Saturday, 24 August 2019

NIKKI: MY FIRST CRUISE!

Reader Nikki writes about her first cruise holiday... if you're not going anywhere this summer, curl up and read more... and start dreaming!

Nikki says:
I went on my first cruise just as I was starting High School. I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was incredible! All I’d heard about cruises was that they were for “old people” but that statement couldn’t have been more wrong - cruises are definitely for all age groups! I went with my mum, little brother and my grandparents and we each loved it for our own reasons. My little brother loved the cruise because he got to hang around in the kids club. It sounded pretty lame to me, but I spent a few days with them playing games and exploring the ship, and it was actually fun! My Mum loved the cruise because we went around the Canary Islands and it was super warm, so she got to relax by the pool and sunbathe all holiday. She doesn’t get a lot of time off work, so just being able to lie around and do nothing was the perfect holiday for her. My Nanna and Grandad had been on millions of cruises! My Grandad used to lecture on airplane crashes and since then, he has refused to fly, so a cruise was the perfect way for them to get around on a holiday.

I have many reasons why I love cruises… I feel like there’s a magic in the air. I love how everyone around you seems so calm and relaxed - we are all on holiday, after all! I love how cruises are like multiple holidays all in one, because you get to visit so many destinations in one trip. But my favourite thing is how much there is to do on a cruise. There are different activities and classes that you can do and constant entertainment and a show every night. You could never be bored!

I also love how fancy a cruise can be! There are formal nights that you can take part in and wear really fancy dresses and dine in a fancy restaurant. Or if you prefer, then you can eat at one of the many other food places on board ship and stay in your comfy clothes. The destinations are always incredible. When you dock in a port, there is always a beach nearby. On one of the stops, we took ourselves snorkelling at a nearby beach. I have never seen so many fish in my entire life! The water was so crystal clear that you could see everything - it was like swimming in an aquarium!

I guess cruises may not be for everyone - they would be pretty daunting if you were scared of water, or got sea sick. But they are so safe that sometimes you forget about being in the middle of the ocean. My Grandad often gets sea sick and sometimes they have to give him a needle in his bum to get rid of it! However he says that it’s definitely worth it for such an amazing trip. You’ll never know how much you love it until you try it, but for me, cruises are the perfect way to spend my summer holidays…

Cathy says:
Ooh... Nikki makes it sound so tempting! I have never been on a cruise - have YOU? COMMENT BELOW to tell us what you think!

Saturday, 17 August 2019

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SINGER-SONGWRITER...

Fourteen year old Justin from Northern Ireland gives us the inside story on dreams, determination and starting out as a young musician...

Justin says:
I didn’t take many guitar lessons but I learnt to play through music groups like the Rock School at Ossia Music in Belfast, and I also used the internet. I have a bad memory about what the first song I ever learnt on guitar was but I'm pretty sure it was 'Know Your Enemy' by Green Day. I've pretty much always known that I wanted to be a singer-songwriter. I grew up with Hannah Montana and Big Time Rush and was obsessed with the idea since then, but as time went on, I got more into theatre and art until social media was introduced to me and I discovered a bunch of underrated artists who I wanted to be like.

I love pretty much any genre of music (except for country. Yikes) but I adore punk music along with pop punk and indie music the best.  My favourite artists though would have to be Cavetown and The 1975, although neither of them are punk or pop punk. I really connect with their words. I've been listening to Cavetown for about 4-5 years and once I figured out he started writing when he was extremely young, I was very inspired and began writing. The 1975 are just beautiful; they don't only motivate me to write but they also encourage me to think, read, and to live my life to the fullest. I love both of them and they inspire me every day.

A lot of things encourage me to make music, like for example, listening to music and thinking "wow wouldn't it be cool if I wrote a song and people could hear it through their headphones" but to be completely honest, what encourages me the most is my family and going to concerts. Every time I go to a concert I just let out all my raw emotions, I scream, I cry, I laugh, and (not to be too self-obsessed, but) I want people to do that when they see me live. My family just inspires me everyday and I want to make them proud of me. The best thing about being a young artist is just being able to express yourself. I can write about mac n cheese and call it the best thing ever and nobody will mind because I'm a child, and getting compliments like "You're so young! how do you do it?" is always nice.

The worst thing though would have to be the pressure I put on myself. I still want to do well in my education and I still want to have a social life so I attempt to make any free time I have about music. I feel like I'm running out of time and I know I'm young and I shouldn't worry but I can't help thinking about all of the talented kids in the media that started before me. I'm also deeply afraid of kids making fun of me but I'm working on slowly putting myself out there more so it'll seem more natural to me.

What keeps me going on is the fact that I could actually live my dream life. I know that's a one in a million chance but I dream of performing on a stage where people want to see me, I dream of looking back on all the people that put me down and showing them I did it. I dream of having my own music on vinyl. I dream of being interviewed. Just little things and little dreams like that keep me going.

You can see Justin perform here... support new talent and pop over to give his song a like! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTHQuOl8pOs&feature=youtu.be
You can also follow Justin on Instagram here: @justinmcmillxn

Cathy says:
Wow... as the mum of two young muso's myself, I can tell that Justin is the real deal - amazing talent and confidence! I'll be following his career with interest and rooting for him all the way! Do YOU have a dream career you'd give anything to follow? Or do you want to leave a word of encouragement for Justin? Just COMMENT BELOW!

Monday, 12 August 2019

ANNA SEWELL: BLACK BEAUTY

Another in our occasional series about children's classics and their creators... we look at the life of Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY...

Anna Sewell was yet another literary lady who despite all that was against her, overcame the odds and managed to write a timeless classic. Overcoming injury, poverty and the hardships of being a woman author in a man’s world, Anna Sewell, author of BLACK BEAUTY, also became an influential voice on animal cruelty.

Born in Great Yarmouth in 1820, Anna Sewell spent most of her early life in London. Her mother, Mary Wright Sewell, was also a successful children’s author, but despite the popularity of her books, the family still couldn’t quite afford to send Anna and her little brother Phillip to school and educated them at home.

At the age of fourteen, Anna finally had a chance to attend school in Stoke Newington. However, on the way home from school one day, she slipped and severely injured her ankles. Due to the family's precarious financial situation, treatment for Anna’s injury was poor and she never fully recovered. For the rest of her life, she could not stand for very long without a crutch. She started using horse drawn carriages for greater mobility, which contributed to her love for horses and concern for their welfare. Anna also owed quite a lot of her inspiration to her mother, Mary, whose own books and beliefs looked at social issues such as the abolition of slavery and alcoholism. Anna would often help to edit her mother’s books, and so she gained invaluable experience of how to be a successful author.

BLACK BEAUTY was Anna's only book, an emotional and hard-hitting story that showed the hardships and cruelties horses faced in Victorian society - it was clearly a labour of love. Written towards the end of her life, when she was an invalid and mostly bedridden, the payment upon publication was a flat rate of £40. The book is still one of the top ten bestselling children's books of all time. Although now considered a children’s classic, her original intended audience were those who cared and worked with horses. She wanted to inspire kindness, sympathy and understanding for them.

An American review of the book said: “We require use of this animal more than of any other, and either from want of though or ignorance we forget that the horse is a very fine and delicate animal, sensitive as man to pain and hardships and almost human in its sense of hearing and understanding…A horse lacks words with which to express its feelings..”

BLACK BEAUTY was published when Anna was fifty-seven years old, in 1877, though sadly she would not live long enough to see its great success - five months after its publication, Anna Sewell died of tuberculosis.

Cathy says:
Have YOU read BLACK BEAUTY or seen the film? It's very sad... it definitely made me cry as a child! Which children's classic do YOU love best? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 10 August 2019

FAIRYTALE...

How two girls at the turn of the last century took some amateur photographs that shook the experts... and made the UK believe in fairies. Was it real? Read on to find out more…

In 1917, down in the leafy Cottingley Glen near Shipley, West Yorkshire, sixteen year old Elsie and her cousin Frances, nine, claimed to have first seen fairies. Unsurprisingly, nobody believed the girls and in a bid to prove that the fairies were real, they begged Elsie's father to borrow his camera to take pictures so the family could see for themselves.

It was Elsie's father himself who developed the photographs - he was obviously astonished when the picture showed Frances, surrounded by a ring of dancing fairies! Once over the shock, helooked for a rational explanation and put the illusion down to cardboard cutouts that the girls had drawn.

It wasn't until 1919 that the photographs came to a wider audience. An expert commented on the photograph of Frances: "This plate is a single exposure. These dancing figures are not made of paper nor any fabric; they are not painted on a photographic background - but what gets me most is that all these figures have moved during the exposure."

Every little girl claims to have seen a fairy - but these girls had proof! The photographs were shown to the famous writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle was a member of the spiritualist movement and happened to be writing an article on fairy lore; he was fascinated by the pictures and wanted to include them in his feature. This is what brought them to the public eye. His article received much criticism but it also sparked a debate that would never really be solved until 1981, when Elsie and Frances, now old ladies,  admitted that the photographs had been faked. In spite of this, they still staunchly claimed to have seen fairies by the beck and argued that the fakes had been made to make people believe.

Why they took so long to admit the images were faked - or indeed the possibility that they were lying in that interview - are questions which are still being asked today. We will leave it to you to decide  - are fairies real?

Cathy says:
I've always loved the story of the girls who saw fairies in Cottingley... and my kids, in turn, loved the film version of the story, Fairytale, when they were growing up. At the time, the photographs convinced the UK... do YOU think there was anything to their story? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

YOUR STARS FOR AUGUST!

Skye Tanberry is back with your horoscope for August... let's hope it's a sizzlin' one!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
If someone has upset you, remember that you are a strong person and can rise above the situation. Try to see the bigger picture and let go of the hurt and anger... it's time to move on.  You'll feel lighter and more energised as a result... don't let hurt or anger bring you down.

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Don’t stress about exam results and upcoming tests. Whatever the outcome, you can and will make it work for you! Now is a good time to think about future dreams and turn them into plans - if you work hard and find your passion, everything else will follow!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Filling your holiday with adventure and fun is your priority, and quite rightly. School/ college seems like a whole world away, but don’t forget to stay on top of work and reading as well as all the fun stuff, so you can hit the ground running when you go back!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Trying different things can sometimes be fun! Why not challenge yourself and see if you can go vegetarian for a week? Or go plastic-free? Or walk 10k steps each day? Just thinking about which challenge to pick can help you find out more about yourself!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
If something is going wrong in your life, try to find the silver linings and concentrate on the positives, rather than the negatives. There is always a solution... and once you stop panicking, you'll find it, promise!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
The efforts you have been making recently have not gone unnoticed - keep it up and that passion will drive you through life. Meanwhile, take a moment to feel proud at how hard you're trying... your determination is pretty awesome!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
It’s okay if you haven’t figured out what you want to be yet. Some people don’t find their true passion for a long time... and some of us will find there are many paths/ careers that could make us happy! You have all the time in the world - which means you can enjoy every moment this summer!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Why not try a new activity this summer? Grab a friend and try your hand at tennis, squash, diving or cycling? It could even be as simple as perfecting your cake baking talents! Learning new skills can be loads of fun and the stars will help make sure you learn a lot, too!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
If you always find yourself reading the same type of book, why not branch out and try something new? A new genre could surprise you and you may find something you love! Head for the library with an open mind and see what you can discover!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Spending time with your friends and family is important, but if you've been feeling a little swamped lately, make sure to spend some quality time alone too. Quiet time can help top up your energy and keeps you in touch with your own feelings!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
Make sure to get out and enjoy the sun this summer! If you're not the sunbathing kind, gather some friends and head off for a picnic, a bike ride, a trip to a museum or gallery or a day trip to your nearest big city. Being a tourist in your own town can be cool!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
It's easy to take those we love most for granted at times, but the last thing you want is for them to feel neglected. Let friends and family know that you appreciate them - it could be the tiniest gesture, but it will make their day!

Cathy says:
Ooh... some interesting predicitions here... do they ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

NIKKI - MY FIRST MUSIC FESTIVAL!

Reader Nikki tells us about her first experience of a music festival... complete with waterlogged tent! And yes, she's a convert!

Nikki says:
I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to my first music festival, so I chose to start with one of the smaller ones. I went to Eden Festival in Scotland and after being told how dinky it was meant to be, I was blown away by the size of the place! I definitely think that I would have been overwhelmed at one of the larger festivals to start with, but this was a perfect size to start off with. There were thirteen different music venues on the site, almost all of the food stalls offered vegan and gluten free options and there were posters promoting recycling all over the place! It was amazing! Everyone was so friendly and inclusive, so we were all surrounded by the nicest atmosphere! Much to my delight, there was a whole array of circus equipment for people to try out - I had a great time, but I have learnt that the unicycle is definitely not for me!


After exploring all there was to see, including 2 humongous stages and many different food and crafts stalls, we headed back to pitch our tent. I had never camped before and found that pitching a tent was surprisingly easy! We shared some of the food that we had brought and headed back out to listen to some music.

We started our music journey at a stage called Rabbie’s Tavern. It was one of the smaller stages, but I don’t think there was a single moment of the festival were it wasn’t jam packed! The music was wonderful, it was calm and folky and everyone listening to it seemed really relaxed and happy. We loved it so much that we ended up staying there all night and didn’t manage to see any of the other stages! We’d had a long drive and decided after a lovely evening, we wanted to get an early night, so we headed back to our tent.

It was meant to be raining all weekend, but we managed to bring the beautiful sun with us, until we tucked ourselves in for bed and it started to pour. After about half an hour or so, we noticed that our pillows were a bit wet. After turning on a torch for closer inspection, we realised that our tent was not waterproof at all and there were puddles forming around the edges. Our pillows weren’t just a little wet, they were soaked! We grabbed all of our bedding and clothes and ran to the car, which was parked a few fields away. We tried our best to make a comfy bed in the car, but it was horrible! Just thinking about sleeping in that car makes my back ache!

In the morning, once we had eaten some breakfast, we forgot about all of that and headed down to the main stage to listen to some more music. We ended up falling asleep for half an hour or so before lunch and when we awoke we felt refreshed and ready for the day!

After lunch we went to the second largest stage to watch a man called Mr Motivator. He appeared on ITV back in the 90’s to motivate people into doing more exercise. Around a thousand people were gathered around this stage squatting and lunging while this sixty seven year old man put us all to shame with his athleticism and enthusiasm. People in banana costumes were weaving in and out of the crowd handing out bananas, and if I looked to my left, I could see a man dressed as a bear. If I looked to my right, I could see women dressed as fairies, handing out leaflets to try and prevent climate change. Dancing along to Mr Motivator was one of the greatest and weirdest moments of my entire life!

As we had no tent to sleep in, we decided to finish our day back at the small stage and head home early. I would definitely recommend a festival to anyone who is a fan of music and camping! I will always remember my time at Eden Festival and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Cathy says:
Wow... this sounds brilliant! Have YOU ever been to a music festival? What did you think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 28 July 2019

ADVENTURE: WHY WE NEED IT AND HOW TO FIND IT

Reader Katy blogs on why adventure is good for us... and why we all need to be be a little bit braver!

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live
Henry David Thoreau


Daydreaming is one of the healthiest forms of escapism but what use is it if all you ever do is dream? I know a lot of you are budding writers so pay heed to Mr. Thoreau’s words… often the best stories come from experience.

Why do we need adventure? 
Humans love routine. It’s comforting, reassuring, safe... but is it really living? While all this is an entirely natural, human trait, so is the need for adventure. The balance between the two is where we find the secret to happiness. We are storytellers, collectors of memory. In the modern world, it is so easy to travel to far and distant lands, we have it so easy compared to our predecessors. Take a ferry to Amsterdam? Grab a £30 flight to Madrid? I mean, it’s rude NOT to. Not only does it feed into our own happiness, stories of adventure inspire others to reach outside their comfort zone. It is contagious!

How to find it?
Now… there are three ingredients when it comes to cooking up an adventure. Excitement. Risk. Experience. Getting out of your comfort zone, exploring and pushing your limits. We will never remember the time we caught the bus for the 176th time into town unless, say, we strike up a conversation with a stranger. Something as simple as that can turn into a wonderful adventure. Maybe you are meeting a new best friend!

A lot of it is down to overcoming fear. For a lot of us, the thought of talking to a complete stranger is quite terrifying… but why? They’re usually just going about their lives, just like you are. Not scary at all. I made a very dear friend last year, whilst travelling in Budapest. I was just in the supermarket buying fruit when a girl, roughly the same age, approached me and asked if I knew where the nearest post box was. Incidentally, I truly didn't. But we got chatting; she was visiting too. We arranged to meet for a coffee and that was it! The rest of my time in Budapest was spent hanging out in her flat, exploring the Buda hills, exchanging music… and we still talk now. I plan to visit her in her student flat in Amsterdam soon. What I'm saying is, some of the best experiences have come from pushing through this fear of talking to people, just saying yes.

I can only ever speak for myself, but I believe we humans are never meant to stay in one place for too long. There is so much world to see, so many things to experience. But if travelling isn’t your thing, adventure can be found anywhere... on the bus, in a supermarket, at school. Literally anywhere. What are you waiting for?

Cathy says:
I am all for adventure... it's just around the corner, after all, if you know where to look! What was YOUR last big adventure? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Saturday, 27 July 2019

NATURE'S MAGIC

There is a growing trend of using natural herbs, oils and fruits  to make DIY face masks, conditioners and beauty potions... the way we did hundreds of years ago. They're a little bit of nature magic! Reader Clare shares a few simple tips...

COCONUT OIL
Women all over the world have used coconut oil for centuries as their go-to beauty companion! It can be used for anything from an intensive hair mask to skin moisturiser to a dental hygiene hack. Coconut oil is available in all big supermarkets now - don't be confused if it appears to be a solid rather than an oil, that's normal!

Here's a simple coconut oil face mask so you can see for yourself!
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. pure coconut oil
3 tbsp. oatmeal
Warm water
How to apply:
Put oatmeal in a bowl and pour in enough warm water to make a paste-like consistency (you can just guesstimate for this part.) Combine the coconut oil in with the oatmeal and mix well. Apply the mixture to your face, and exfoliate your skin by gently rubbing in a circular motion. Leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water and pat dry your face with a clean towel. Et voila!

AVOCADO
Not just a tasty, healthy snack, avocados can also be used to nourish the skin and hair. Why not try this recipe for a hair 'mask' to give a gorgeous shine?
To make:
Grab an avocado, a banana, and a tablespoon of olive oil.  Mash them all together in a bowl, then take that paste and rub into hair from root to tip. Wrap hair in an old towel or shower cap. Do something else for half an hour, and then get in the shower to shampoo and rinse.  Glossy hair that's naturally healthy!

HONEY
It's not just good on toast! Honey can be used on your skin and hair and has anti-bacterial properties as well as having moisturising powers, if you want a smoother and more even skin-tone. Try brushing a small dab of honey onto your skin. Massage gently and leave for twenty minutes. Spots may appear less aggressive and skin may feel smoother and more even!! Another tip - if you get hay fever, eat locally made honey - it can reduce symptoms of hay fever for some lucky people!

Note: If skin feels hot, sore or prickly at any point, wash the treatment off IMMEDIATELY... not all natural treatments are suited to sensitive skin!

Gorgeous artwork by the talented Millie Aked - thank you so much Millie! 

CATHY SAYS
Wow! Thank you Clare! These are cool... definitely going to try them out! LOVE the artwork too... brilliant, Millie! Do YOU have any old traditions or natural beauty tips? COMMENT BELOW!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

DAISY, AMY & ASHLEIGH'S LIBRARY NEWS!

If you've been enjoying the library updates of young school librarians 'The Terrible Trio plus One' you will be sad to know that the trio have now left their posts as student middle school librarians to start High School. We wish them well - and welcome three new student librarians on board to blog for DREAMCATCHER!

Daisy, Amy & Ashleigh say:
We are the new librarians who are going to be letting you know all the things that go on in our brilliant middle school library... our names are Daisy, Amy and Ashleigh. We are looking forward to taking over from the Terrible Trio now that they've moved on to High School and keeping you updated on library life behind the scenes!

As it was the end of the term, and some of the librarians are moving on to high school, we celebrated in the library with a doughnut challenge... it was a lot of fun, as you can see! (And what do you mean, the librarian bribes us to help out with cake? No way!!! Cake and libraries go together perfectly, no?)

The challenge reminded us of some doughnut books we have in the library:

The Jam Doughnut That Ruined My Life by Mark Lowery, and The Donut Diaries of Dermot Milligan by Anthony McGowan, illustrated by David Tazzyman. Both are very funny in a luagh out loud way, and ideal for a light summery read - or for little brothers and sisters of course! What are YOUR favourite funny books? COMMENT BELOW to let us know, and we'll see if we have them in the library!

Summer is the perfect time for reading, and over the holidays we are planning to read Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, Fortune Cookie by Cathy Cassidy and George’s Marvellous Medicine by the one and only Roald Dahl. Do YOU have a summer holiday reading list?

The Terrible Trio are sad to be leaving, but they are moving on to new challenges, and meanwhile WE are looking forward to coming back in September and letting you know all that we get up to! See you then!

Cathy says:
Welcome to DREAMCATCHER, Daisy, Amy & Ashleigh - we look forward to hearing much more about life as a student librarian soon! I love the idea of a summer reading list... do YOU have one? And don't forget to COMMENT BELOW to share your fave funny reads, too!

Sunday, 21 July 2019

SHORT STORY: EXTRA-ORDINARY!

Reader Anoushka from India shares a timely and though-provoking short story about hopes, dreams and the pressure to get perfect exam results...

'If you can dream it, you can do it...'

Shruti sighed and wished that these words were true. Sadly, it felt like they only applied to actors and glamorous fitness enthusiasts. They had no idea that these words hardly seemed to apply to ordinary students like her. She'd had enough of the media telling people that you can just dream and that it inevitably becomes reality. Shruti knew that in the fast-paced world of academics, it was hard to be recognised if you weren’t a topper. And all she really wanted was the recognition that she thought she deserved.

Shruti was an average student. Though she worked hard, she failed to match up to her classmates’ many capabilities.  She knew that school work wasn’t everything - she spent her free time playing the guitar, her passion - but it was hard to believe this when her parents and teachers stressed the importance of academic work and exams so much. They made it seem like excelling in school was the be all and end all of life - and that the only jobs worth having were a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Sometimes she felt like she was being left behind by everyone around her, as their sole focus was study and the constant need to excel and be at the top.

Shruti didn’t strive for excellence like a lot of her classmates did. She didn’t care if she got into Harvard or Yale, all she wanted was a sense of being contented and fulfilled instead of the constant need to achieve perfection. She felt that everyone should follow what their heart tells them to instead of doing what your parents always dreamed of becoming but were unable to follow through. She was sick of parents influencing their children’s career choices instead of letting them be what they aspired to be.

Could it be different for Shruti? Did she care enough about music to make it her career? A little voice inside told her that she did.

A decade on, Shruti was now an accomplished guitarist and a well respected speaker on mental health. Her parents had not supported their daughter at first, but soon understood their daughter’s lifelong dream. And right now, Shruti was standing in front of a crowd of hopeful teenagers. She stepped forward and concluded, 'So what if you don’t crack every exam, so what if you don’t earn as much as your sister does? Nothing can get in your way if you’re truly content with the way your life turns out. We all deserve a chance to be happy in our lives!' Shruti realised she was truly happy with her life, and now she was passing that message on - it couldn’t have been better.
                                                       
Cathy says:
I love the message in Anoushka's story... it's one we all need to hear! After all, we are all so much more than exam passes and academic achievements, right? What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 13 July 2019

CAROL: SWIMMING TEACHER!

Another in our fab series of dream careers... we talk to Carol, whose passion for swimming led to a career teaching others!

Carol says: 
I have always enjoyed swimming from a young age. My parents actually met at swimming lessons, when they were younger, so you could say swimming runs in the family! I always felt more at home in the water than on land. I was on the water polo team, I did synchronised swimming, I would take part in every swimming gala - I was never out of the pool, really!

I definitely fell into teaching swimming - I used to help my father, who was a swim instructor, from quite an early age. After many years of helping out, I finally decided to do my Swimming Teachers Qualification and actually start getting paid to do the thing that I love! I currently teach all sorts of swimming classes, from aqua-fitness, to tiny little babies, to an over fifties swimming group where our oldest member is eighty nine! I love it!

I find teaching so rewarding. People are so proud of themselves when they achieve something that they previously could not do, and I know that my instruction has helped them to get there. Plus, swimming is a very important skill to learn! My favourite anecdote is about Jenny, an eighty year old lady whose children told her that she was too old to swim. Five years down the line, Jenny can not only swim brilliantly but can do all four strokes - and she even managed to get her story in the local paper!

Teaching swimming may not be the best paid job in the world, but I feel like the luckiest girl in the world as I managed to turn my hobby and passion into my job! I now feel happy  every day of my life, because if you enjoy going to work every day, then you will at least enjoy the majority of your week!

Cathy says:
Brilliant... swimming is such an important skill to learn, and I love that Carol has turned her passion into a career! Do YOU dream of turning a hobby into a career? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

MALTEASER: THE STORY OF A RESCUE DOG

Ever wondered what a dog's view of life might be? Rescue dog Malteaser hijacks the DREAMCATCHER blog to let us know!

Malteaser says:
Hi - I am a brown spotted Dalmation and I am six years old. (I've hurt my paw at the moment, but don't worry, I'm on the mend!) I live next to a beautiful pine woods which I get to run around in every day, and we are not far from a beautiful beach too! My favourite things are cuddles, walks and food... but life wasn't always this way, alas. The story began a few years back at my Mum's local chip shop. She went in for some fish and chips one day and came out with me! She saw me in the garden, alone and sad - she told the lady behind the counter that she thought I was cute, and to her surprise she was told just to take me! I was separated from my birth mother at six weeks old, which is much too young, and pretty much left to fend for myself. The chip shop owner had been given me by a relative and he had a vague plan of selling me on for a profit, but he was too busy to look after me and I was left outside and fed scraps from the chip shop... not a great start in life for any dog, I think you'll agree.

My life changed that day, and amazingly, when I was taken to the vets, I didn't have any health problems. I was taken to my new home and I have never looked back since! It only took two days for me to learn that I had to go the toilet outside and the same time for me to learn how to sit and lie down. I'm a very smart dog, but then again I had a lot of help from my new big brother, Max. When I moved in to my new home, I was greeted by a big brown Doberman - but his size didn't scare me one bit! I marched straight into the house and started eating from his food bowl! We do everything together now and he really looks out for me when we go on walks. And since living here, I have made loads and loads of new friends. I'm so happy now that I've been rescued - I can give all my love to the people who love me back!

Cathy says:
Awww... rescue dogs really are the best in the world, we have two of our own! So many dogs in rescue are desperate for a home that it seems crazy to pay out for a pedigree... if you're looking for a pet, consider adopting one in need! Does YOUR pet have a cool story to tell? COMMENT BELOW to let us know!

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

YOUR STARS FOR JULY!

Skye Tanberry brings you some sizzling horoscope predictions for July... take a peek!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Meeting new people can be very daunting at first, but a stranger today is just a friend for tomorrow! Don’t be scared to speak to new people, you may be surprised at how much you have in common!

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Everyone would agree that if you make plans, you should stick to them. But if something suddenly comes up for someone and they have to change their plans, try not to be too quick to anger... flexibility is key to everyone’s life!

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Even the most capable person in the world needs a little assistance at some point - don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help! Even if you can do it by yourself, working with others may be more informative and a lot more fun!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
Summer is here, so don’t forget to spend some time in the sunshine! It’s important to get out in the fresh air when you can. Go out and top up your Vitamin D levels with some gentle exercise... and rope in a few friends to join you!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Keeping secrets is unhealthy to any relationship, whether it is a friendship, family, or your significant other. Being open and honest around those you love is one of the most important traits that you can have, so try not to forget that.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
It’s important to take other people’s views into account, even if they seem a little wacky to you. Friends and family don’t need to have the same opinion, as long as they respect the different opinions of those around them!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
It is often good to show restraint, whether it is eating one piece of chocolate rather than two, or whether you turn down something that you really want to do, so that you can get a head start on your homework… but remember that it is okay to let go now and then and unwind a little, too!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Showing emotion can feel quite a risk sometimes - it can be very difficult to put your heart on the line. But it’s good to show the people around you just how you are feeling. You may find that in the long run, you will be a lot happier for it!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
If you have a gut feeling that someone around you is having a tough time, then show them how joyful life can be! It’s important to let people know that you are there for them when they need you... after all, wouldn't you be glad of a helping hand if it were you?

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
Never lose your enthusiasm, for it is a catalyst in other people’s drive! You inspire those around you to work harder and become more involved, by how hard you work and how much effort you put in to all that you do!

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
You may have heard that curiosity killed the cat - but satisfaction brought it back! Never stop being inquisitive and pursuing new ideas. You never know where your next project will take you!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
This is your month to shine! You may feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut recently, doing the same thing day in, day out.  But change is just around the corner! If you feel like you have a boring routine then don’t worry, because soon it’s all going to change for the better.

Cathy says:
Ooh... some very cool predictions here! Do they ring true for YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 29 June 2019

JESSICA: JOURNALIST!

Another in our fab series about cool careers... we talk to Jessica, who has worked as a journalist for numerous top mags and newspapers. Wow!!!

Jessica says: 
From a young age I was infatuated with magazines. Growing up, all I wanted to become was a magazine editor with my own office full of books, plants and a rail of snazzy trench coats. If I’m honest, I thought being a magazine editor would be like the chick flick movies - Thirteen Going on Thirty maybe, or How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days, about magazine editors, ha! I’d spend all my pocket money on mags and loved reading the genuinely inspiring articles for women. I was always writing stories and my heart was with certain women’s issues I cared fiercely about. During my teen years, I saw so much in women’s magazines that broke my heart. Whether it was airbrushing photos or the pressure for us to look and behave a certain way, it felt like we were being pushed to be some kind of elusive dream super woman. There were a lot of problematic themes in the heart of women’s magazines, but I felt compelled to write articles for women. Pieces that gave women freedom instead of chains, that gave us hope instead of judgment and gave us laughs instead of us thinking we need to go on a diet. There is a power in words and with my passion for women and my interest in magazines, it made sense for me to put the two together and hope that I could make some positive changes in women’s magazines.

I started off doing a LOT of interning. I first started doing work experience at 14-years-old for Sugar magazine ( a teen mag that sadly is no more) in London. I studied journalism at uni and bounced around internship from internship in the city like a headless chicken at magazines like Cosmopolitan, Elle and OK! I learnt on the job and from a lot of really incredibly talented, funny, intelligent and dynamic women around me, who inspired me but also terrified me. From the get go, I would attend an event every night for work, whether it was a beauty product launch, a red carpet premiere, a celebrity birthday party, an awards ceremony, reviewing new restaurants/hotels or just a general showbiz party. It sounds glamorous and it was exciting for the first couple of months when I was starting out... but it’s definitely a lot of hard work. Interviewing celebrities and going to champagne fuelled parties may sound like the dream, but don’t be fooled. For a few years, I was interviewing up to six people a day. Talking to lots of different people can be interesting but exhausting.

As a journalist and an editor, I have worked on news, showbiz, culture, travel, fashion, beauty, politics and entertainment desks at national newspapers and global magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar, BBC News, OK! magazine, Stylist magazine, Elle magazine, The Independent, The Washington Post, Grazia, VICE, Refinery29, The Telegraph, Cosmopolitan and The Guardian. When I was writing about showbiz and celebrities, I landed exclusive interviews with George Clooney, Matt LeBlanc, Kate Winslet, Kim Cattrall and Will Smith. I was also the first to break the royal engagement world news of Harry and Meghan months before the palace announced it - a source leaked it to me and I spent most of the week leading up to press day worried sick that the Queen would sue me, ha! I have also put together extensive features and news articles that have been a part of UK campaigns and political movements. Now, I’m a freelance writer, so my job includes pitching a lot to editors, writing for different papers and magazines and reporting on current affairs.

In the future, I plan on continuing freelancing for different publications and writing in particular about social injustices and women’s issues, but I have started doing one on one freelance sessions which I’m really excited about. They are for people who may have always wanted to become a journalist and are keen to get published in their favourite magazines and newspapers, or for people who want to make the leap from blogging on social media to writing for global publications or those who simply just love writing and want to get their ideas out there. I’m passionate about getting people on the freelance journalist ladder. There are so many options and different roads to take that it can seem a bit overwhelming, so the ethos of my sessions is to really strip it back and simplify it. A lot of journalism courses and writing workshops overcomplicate stuff and it really doesn't have to be as painful as that! There are easy ways to widen your net, make solid connections with national/global editors, freelance for different publications as well as working in your job and get writing on the subjects you feel most passionate about, without having to do loads of unpaid work for 'exposure'. I feel super strongly that every piece of work you do should be paid. I’m also putting on a six-week masterclass course very soon for budding journos wanting to make the jump to freelancing, were the group will learn everything they need to know on how to spread their writer wings and become a successful freelance journalist!

For info on Jessica's courses and workshops,  email jess.hope.evans@gmail.com 

Sunday, 16 June 2019

GEORGIA RAE - SINGER!

Another in our cool series on careers - talented vocalist Georgia Rae is carving out a successful career as a musician. Read on to find out how!

Georgia Rae says:
My job is entertaining people. I am a professional vocalist and everything that I do for work involves music. I was born into music as my parents both perform for fun, and now I am lucky enough to say that something that I am so passionate about is my “job”. I am only twenty two years old so this is the start of my journey, I am just getting going but it is still so amazing that I have the support from my family to make this my career. As a child, I dreamt big. I always wanted to be a heart surgeon and it was only as I started to do my GCSE’s that I realised that science wasn’t my strength. Although I had been performing since I was seven years old, I only came to notice that I could sing whilst my friend was having singing lessons. It appeared that I naturally picked things up very quickly and so we started to sing in lessons together. Back then, I never would have thought that I would be in the position that I am in now

It all started when a performing arts university came to my school to hold after school sessions with pupils who were committed. I remember auditioning and thinking 'That was awful, why did my teacher ever suggest such a thing?' A month or so down the line I was attending stage school on Saturdays in Liverpool, playing key roles in my school productions and had chosen Music, Dance and Drama for my GCSE’s (which some teachers thought was absolutely ridiculous!). I can’t thank my performing arts and dance teachers enough for believing in me when I didn’t. It was a whirlwind from there on. Next thing I know, I’m performing in an ensemble around the UK and was preparing for competitions in The Netherlands. This career path wasn’t an accident, I have tried and trained so hard for a long time and I still have a long way to go!

You don’t need any exam passes or qualifications to become a professional singer. However, I did study music all the way to receiving my first class degree in music and I have grown so much as a person and a performer through music education! A love for music, hard work, dedication and a whole lot of passion will take you to great places. For me, there is no typical week. Every single day is different from the next! The one consistent thing in my life is that I wake up and get to make music that I love! I teach during the week, rehearse alone and in numerous ensembles, spend time writing new material, I travel to be a part of my acoustic duo, Afterglow Acoustic, both for rehearsals and gigs, I perform during the weekends both as a solo artist and with Afterglow Acoustic at events such as weddings, birthdays, charity events, local promotions and corporate events, and finally I spend a lot of time acting as a booking agent for both acts, dealing with all enquiries, making sure that all bookings are in order and that the client is getting the best from us.

Music is very rewarding, the fact that my weeks are never the same keep it interesting and as a creative I get bored quite easily doing the same thing over and over, so it is ideal for me! I love tutoring and seeing my students achieve something and watching their faces light up and leave my lesson on cloud nine. Getting that review after a performance is great, whether it be verbal or in written, it is always a great feeling knowing that you’ve pleased your audience. I have so many dreams and plans for the future. I am currently working on my own music and aim to release this within the next year, something that I have never done before and I am so so excited! The only downside is that I often spend a lot of time alone and there is a certain level of insecurity - you never know where your next job could be! I find both of these very hard, I hate being alone and I am a planner so hate uncertainty!

My advice for readers who would like to follow a similar path? Go for it!! Put 100% into everything that you do! Take inspiration from others, this will make you want to try harder - but never compare your self to others - be yourself.

Follow Georgia Rae's Facebook music page here: https://www.facebook.com/georgiaraekmusic/

Cathy says:
Wow! I love Georgia Rae's story and hope it can inspire my younger readers who might like a career in music too... amazing! What's YOUR dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 14 June 2019

GRACE'S GUIDE TO THE CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS... AND BOY!

Reader Grace is mad about the CHOCOLATE BOX GIRLS series... check out her quick, fun fact file on the five sisters!

Grace says:
I love The Chocolate Box Girls!! My favourites are Honey and Cherry. I've read CHERRY CRUSH, MARSHMALLOW SKYE, SUMMER'S DREAM, BITTERSWEET, COCO CARAMEL and SWEET HONEY - I am reading FORTUNE COOKIE at the moment. This is what I think about the main characters...

Cherry Costello: Nice, kind, friendly (even to Honey), tries to get along with Honey, and likes telling stories. 

Loves: Gypsy caravan, Shay Fletcher, Paddy, Skye, Summer, Coco, Charlotte and Kiko, her room at Tanglewood, stories about Sakura.

Skye Tanberry: Shy, kind, nice, friendly, gets along with everyone in the family. 

Loves: Going back in time, Jamie Finch, Charlotte, Paddy, Greg, Summer, Coco, Honey, Cherry, being with Millie.
                                                                                

Summer Tanberry: Kind, friendly, nice, hardworking, anxious, thin. 
Loves: Ballet, Paddy, Charlotte, Greg, Skye, Coco, Honey, Cherry, Alfie Anderson, flower from Alfie, having a Valentine's birthday and Tia.

Coco Tanberry: Kind, shy, nervous, worried about saving the earth.
Loves: Charlotte, Paddy, Greg, Skye, Summer, Honey, Cherry, Sarah, Amy, Jayde, Lawrie Marshall, animals, Caramel, Spirit and Star.

Honey Tanberry: Moody, selfish, impulsive but sometimes kind and caring. 

Loves: Charlotte, Greg, Skye, Summer, Coco, Ash, Riley, Bennie, Tara, Skype, Australia and Emma. 

Jake Cooke: Scared of leaks, clumsy, scared, nice, caring.
Loves: Alison, Greg, Skype, Skye, Summer, Coco, Cherry, Paddy, Honey, Charlotte, Maisie, Isla, Chinatown, Kitnor.

Cathy says:
I love Grace's verdict on the main characters... what do YOU think? Is there anything you'd add or disagree with? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

SKYLAR: COMING OUT AS TRANS

Heart-wrenchingly honest blog from Skylar, about discovering his true identity - and coming to terms with it...

Skylar says:
I think I was sixteen when I first learned what being trans meant. I wasn’t really familiar with the concept before that – if you’d asked me what a transgender person was, I probably would have said something about men wearing dresses. I had very little idea what the word meant - it just wasn’t talked about in my small Scottish town. I spent most of my life very confused up until I was sixteen, with no words to describe exactly how I was feeling. I had this overwhelming sense that I didn’t belong anywhere; no matter who I spoke to or how I dressed, nothing felt right. I remember telling a friend once that I would have preferred to have been “born a boy”. I had no idea what that meant for me - I just thought that I was stuck being a girl because that’s what I had to be, no other option.

At sixteen, I stumbled across an online blog written by a trans person. That’s where it all started. From the moment I started reading, it was like I’d finally cleared the fog in my head. Everything made sense. Why I never felt like I belonged, why I had so many insecurities about my body, why I identified with boy characters in books more than the girls. I realised that there were others who felt how I felt. It was amazing, realising that you didn’t have to identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. I finally had the language to describe how I was feeling. I'd been questioning my gender identity for years without realising. At college, there was a LGBTQIA group and I spoke to a youth worker who helped me unpack the thoughts I was having. It took months to feel comfortable identifying as trans. I spent a long time trying out different pronouns and names in my head, trying to figure it all out. The first time I heard someone else call me “him” it was the most validating experience ever. I kept replaying it in my head for the rest of the day!

I officially came out as trans to all of my friends and family when I was eighteen. I came out to close friends first, and received an overwhelmingly supportive response from almost everyone. I then came out to my family. They struggled to accept it, especially my mum, and I felt very rejected. A lot of other circumstances were in play, and I ended up leaving home suddenly and becoming homeless. Around the same time I  learned first hand that being trans came with its hardships - healthcare professionals were sometimes ignorant and discriminatory, people online had so much hate to spread, and not everyone I came out to respected my new identity. It was one of the hardest times of my life, but I received continuous support from LGBT Youth Scotland, and from my new found community of fellow trans people, which made it a little easier. But it was still a very long time before I got over the pain of feeling like my identity was a burden on others. Years later, after rebuilding my relationship with my family, I know that they didn’t mean any harm. There was a lot going on at home already, and it was just a bit too much all at once. My mum and I understand each other a lot more now, and she’s one of my biggest supporters. She uses the right name and pronouns, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her for rethinking her world view for me.

I’d encourage any young people reading this that think they may be gay, bi, trans, non-binary or are questioning who they are even a little bit, to know that it gets easier. That’s such a common phrase that I feel it’s became a stereotype, but it’s so true. It didn’t get better for me for a while, and it was definitely baby steps when things did start looking up. But I wouldn’t change any of it. All of the hardship, the questioning, the negative reactions, the turbulent living situations - it made me stronger and more sure of myself in the end. Look for communities online or in your area where you might be able to find a sense of belonging. Look for youth/support groups you can attend in your area - you might be surprised at the resources you can find with a little research!

I’m now in a place where I’m surrounded by people who validate my identity, and when I run into people who disrespect it, I’m able to brush it off. I know who I am, so why let a stranger’s words change that? It takes a while to get there - it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative things people have to say, especially online. But I promise you, all you have to do is look a little harder, and there are countless people ready to provide their support and kindness. Is absolutely everyone in the world ready for us? No, maybe not. But they will be! One day, they will be.

Photos courtesy of Pexels.

Cathy says:
Skylar's story is so honest and heartfelt - it has clearly taken a lot of courage to share, and I hope it helps others to understand more what it feels like to be trans. Do YOU have any words of support for Skylar? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts...

Friday, 7 June 2019

MARILYNE: ARCHAEOLOGIST!

Another in our regular series on cool careers... we talk to Marilyne, an archaeologist living in France!

Marilyne says:
I decided I would be an archaeologist when I was six and began to spend summers volunteering at sites when I was sixteen. I studied at the universities in Nancy and Lyon - I wanted to study Mesopotamian history, but it was not possible, so, as I loved the Middle-Ages, I decided to study the Merovingian and Carolingian eras. In France, we have some good laws protecting archaeological sites - before starting a building project, we check that there are no archaeological remains there, so that sites are no longer destroyed without study on our part.

Archaeology is a very difficult job - it is very far from the myth of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones. It's a very physical and exhausting job, in any weather, rain or snow, and the salary is low, even with lots of diplomas. But…archaeology is my passion as well as my job. My brain is split in two: a part that lives here, today, and an other part that lives in the past with the Merovingians. I am still wondering how they lived, what did they look like! I have managed very beautiful projects and written many articles, but my best discovery is what newspapers have named : une bouteille à la terre, a bottle to the ground!!! On a site of the Merovingian era, we found a bottle with a letter dating from 1918. A letter, intact in its envelope, posted to Oklahoma city from an aunt writing to her nephew coming to war in France and posted in Lorraine. It was such a moment of emotion!

Sadly, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia so I can not search anymore or do the hard physical work of an archaeologist. I tried to think about another job, but I can’t leave… this is a passion, it’s under the skin. What do I do now everyday ? I read and correct the reports of the others, write historical records and do documentary and archival research. Sometimes, I imagine I could write books, stories about my Merovingians.

A tip to give to someone who would like to be an archaeologist? To start archaeological digs early.
It's the only way to know if the passion is really there. If it is, to prepare for an exciting but weary job, poorly paid… but if you have the passion, you will feel alive. You have to love the outdoors, but it's so much better than being locked in an office!

More details about archeology in France : www.inrap.fr.

Cathy says:
I LOVE this blog! As a teen, I dreamed of being an archaeologist, and later on my son had the same dream too, although he eventually took a different direction. Thank you Marilyne for sharing your love of this career with us - and please, write those books... I for one would read them! What is YOUR dream career? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 3 June 2019

YOUR STARS FOR JUNE!

Skye Tanberry is back to bring you your horoscope for June... check out your starsign to see what could be in store!!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
You have been working so hard recently and your efforts have not been in vain! Be proud of all that you have accomplished and don’t forget to stop and take time for yourself! Like Cathy, your birthday will be coming up this month, so make sure that you plan something that you want to do with your friends and family. And try to have the best birthday ever!

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
Although being loyal to your friends is extremely important, if you notice that they have done something wrong, don’t be afraid to tell them - gently! A true friend will always listen and not be mad at you for expressing how you truly feel. If they don’t value your honesty, then they aren’t worth it.

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
If you are dying to go on holiday this summer, but don’t have enough money, then try to plan something low key, but make it special! A trip to the park is good, but a surprise picnic is even better! Why not treat someone you love to a small surprise day out?

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Hard work is essential if you want to be successful, but remember to take time to stop and smell the roses. Try to make time for yourself and those around you. A day off once in a while will balance out your life and really help you to unwind!

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
It may be fun to hang around with your friends all the time; but don’t forget about your family! It would make their day to know that you want to spend time with them once in a while too.

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
Try not to be jealous of people that have it better than you. Try to turn any jealous thoughts into productivity, that will be your drive in to getting you what you want most. And see how you can learn from those you envy!

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Patience is a virtue, but it can also be really frustrating! Don’t worry though, the thing that you want will be worth the wait!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
If you come across something that is broken, don’t think of it as a piece of rubbish. Think of it as a special project, that you can turn in to something beautiful!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
Compromise can be hard, but with compromise can sometimes come the happiest outcome. So try not to think of it as a bad thing, try to think of it as a win for both sides.

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
Remember that it is okay to be scared, but don’t let fear rule your life! Make sure to get out there, even if perhaps you feel a little overwhelmed. You can conquer your fear and come out better for it,  on the other side!

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
You are likely to succeed this month, but don’t be too impulsive! It’s essential to think through the outcome of each decision before you make it.

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Sometimes you may not feel like sharing your things, be it sweets or ideas, to other students in your class. But if you start sharing more, then you may find that you receive more than you give away!

Cathy says:
Ooh, I actually got a name check in the Gemini horoscope this month! Thanks, Skye! Do Skye's predictions seem accurate for YOU this time? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 31 May 2019

WHAT CC BOOKS MEAN TO ME!

Two American readers share their memories of how CC books shaped their teenage years...


Khelsea says:
I was gifted DIZZY one year for Christmas at around eight years old. I was obsessed with it. I read it at least five times, and then I was eventually gifted INDIGO BLUE and SCARLETT as well. I did multiple book fair projects on these books, and even won a few trophies for them. The topics covered in these books were topics that were sensitive, yet necessary. I had never experienced a transient life, but by reading these books, I was able to understand the characters and even extend it to real life. I am so thankful for CC books. Now, at the age of twenty one, I am less than a year away from graduating college with a degree with English Education. I have hopes of teaching middle school and being able to impact students year after year. Now, as a senior, I am starting to begin to teach my own lessons. CC books will be taught in my classroom - I am doing a mini-lesson of SCARLETT now, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. The themes of these books are entertaining and cause the read to be empathetic towards the characters. So... Cathy Cassidy, thank you so much for writing DIZZY and for being my favourite childhood author!

Christy says:
As a child Cathy Cassidy was my FAVORITE author and honestly when I'm asked, I still say the same. Cathy changed my life. I was in an awful situation when I discovered her books at a Barnes and Noble during my father's visitation days. I found the website and emailed her, and was SO surprised when she responded time and time again. Cathy inspired me to keep going through my hard times and I could never thank her enough. As a young child going through the hardest time in my life, having my favourite author tell me to follow my dreams and to keep going, did exactly that. I'm twenty years old now. I found CC books when I was twelve, nine years ago. I was recently  talking to a girlfriend about the most influential people in my life and this happened to come up and I decided to email Cathy Cassidy and explain how thankful I am for everything. Honestly, I think these books saved my life. SCARLETT is still to this day my favourite book and I'll cherish my hardback forever! Thank you for taking the time out back then to respond to a little girl with way too much to handle.

Cathy says:
Awww... I love hearing from my older readers, it makes all the hard work worthwhile! It's lovely to see the US covers again, too! Is there a CC book that means the world to YOU? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

STEPHANIE: EARLY YEARS PRACTITIONER

Next in our series of posts about cool and interesting careers options, we chat to Stephanie, who looks after nursery aged children!

Stephanie says:
I am a Early Years Practitioner - sometimes known as a nursery nurse! The nursery I work at is part of a chain with nurseries across London, Norfolk and Cambridge, and I am currently based in a 2-3 year old room, looking after up to fifteen toddlers a day. What I like about my job the most is watching the children grow into their own little people - it’s incredibly rewarding to see a child  do something for the first time, such as put their own shoes on, or catch a ball! As a child myself I wanted to go into teaching, which isn’t too far from what I do now! At first I wanted to teach secondary, then primary, and now I’m in a nursery! I’ve gone backwards with the age group but the line of work I have wanted to be in has always been to work in education and childcare.

I got into nursery work through an apprenticeship. After completing my first year of A-Levels at Sixth Form, I decided I wanted to work, but due to my age I had to remain in education in some way. I managed to find an apprenticeship in a local nursery where I would work full-time whilst studying my Level 2 in Childcare. To get into this apprenticeship, I didn’t need to have passed my Maths and English at school (luckily I got at least a C in both) as the apprenticeship offers functional skills in English and Maths, which is taught to you through your tutor, and you can take the exam as many times as needed until you pass. To work with children, you need to have a lot of patience. Every child is different and are all at different developmental stages, meaning some need extra support. Being good at communication is key, and although I started off a bit shy, I soon learned to chat more, which is essential when needing to pass on information about a child, and also when it comes to telling parents about their child’s day at nursery!

No two weeks in a nursery are ever the same. Every day, we welcome parents and children in, assist with the handover, giving a child reassurance when needed. We are highly child-orientated, meaning that we set up activities and toys based on what the children are interested in. We also plan activities that we would like run with the children, in order for them to learn and try new things. Every week, we complete observations on each child, where we either just watch what a child is doing, or run an activity with them, and write it either in a paper journal or an online journal. This enables us to show where they are in certain areas of development (known as the Early Years Foundation Stage) and know how to support them all the way from being a baby, right up until they go to school!

I am currently in the third nursery I’ve worked in, and I am still working towards new careers. I have just started my Level 3 childcare, and once that is completed I will be studying a degree in Early Years at my local university. I am hoping to work towards becoming a Family Support Worker - someone who works with families who have been referred to social services. Family Support Workers will work alongside a family to make sure that their best interests are kept in mind, and helping them reach services that will enable this.

The only downside to my work is that if you work full time, the hours can be long. I work a forty hour week, five days a week. Juggling this with studying for my Level 3 isn’t always easy, but I make the most of my bus journey to work each day to keep studying, and sometimes use the library that is next door to my work to study on lunch breaks. If you would like to go into working in the Early Years, there are various options. You could study your qualifications at college, complete an apprenticeship, or if you’re in a different line of work currently, speak to a nursery about training, as they are generally very good at taking on unqualified staff and training them if you can show you have the passion and drive to help the children grow!

Cathy says:
This is wonderful! Not an easy job, but such a rewarding one... thank you Stephanie for sharing your experiences! Have YOU ever thought of working with children? COMMENT BELOW to share your thoughts!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

SHORT STORY: EGGSHELL

Talented young writer Caitlin, thirteen, shares a gorgeous  short story to add a little magic to your bank holiday weekend! Read on...

I am here to tell you the story of the first dragon. Or at least, the first on Earth.

He was not so remarkable, to his own species, but to us, he seemed extraordinary. He was a pale blue, with the occasional white splotch. His body was long and serpentine, stretching into a thin whip of a tail. A single row of blue and white feathers ran down his spine, with a similar burst of quills at the tip of his tail. His four wings were like those of a bird of prey - long and sleek, built for speed and agility. They folded close to his sides, almost invisible against his scales, if you caught him in shadow.

Of course, he is far larger than anything we could easily imagine. One feather of his would bridge oceans.

All those long years, gazing at stars, creating religions based on them, making predictions of our futures using their paths - and we never looked closely enough at the moon. If we had, maybe we would have noticed the similarities between the moon and a simple egg. If we had dug a little deeper, gone beneath the surface, we might have found him. Curled inside, sleeping. Waiting. Not ready, yet.
The first sign back on earth was a kind of earthquake. But it was different - softer, muted somehow. While an earthquake is the violent shattering of reality in panic and screaming, what we experienced when the moon hatched was more like we were in a snow globe, being shaken slowly from side to side.

We gathered outside our buildings, staring into the night sky. The moon was huge and low, glowing a brighter white than we had ever seen it. It shook slightly, a hairline fracture appearing on the surface.
Of course, we panicked. Some ran. Some hid. Some just stood and watched, whether it be through the sheer inability to move or through curiosity. Inside his shell, the first dragon was scratching away at the inner wall. He started with a tiny horn on his nose, like a baby bird might. An egg tooth. Designed for breaking through the shell quickly and efficiently. Even with this, it took him hours before he managed to push away a chunk big enough for us to see a single bright golden eye.

After that, it was quite quick. He peeled away further and further, until he could crawl through the hole. He clung to the moon, seeing it as the only land. But without him, it was just an empty eggshell, and it fell into space and drifted from our vision. He hovered for a second, panicked, before heading our way. Then, even those who had been frozen before decided to move.

He landed on Australia, obliterating it completely and causing massive tsunamis along the coasts of Africa and Asia, as most of his body was submerged in the Indian Ocean.

Huh? I’m halfway through a lecture now, I can’t really talk - Oh.

Sorry, but I seem to have got the wrong time. Apparently this hasn’t happened yet in your reality.
This is why I don’t use time travel bracelets much, but you see, officer, I’d missed my train and needed a few more minutes - I must have put the wrong date in, changed the year a bit by accident -
Hey! Careful, I’m a respected researcher!

The researcher was dragged away in cuffs by a masked officer, and by the next day, anyone who attended the lecture had forgotten it completely, their heads filled with false memories of days well spent.

Except me. I wrote it down as he spoke.

Now, I have to go - I have a flight to catch. Sydney to London, one way ticket. I don’t feel quite safe in Australia any more.

To read more of Caitlin's stories, check out her Wattpad here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/SilkenStrand

Cathy says:
Wow... this is SO beautifully written, and so clever and original - thank you, Caitlin! Should we have more short stories on DREAMCATCHER? What do YOU think? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

NIKKI: MY FIRST CRUISE!

Reader Nikki writes about her first cruise holiday... if you're not going anywhere this summer, curl up and read more... and start drea...