an insight to her books as well as telling us about her website and the DREAMCATCHER blog. Zarin kept whispering that she couldn't believe we were really there, and that was driving me nuts, but she is as big a Cathy cassidy fan as I am so I did understand how she felt!

Miss Mowe says:
As a school librarian, I felt it was a great opportunity to meet an author like Cathy Cassidy. The children were impeccably behaved… entertained by Cathy and by the wonderful activities lined up for them by Nuneaton Academy, who hosted the event. And guess what… now, the school library's biggest demand is for more Cathy Cassidy books… the children just can't get enough of them!

Cathy says:
Awww! Zarin had been emailing me for weeks before the event, on an almost daily basis… I was so glad her school allowed her to attend! A big thanks to Nuneaton Academy for hosting such a lovely event, and special thanks to friend and ex-pupil Neibh who helped to set up the visit. Have YOU ever been to a CC school event? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday 27 July 2015


Readers share their favourite holiday memories from years gone by…

Rachel says:
We went to Egypt the year before the Arab Spring kicked off. We did the most amazing things… we saw the pyramids and went on a train to Luxor and visited the Temple of Karnak there. We went to the Valley of the Kings and everything. Then on the last day we went in a hot air balloon above the valley and the River Nile, and we could see people's houses below, and they had no roofs on and you could see people getting up, because this was very early in the morning. When we landed it was a bit scary but an experience I will never forget. I would love to go back to Egypt again one day.

Macey says:
A caravan holiday in North Wales was my best holiday ever. Dad had been working all hours to try to save his business which was struggling, and things got quite bad between him and Mum. They split up for a while and Dad moved out for six horrible months. It was a time I don't like to look back on. In the end, he sold his business and took a job that was much less pressured and he and Mum began to talk again. He booked the holiday as a celebration that he was moving back home, and that we were a family again. It wasn't as flashy as holidays we had had when I was smaller, but to me it was perfect.

Kat says:
We never had a holiday abroad until I was about ten. We went to an island called Andros in Greece, and it was amazing. Our family went with another family we're all friends with, and it was so brilliant - our apartment was right by the beach and the water was so warm you could swim all day. We bought flippers and snorkels from the village shops, very cheaply, and taught ourselves to snorkel, and we played ball and sunbathed. I think having our friends there made it extra special and we all bonded more than ever. They have almost become like family to us. We have had joint holidays since then, but that first one was the best because it was the first time we'd been abroad and everything was so different and so cool.

Jessica says:
We go to visit family on the Isle of Skye in Scotland every year, and it's always the best time ever because I get to see my cousins. Everyone relaxes and we get so much freedom… we do lots of outdoor stuff and it all feels like an adventure. There is something about the place that feels so magical, I can't explain it. When I grow up I'd like to live on Skye, or somewhere wild and beautiful like that, anyway.

Illustration by the amazing Danielle… love this pic, many thanks!

Cathy says:
I loved reading these! I've had lots of lovely holidays and travel adventures… lots of happy memories! What has YOUR favourite holiday been? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday 26 July 2015


Reader Chloe has a question that could get you thinking… and change the way you see yourself! Take a look!

Chloe says:
So… what is a girl? Is it a gender? Is it simply a group of people who are all the same? That's for you to decide, but choose wisely. I can assure you, there's a chance it will have changed by the end.

There's this insult - I like to call it the 'like a girl' insult. Do you run 'like a girl'? Fight 'like a girl'? What are the first images that come into your head when asked these questions? Cat fights? Skipping, stumbling and worrying if you've got sweat patches? Do you know when you tell someone between the ages of ten and sixteen this, their confidence could plummet? Do you know that when you use the 'like a girl' insult you could be offending not just one person but a whole group of people called females? Currently for girls everywhere, there is an image you must copy to be 'normal'. You must be born female, have perfect hair, you must wear make up, you must wear the right clothes, you must have flawless skin and a flawless figure. Basically, in other words, you must be perfect. Well, guess what, I'm not perfect, and I hate to break it to you… you're not, either. I know that sounds harsh, but I don't think of it that way because matter of factly, I know what a girl is.

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

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

Watch the powerful 'Like A Girl' video/advert which inspired Chloe's words…

Cathy says:
Wow… I love this video and I think Chloe's feature is awesome. When did 'like a girl' become an insult? I'm proud to be female, but I came across lots of judgements on what I could or should be doing as I was growing up, just because I was a girl. It wasn't as easy to brush aside back then. Do YOU feel pressured to act or look a certain way because you're a girl? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday 25 July 2015


Reader Marianne goes to an international school in Tanzania, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in Africa… she tells us how riding helped her to settle into her new school.

Marianne says:
When I first started at ISM, an international school in Tanzania, I found it very hard to settle - until I found out that my best friends Laura and Jessica were having riding lessons. I went along to the stables one day and met Terrie, who owns the stable and the horses, and arranged to have a sample lesson with Priva, the main teacher. I loved that first lesson and rode a horse called Mango; I knew straight away I wanted to have riding as my sport. I soon progressed and was allowed to ride Mr Bean, a more advanced horse, although I was warned I couldn't really jump on him as he was scared of the jumps and tended to stop, making the rider go flying!

All the same, Terrie wanted me to ride Mr Bean in a horse show in a small town called Maji Ya Chai, nearby, so I began training. It was mostly dressage, but in my last lesson before the show Terrie led me over some low jumps. It was very scary, especially when she asked me to go by myself, and sure enough Mr Bean stopped and refused to jump, but I didn't really mind.

The day of the horse show was very wet and I was worried that Mr Bean would slip in the rain. As I mounted, I noticed that my hands were shaking with nerves, but I had no time to try to calm down - I was already late for the first off leading rein event! I did OK though, especially considering I hadn't practiced this event before. My next event was the dressage. The sun came out, which made Mr Bean tired and I couldn't get him to trot, so I didn't get placed in the end. Then it was lunchtime, but I was so nervous about the show jumping that I didn't eat a thing. When the time came, I rode Mango as she is good at jumping, and I cleared all the rounds and won second place. I loved being in the show, even though it all seemed quite posh and serious - and I love riding, because it's such a brilliant hobby and helped me to relax and settle into life in Tanzania!

Cathy says:
Wow… horse riding on the slopes of Kilimanjaro? How awesome does that sound! Fab feature, Marianne - and well done in your first horse show! Have YOU ever taken part in a horse show? Are YOU pony mad? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more!

Friday 24 July 2015


Readers share their verdict on FORTUNE COOKIE, the series finale of the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS… ooohh!!!

Sydney says:
I absolutely LOVED Cathy's amazing new book FORTUNE COOKIE. It was so different and exciting, like nothing I'd ever read before. There was always something going on and I literally couldn't put the book down until I'd finished… even in the middle of a trip to London with my best friend, as you can see from the picture! It's an awesome book that sums up all of the other stories in the series and ties up all the loose ends. I think jake is a fantastic character that lots of readers will be able to relate to. He is my favourite character of the series - apart from Coco! I am so sad to say goodbye to Tanglewood, but FORTUNE COOKIE was the best series finale I could have wished for!

Dorothy says:

Well, where do I start? This book has been just as incredible as all the others - it was a great book to finish off the series. I think it was my favourite out of them all! Cathy Cassidy's books are just so gripping - I had to force myself to put FORTUNE COOKIE down to go to sleep, so I could enjoy more of it the next day. Tanglewood is just so magical! Every sibling in the series has a completely different story to tell, which makes it so interesting… you just can't tell what will happen next. The scenes are described so beautifully, they conjure up an image as clear as a photo taken on an i-phone 6 - very clear! That's extremely hard to do, and I admire that. In FORTUNE COOKIE, it was great to have a story from a boy's point of view, to mix it up a little. I like the way Jake's life changed dramatically as the story unfolded. The story had a bit of a moral to it - you shouldn't always expect things to be the same as they were in the past because new experiences can change everything. My favourite part was the ending - a truly fantastic way to finish the series off! Thank you cathy for writing this series… they are my fave books EVER!

Josephine says:
FORTUNE COOKIE is one of my favourite books now! I got the book through the post a couple of weeks ago as my friend and I won them for being finalists in the My Best Friend Rocks competition. After the first few pages, I was hooked! The book tells the story of Jake Cooke, an ordinary boy with a talent for trouble. He travels from his cramped flat in London's Chinatown to Tanglewood, where the Chocolate Box Girls await him… well, that's all I am saying, because I don't want to give away the plot! I stayed up all night to read the book and read it in the morning too, while I was getting ready for school. My copy of the book is extra special, because it has been signed. I think the cover is really beautiful, too, and hopefully that will also encourage people to read the book!

Jess says:
OMG! FORTUNE COOKIE is simply the best… it sums up the whole series, really. I honestly can't find powerful enough words to describe it. I love how Jake never gives up hope, even when his life seems to be in tatters and he feels lost and miserable. His can-do attitude is inspiring. He may not have a complete family, but family means everything to him and he longs to fix things and make things better for everyone. This results in the Tanberry-Costello family being happy - it's as if Jake is the missing component all along. I have already recommended the book to several friends, and I've only just finished it!

Cathy says:
Yay! FORTUNE COOKIE is a perfect summer read, and you can buy it from all good indie bookstores as well as Waterstones, WHSmith, online bookstores and even Tesco and Asda! You HAVE to find out how the series ends… put this on your summer reading list! Have YOU read FORTUNE COOKIE yet? COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to share YOUR review in a future DREAMCATCHER post!

Thursday 23 July 2015


Reader Holly shares her experience of going to prom and saying farewell to school… and it sounds just awesome!

Holly says:
For many Year Sevens, the Year Eleven Prom may seem like a lifetime away, but your time at secondary school will come and go quickly and before you know it, it's time to dress up and celebrate the fact that your time at school is coming to a close and the classmates you've spent the last few years with will be heading off to follow very different paths. Prom is a great opportunity to spend time with all of your friends to be together and have a delicious meal before dancing the night away! The venue for our prom was the Ramada hotel in our local town - a beautiful place with stunning views and stylish function rooms. I would definitely recommend it!

The food was amazing, too. I chose an assiette of melon with mint jus and blackcurrant sorbet for a starter, then salmon supreme with white wine sauce and vegetables. I thought it was the nicest food I'd ever eaten - until the pudding arrived! I'd chosen a chocolate tart, and I have to say it was heaven on a plate. It was so rich that I couldn't finish it, but I could happily eat that dessert over and over again. It wasn't just the food and the venue that made it special - we had a professional photographer and a photobooth too, so we got to have both formal and informal photos of our evening… and be entertained, too!

The most important thing of all for prom, in my opinion, is the dress. My advice is not to spend too much on it as you'll most likely only wear it once - still, choose something that is right for you, reflects your personality and makes you feel the most beautiful you have ever felt! There is often an after-party after the prom, hosted at someone's house, so anyone who wants their evening to go on into the early hours can just keep on partying. Year Eleven prom really IS the huge, special party that you've always dreamed about… so when your turn comes around, go ahead and enjoy!

Cathy says:
Awesome! There were no proms in the UK back when I was leaving school, so Holly's account is fascinating to me. Love the dress, too! Do YOU like the idea of a school prom? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why - or why not!

Wednesday 22 July 2015


Reader Honesty asks Cherry Costello to help her solve a clutch of worries on the DREAMCATCHER problem page this week…

Honesty says:
I am having problems at school. I am overweight and people tease me about this, and I don't seem to have any friends. I am passionate about reading and writing but sometimes I do feel lonely. I will be going into Year Six soon, but I am not sure where as I might be moving house and school over the summer. My mum has been having trouble with people on the street, so the idea of a move makes me happy and gives me hope. I am almost eleven and I want to take up yoga. Can you help me, Cherry?

Cherry says:
I can identify with some of what you say. I had no friends at primary school - I could never quite work out why, because I tried hard - too hard, maybe. I wasn't overweight, but I learned early on that if people wanted to be mean they would find an excuse, any excuse. If you'd like to tackle your weight, try going at it from a health point of view; yoga would be a great start, as it helps with stress and worries too. You can get a book out of the library, buy a DVD or even follow you tube tutorials online… the most important thing is to practice every day if you can. Walking, cycling and swimming are great exercise too, and can get you feeling fitter and trimmer quickly if you keep at it. Once you're feeling better, look at the food choices you make and cut back on sweets, chocolate, cake, crisps and fizzy pop because these are mainly empty calories and not very healthy. Don't try to diet, though - I have seen at first hand how worrying about a weight problem can turn into something much scarier, with my step-sister Summer.

Moving house and school will give you a fresh start, so work on your self-esteem this summer holidays, too. Cathy's book LETTERS TO CATHY is full of great confidence boosting advice, but the basics are that you need to stop being so hard on yourself and start acting as your own best friend. If you believe in yourself, others will too and this, combined with a smiley, friendly attitude, should help you to make friends in your new school. I am proof that you can move on and leave the bullies behind - you can too. Good luck!

Cathy says:
Good advice from Cherry… is there anything more YOU would add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday 21 July 2015


Reader Soumia is a teenager living in Algeria… she has just finished celebrating the festival of Eid. Find out more about the muslim holy day in her fabulous post…

Soumia says:
EID is a holy festival celebrated by Muslims; it is the day that follows the month of Ramadan in which  Muslims fast for one whole month between the hours of dawn and sunset. Children, travellers and the sick don't fast, because it could be dangerous for them, but everyone else does. The purpose of the fasting is to experience the feeling of hunger that many poor people feel all around the world, and during Ramadan Muslims donate to these people to help them. The donation is what we call 'Zakat'. Fasting is a challenge, but I cope by distracting myself during the day - watching TV, praying and reading the Qu'ran, the Muslim holy book. At about 5pm on fasting days I help my mother to prepare the evening food and when it is iftar time (time to eat) we gather around and start our meal with dates and milk.

At the end of Ramadan comes EID, a day which all Muslims wait for impatiently! We wake very early in the morning, and the men (the fathers and brothers) go to Masjeed (mosque), the place where Muslims pray, to do EID prayer. Meanwhile the mothers and sisters prepare all kinds of cakes and cookies for the feast - the traditional EID greeting is EID MUBURAK which means 'blessed feast'! Mothers usually prepare the traditional delicacies as they are complicated and difficult to make, while the daughters make easier treats like cupcakes and chocolate cookies. The cakes in the picture are called baqlawa, a traditional Algerian sweet. When the men come back from Masjeed, all family members kiss each other - it's an EID tradition and we do it every year.

At midday, we finish preparing the cakes, decorate them and then we go to shower and change into new clothes to look all fresh. The new clothes part is one of my favourite things about EID! In the picture, that's me with my best friend Dounia during EID, in our new clothes. Next, guests begin to arrive - aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbours. Traditionally, we exchange all kinds of cookies to taste all the flavours, though only a few people still follow this ritual. In the afternoon, some families take younger children outside to a garden to play and have fun, while others will stay at home chatting and enjoying EID. At the end of the day, I usually feel a mixture of happiness and sadness. I am happy for having such an amazing time with my family, and sad because Ramadan is over and won't be back for another year.

Cathy says:
It's fascinating to hear about an Algerian EID… it sounds wonderful, though if I were helping out with the cooking I suspect I'd have to be given the easy recipes to bake, too! Do YOU or your friends celebrate EID? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Monday 20 July 2015


More readers with cool and unusual names tell us what it's like to stand out from the crowd!
Shade says:
I am a unique and outgoing person and I think my name shows that, but people do often mispronounce it. I have one teacher who just misses out random letters from my name, even though we spent five minutes discussing it when we first met. She still gets it wrong! When I first started school, some people called me Shay-Day, as if I was a new day of the week! It's pronounced Shard-ay, like the amazing singer Sade. My family are Nigerian and my full name is Fola Shade, which causes even more confusion, but I don't care as the name means 'you are born with riches and will have a good life'! Sounds good to me…

Rosanthie says:
Everyone seems to like the name Rosanthie - when I was younger I thought it made me sound a bit like a princess, and of course nobody has the same name which is cool. The downside of having an unusual name is that some people imitate me saying in silly voices, and say it's weird. At the moment I don't like the name much, so I mostly use 'Rosie'! My dad has a family friend with the name 'Rozanthie' and my parents loved it, so they asked if they could use it too, and changed the spelling. It is a made-up name and my mum said she knew she wanted me to be called Rosie, but also wanted me to have the option of a name that sounded more grown-up once I was older. I think it's a pretty good plan!

Slaney says:
My name, Slaney, is an Irish name and that's cool because I am actually half-Irish! I like it because it is really unusual and you hardly ever find anyone else with the same name. It means 'good health' I think. There is also a River Slaney in the south of Ireland! It can be a little annoying sometimes, though, to have this name - occasionally, when I haven't met someone before and they haven't heard my name spoken out loud, they just glance at it and then call me Stanley! Not good!

Caoilinn says:
My name is Irish too; it means fair or pure and it's pronounced Caylin. I like my name because it's different and it makes me stand out from the crowd. I don't like it when people can't spell it, though! Only my best friends get it right, and even teachers get it wrong when marking my books! People also call me 'Caroline' or even 'Colin' or 'Cowlin'! I guess I should think myself lucky, as you can also spell the name as 'Caoilfhionn'! Yikes!

Cathy says:
I love all of these fab and unusual names! Do YOU have a cool name? COMMENT BELOW to tell me what you love/hate about it!

Sunday 19 July 2015


Reader Hannah describes how an internet challenge has turned into something toxic and dangerous… 

Hannah says:
If you are anything like me, you spend the majority of your spare time on the internet. With social media now a seemingly essential part of teenage life, you may put a status, picture or video on the internet and in return perhaps receive hateful comments and opinions on that post. People may 'judge' you from what you do or post, which of course is NOT OK.

So when I saw the 'Don't Judge Challenge' had become the latest internet fad, I was hopeful that this would help people to feel confident within themselves. I hoped it may be beneficial to young people. However, I was very wrong. Sadly the challenge has turned into something vain and even dangerous, and has become the very opposite of what its name implies. Teenagers styled themselves to look 'ugly' and then revealed their 'true selves' - a self that fitted society's standards of beauty, of course. Spots, monobrows, glasses, big teeth and messy hair were all considered 'ugly'. If the challenge was not to judge people, then it has failed. If you have glasses, it DOESN'T make you ugly. Likewise if you have other so-called flaws. The majority of the 'true selves' pictures were caked in make up and acting very vainly… attractive? Really?

I advise you to look at EM FORD's powerful video if you haven't already, as it is a much better example for young people on this sometimes overpowering place called the internet. It is throught provoking and sad, but shows that the real ugliness are those hate comments on the internet, and the sad, cruel and insecure people who make them. We are better than this, surely? You don't need someone to call you pretty to feel pretty. Whether you are a bit chubby or slim, have braces or perfect teeth, glasses, wear make up, no make up…. no matter what, you are beautiful. You don't need to do this challenge to make you feel pretty and you don't need to watch them and end up feeling ugly.

No matter what, you ARE beautiful.

Hannah writes a regular blog at:

Photograph of phone pic modelled by Caitlin

Cathy says:
Hannah's post uncovers some very thought provoking ideas, and shows how dangerous and unhealthy the internet can be… especially for young people who are still coming to terms with their changing looks and trying to build confidence. I agree… the real ugliness is inside, in cruel, bullying behaviour that makes others feel sad and small. Think twice before judging anyone… you don't know the harm it can do, to the victim and also to yourself. Have YOU been judged harshly by others? Or have YOU ever left a mean comment on someone's post? COMMENT BELOW and tell us more...

Saturday 18 July 2015


The series finale of THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS is here… six weeks after publication date, I've finally taken time out to tell you about FORTUNE COOKIE!

Cathy says:
FORTUNE COOKIE was not an easy book to write. It wasn't just the story of new character Jake Cooke, the long-lost half-brother of the Tanberry sisters, but the book that tied up all the loose ends for the other characters too, and it took a while to work out how to weave all of those story strands together to make a book that would be as addictive as the rest of the series.

To be fair, a part of me didn't want to let go of that whole Tanglewood world at all. I made countless false starts and played around with the plot until I wasn't just cutting it fine - I'd missed my deadline completely. Typically, it was at this point I knew exactly which storyline was the right one. I did something brave - and foolish - and very risky - and pressed 'delete' on the story I had so far. I started from scratch. It could have gone horribly wrong. I could have messed up and lost the plot completely, but with the help of lots of coffee and some very late nights, I got the book finished just in time to meet my new 'revised' deadline. My editor was relieved. I was even more relieved… phew.

FORTUNE COOKIE is the story of the long-lost half-brother of the Tanberry sisters, a boy whose life has been very different to theirs. He looks like them, fair haired and smiley, and he's a good person - he just happens to be seriously accident prone. When Cookie's latest escapade creates so much havoc it wrecks the flat where he and his family are living and infuriates their landlord, he is filled with remorse and guilt. And when a letter turns up from a girl claiming to be his half-sister, and enclosing a train ticket to Somerset, the temptation to run away and leave his troubles behind is just too much. At Tanglewood, Jake meets his new half-sisters and slots easily into a new world of beach bonfires, picnics and summer swims that couldn't be more of a contrast to his old life back in London. He is working on a plan to put things right back home, but before he can do that the past catches up with him…

If you haven't read FORTUNE COOKIE yet, make it top of your summer reading list. This book will answer all your questions about the series so far: will Summer ever get properly better and find a happy ending? Will Skye ever see Finch again? Will Coco and Lawrie ever be more than just good friends? Will Honey and Cherry ever make peace? And can there be a future for Honey and Ash? The reviews for FORTUNE COOKIE have been awesome so far… many readers say it is their favourite CHOCOLATE BOX book of all. Grab yourself a copy (it's on sale in all good indie bookshops, Waterstones, WH Smith, Tesco, Asda… and online, of course!) Pour yourself a cool drink, curl up in the sunshine and escape to Tanglewood one last time…

Have you read FORTUNE COOKIE already? COMMENT BELOW to share your views or arrange to send in a review for DREAMCATCHER!

Friday 17 July 2015


Reader Blue writes about the pain of losing a much-loved pet in this powerful post…

Blue says:
My beautiful little buddy was put to sleep last week… and I am devastated. Papillon had an incurable bladder condition and although we tried anti-biotics and a special diet, the problem only got worse. But that's not how I want to remember him… I want to think of him as a happy, mischievous cat who loved sunbathing and stealing people's seats. I want to remember him as an unbelievably fancy, stuck up cat who would revert to kitten if you rubbed his belly. I want to remember him as a sweet, placid cat who, whilst we may only have had him for five short years, left indelible paw prints on our hearts and dodgy stains where he peed on the carpet.

That's who he was - and he deserves recognition for being such an amazing spark of light in the dreary dullness of my adolescence. Papillon, I love you and I am going to miss you so much. How am I supposed to survive without my little buddy, huh? Have fun at the Rainbow Bridge - I bet Finn has reserved you a sofa to scratch. What can I say, ladies and gentlemen? Time to play 'Can't Smile Without You' by Barry Manilow or 'Gloomy Sunday' by Billie Holiday and scroll back through all those memories…

The last word goes to Papillon: 'Mew. Prrrrrp!'

This blog was first published in Blue's own blog, The Bitter Bluecolic. You can read/ follow Blue's blog here:

Cathy says:
I loved this piece and the heartfelt emotion behind it. I too have lost some much-loved pets over the years and I can definitely identify with Blue's feelings for Papillon. Have YOU ever grieved for a very special pet? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more... 

Wednesday 15 July 2015


Reader Tamara has a question for Honey Tanberry… can the oldest Chocolate Box Girl solve the problem?

Tamara says:
I just don't know what to do. People are spreading rumours about me and things I've done in the past. I've moved on from those things and I don't know why people are raking it all up now all of a sudden. I feel so confused and I don't say anything, but my friends think I'm ignoring them because I'm so quiet. To make things worse, my friends are hanging out with people they know I don't get along with. I don't want to have issues with anyone, but nor do I want to have to fix problems I didn't even create. What would you do, Honey?

Honey says:
First of all, refuse to be bullied for mistakes you may have made in the past. I have made plenty, trust me, but if anyone tried to use those mistakes against me I would ask very calmly and clearly why they want to drag up the past. I would also ask them if they had never made a mistake themselves. Yes, I have made mistakes but I have learned from them and I will not be picked on for living my life… so speak up and make it clear you know that certain things in your past may not have been perfect, but that you have moved on. Ask the rumour-mongers to move on too. Hopefully your friends will respect you for speaking up. You have a choice whether to hang out with their new crowd, but if you know you don't get on with that group look for new mates and see your old friends when they are away from the main group. The main message is not to buy into the drama. Find new friends who support and respect you and refuse to let spiteful rumours and friendship feuds bring you down. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Friendship problems can take time to sort, but I agree with Honey here, don't let yourself be dragged into the drama. Do YOU agree with Honey's advice? What would YOU add? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Tuesday 14 July 2015


Skye Tanberry looks into her crystal ball and makes some predictions for July… psychic, silly or spookily spot-on? You decide!

ARIES: Summer sun brings the opportunity for travel, adventure, sports and fun - don't waste a minute, enjoy the freedom!

TAURUS: Plan your summer out - you don't like surprises, so take control and get organised! Your friends will look to you to take the lead.

GEMINI: This could be the month you finally get together with your crush… but first you have to decide WHICH crush! Fickle? You? No… just a born romantic!

CANCER: Holidays are fun, but sometimes you're happiest at home… plan some sleepovers and picnics with your friends and get exploring your local area!

LEO: Your ideal summer would be spent on a sun-kissed beach, sipping ice-cold smoothies and holding court to your friends… whatever you do, your July will be super-cool.

VIRGO: Time to ditch the shyness and make some new friends this summer… join a club or learn a new sport or skill. You'll wonder why you waited so long!

LIBRA: You may find yourself stuck between two friends who've fallen out… don't be dragged into their squabble, remind them of what friendship is all about and help them make peace!

SCORPIO: Don't neglect old friends this summer… call them up and make plans to meet. You may find yourselves becoming closer than ever!

SAGITTARIUS: This summer, you have a creative project bubbling away in your mind - be brave and have a go at making it a reality. You'll never know if you don't try!

CAPRICORN: Don't let worries about the future stop you having fun in the present. Soak up some sun and lose yourself in a good book… and watch the worries fade.

AQUARIUS: You're never short of friends, so summer should be just about perfect… be the one to get everyone together for a beach party or a picnic and just chill and enjoy the fun!

PISCES: You're a real water-baby, so take full advantage of that this summer… learn a new skill, like diving, kayaking, surfing or sailing! You'll make new friends too, and that's always a bonus!

Cathy says:
Ooh… mysterious! Is Skye onto something? Are her predictions accurate or way-off? Do YOU take much notice of your star sign? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday 13 July 2015


Reader Holly cares so much about animals that she has contacted her MP to ask them to protect the bill that outlaws hunting with hounds, which the government are trying to overturn this week…

Holly says:
Right now, our foxes are facing a crisis. The Conservative government have proposed some frightening changes to the Hunting Act. Fox hunting with hounds is illegal now (although culling foxes by shooting is allowed), but if the bill is changed in the way the Prime Minister wishes, it will become legal for foxes to be set upon by packs of dogs. This is very different from shooting a fox to protect farm animals. The fox is chased until exhausted by people on horseback and packs of baying hounds; it is then torn to pieces. The suffering and viciousness of the act is intensified and it is clear just how cruel and wicked this is. To think this could be legalised in the next few days by the most powerful people in the country is terrifying. I can't imagine why anyone would want to do such a thing.

I think that all animals are beautiful. Foxes are gorgeous woodland creatures that deserve to be left alone, undisturbed. Whatever happened to compassion? To care? To love and respect for nature?

We need to fight against this change and not allow disaster to happen. We need to protect the Hunting Act and stand up for our wild creatures, who may once more find themselves victim to a vicious bloodsport, a bloodsport that should have ended a long time ago.

I love drawing and dream of being a writer and an illustrator, so I made a picture which expresses my feelings on this issue… you can see it, illustrating this feature. Wild animals - not just foxes but hares and stags also - need us to stand up for them. We must not allow this so-called sport to be legalised again. I have emailed members of the SNP and the Labour Party today to ask them to vote to protect the foxes - you can do the same. The foxes will thank you.

Illustration by the wonderful Holly!

Cathy says:
I am 100% in agreement with Holly. I believe that fox hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing are shameful bloodsports and belong firmly in the past; they have no place in 21st century Britain. The amendments to the Hunting Act will be discussed on Wednesday… I too have written to my MP and signed petitions to show how upset I am by the threats to make hunting legal again. What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Sunday 12 July 2015


For reader Sandie, home life was so unbearable she couldn't take it any longer…

Sandie says:
We were a happy family, once. I am an only child and my parents both worked; we had a good life, until Dad lost his job and couldn't find another. His mood got darker and darker until Mum and I were walking on eggshells around him. Sometimes he'd flare up for no reason and accuse us of hating him, making him feel useless. Mum said he was worried about money and it wasn't personal, but it felt personal. Mum had to work longer hours and when she wasn't around I'd hide in my room because I was scared; I felt I didn't know Dad anymore. When Mum wasn't around, he would say terrible things to me… that it was my fault he'd lost his job, my fault he'd had to marry mum, my fault he was stuck in this no hope town. He called me terrible names, things that frightened me, but I didn't tell Mum - I was trying to protect him.

One evening I thought he'd gone out and the kitchen was a mess, so I started tidying for when Mum got in. I was in the middle of it when Dad came in, and he went mad. He told me I was trying to make him look bad. He started smashing plates and throwing things around and when I tried to get past him he grabbed me by the hair and hit me. I was so shocked I just stared at him, my cheek numb from the slap. It felt like every bit of me was numb. I could not believe what had happened. I went to my room and pushed a chair against the door in case he tried to come in. That night I told Mum what had happened. My face was visibly bruised, but she told me not to make a big thing of it, that Dad was stressed and this was a bad patch we had to get through.

I felt betrayed. I knew I couldn't stay there… I was too scared. I packed a bag and left the next day. Our cat tried to follow me along the street, and that was the worst… I felt like a traitor leaving her, but I had no choice. I went to my auntie's house and stayed there. Mum knew where I was. She came to see me, but she didn't ask me to come home. I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my life. On the fourth day my auntie told me that the doctor was worried about Dad's mental health. In the end, he had what Mum called a complete nervous breakdown and was taken into hospital. I don't visit and I haven't told my friends. I have a social worker looking out for me now. I'm back home again, but it's hard to trust Mum - she let me down when I needed her. When Dad comes out he will live in assisted housing for a while, and we are supposed to go to family therapy to try to work out how to repair our family. I am not sure we will ever do it. I love my parents, but I'm not sure I will ever trust either of them again.

All names have been changed. Picture posed by model Caitlin.

Cathy says:
This is such a heartbreaking story of a family crumbling under the strain of unemployment. Have YOU had to cope with the fallout from a parent's metal health issues? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more.

Thursday 9 July 2015


We asked for your fave sunglasses selfies… and we're loving the results!

Eilish says:
I LOVE these shades as they remind me of my dad! I don't live with my dad and just see him occasionally - when I do, we usually go on adventures! In the summer, we'd grab some fruit, jump in the car, chuck our shades down and just drive. Once we ended up wading through a river… I ended up sinking really deeply into this grey, gritty mud. It was like one of those very expensive spa mud bath treatments, only totally natural! My dad and I couldn't stop laughing! That - and the shades, of course - was one of the best memories of that summer. We went on so many adventures to so many beautiful places all over New Zealand… and in all of the photos we took, I'm wearing my cool shades!
Heather says:
Probably not the best picture, considering the unexpected flash of sun practically blinding me, but… what can I say? I love these sunglasses! I bought them last year on a trip to Poland. They were a quick buy but they are kind of snazzy and have a cool retro/ indie vibe which was probably why I was drawn to them in the first place. And now, whenever I wear them, I think of sunshine and happy times on that Polish trip...

Pippa says:
This is my sister Charlie wearing MY sunglasses… we had a pair each, originally. They are silver with pink-tinted lenses, but I think Charlie lost hers because she borrowed mine… she's always taking my stuff, haha! I don't mind because I got her to pose for some photos and we had a bit of a laugh… still, I think I'll have my sunnies back now, thank you!

Violet says:
This is my brother Toby wearing sunglasses for his prom last year. They're prescription sunglasses from Specsavers and the frames are called 'Toby' which is his name, so… yeah. He likes this picture because he looks like a special agent, but mostly his sunglasses pics are pretty miserable because he really hates summer. He has hayfever and doesn't like the heat and the light, and there is no chance of snow which is his favourite weather. Summer is a curse on his very soul...

Cathy says:
Are you enjoying the warmer weather? COMMENT BELOW to tell us why - or why not. Or email Cathy via the main website and send in YOUR sunglasses selfies!

Monday 6 July 2015


Reader Megan started blogging six years ago… and now it's an integral part of her life! Find out why she loves it so much!

Megan says:
My blog is called Megan's Mega Blog and I started it six years ago because I loved crafting and wanted to share my creations with the world. My first post was a step-by-step tutorial on making a snowman Christmas tree decoration! That seems like a long time ago now! I've learned a lot in the last six years. These days, I make sure the pictures I use are either taken by me or drawn by me, and sometimes I change the blog's colour scheme to give things a fresh look. I plan to write more baking/ cooking posts, but I love doing art and fashion posts as well! I love the way that the blog is a kind of record of the last six years - and that I will be able to look through it in the future and see what I used to do in my spare time!

I think blogging has helped me as a writer because posting often has got me used to coming up with ideas quickly. I think it helps me to avoid writer's block, too! It has also helped me as a person by motivating me to do something creative when I have the chance, or to try something new… because I know I can then write a blog post about it! After school, I plan to be a fashion designer and ultimately I'd love to open my own high street shop. Blogging helps me to stay focused on this dream because I try to post on fashion design every now and them and describe my inspirations. Although I don't plan to be a writer as a career path, I do love the idea of starting up a small magazine with pages similar to my blog posts in it!

There are a few bloggers I really look up to… one is kenza365 who writes the 5starwriters and 5starartists blogs. They have a clear and consistent theme and Kenza is happy to discuss topics with her readers. I also love Cathy Cassidy's DREAMCATCHER blog - it's a great read for girls and has a good mixture of serious and fun posts. The final blog I love is NeverSeconds - a blog where school dinners are critiqued by a young girl! It's quite funny to see school meals reviewed by a student - plus her blog has had recognition from Jamie Oliver! My advice for people starting a blog is to upload often so that people come back, and don't be afraid to be personal and write about what matters to you, whether that is designing dresses or creating the perfect pizza for tea! Be original, and enjoy writing your posts because that will show in your work!

You can check out and follow Megan's fab blog here… 

Cathy says:
I love Megan's advice and the way she has made blogging a part of her life, a way to unite her various interests and share them with a wider audience! Would YOU consider starting a blog? COMMENT BELOW to say why - or why not!

Sunday 5 July 2015


Reader Sophia writes about the pressures facing young teens to be perfect…

Sophia says:
I used to strive to be like those people on the covers of the latest magazine, or in the latest movies; I thought I could show the best of me if only I could manage to look or act that way. I had unrealistic goals, and deep down I knew it. You know when everyone tells you that you should just be yourself, and you get that feeling for just a millisecond that maybe, just maybe, you are not so bad after all? But then of course our society shuts it all down with yet another advert for expensive make-up or designer-label clothes to make you look better than ever… and the stress starts up all over again.

Well, I finally worked it out. The best of me does not look like the model on the cover of a bestselling magazine, or the actress on a movie screen. The best of me is never going to happen when I have unrealistic ideas of what I should be. No, I am at my best when I am at peace with my flaws and imperfections. The best of me is not how I look, it's how I act. Any picture can be photoshopped, but who I really am cannot.

So today, I strive to be the best person I can in the way I do things in my life and for the people around me. Even though I know our world's perspective will never change no matter how hard I try or how much I need it to, I will pick up the broken pieces of our world in order to show people that the best of someone is NOT on the outside.

Cathy says:
Wow… I love Sophia's post. It's so heartfelt and so full of good sense… I totally agree that true beauty - the 'best of you' - is on the inside. Do YOU ever feel pressured by TV, magazines and movies to be impossibly perfect? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...


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