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Cassidy, Cathy 1962-

Cassidy, Cathy 1962-

Personal

Born June 13, 1962, in Coventry, England; married; husband's name Liam; children: two children. Education: Attended art college in Liverpool, England; earned postgraduate teaching certificate.

Addresses

Home—Galloway, Scotland. Agent—Darley Anderson, Estelle House, 11 Eustace Rd., Fulham, London SW6 1JB, England. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

High-school art teacher and primary-school art specialist. Novelist, beginning c. 2003.

Awards, Honors

Red House Children's Book Award shortlist, for Driftwood.

Writings

Dizzy (young-adult novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2004.

Indigo Blue (young adult novel), Puffin (London, England), 2005.

Driftwood (young-adult novel), Puffin (London, England), 2005.

Scarlett (young-adult novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2006.

Love, Peace, and Chocolate, Puffin (London, England), 2007.

Sundae Girl, Puffin (London, England), 2007.

Jackie, former fiction editor; Shout, advice columnist.

Sidelights

In addition to her work as a novelist, British writer Cathy Cassidy lives with her family in rural Scotland, where she teaches art to primary-school children. Cassidy's debut novel, Dizzy, is the story of a preteen dealing with parental abandonment, and more recent works such as Indigo Blue, Driftwood, and Scarlett also focus on protagonists attempting to come to terms with difficult family issues.

In Dizzy, a young girl deals with abandonment by her mother, Storm, when Dizzy was four years old. Once a year on her birthday, Dizzy hears from Storm. On the girl's twelfth birthday, however, things change. This time Storm takes her daughter to a solstice festival in Scotland, and Dizzy believes it is with her father's permission. As the trip stretches into weeks, however, the preteen is forced to sleep in a teepee, bathe without hot water, eat moldy bread, and sing for handouts while Storm reads tarot cards and her boyfriend does crystal healings. Meanwhile, Dizzy wonders why her father has answered none of the postcards she has given to her mother to mail. When Storm tires of their reunion, she puts Dizzy in the care of friend Tess so that she can go off to India with her boyfriend, whose son, seven-year-old Mouse, is also dropped off. Tess's fourteen-year-old son Finn becomes Dizzy's friend and serves as a surrogate brother to the troubled Mouse.

In a review of Cassidy's fiction debut, Booklist critic Shelle Rosenfeld called Dizzy a "likeable, sympathetic protagonist, whose life illustrates the challenges and rewards of adolescence, family, and love. School Library Journal contributor Jean Gaffney commented of Dizzy that Cassidy's "well-developed plot fosters concern for Dizzy from the beginning," and deemed the novel "a unique, satisfying story."

In Indigo Blue, Cassidy's eleven-year-old heroine lives with her single mother and toddler sister, Misti. When her mother's relationship with her abusive live-in boyfriend, Max, fails, the family is forced to move out of their pleasant home and into a run-down basement apartment. Meanwhile, Indigo is also having difficulties with her own relationships, particularly with her best friend Jo at school and with a boy she has a crush on. Lonely, confused, and upset by the unsettled life her mother has created, the preteen finds her loyalty divided between her mother and Max. Now she must learn to reevaluate her relationship with her parent from a more mature perspective. "For a story filled with problems," wrote School Library Journal contributor Lauralyn Persson, Indigo Blue "is a surprisingly bright book, with a sympathetic main character and an absorbing plot." Noting that the novel's upbeat conclusion "rings true," Booklist contributor Krista Hutley added that the preteen narrator's "simple, direct voice keeps the story from becoming message-driven and sentimental."

Cassidy casts another self-reliant preteen in the role of narrator in Scarlett. Following her expulsion from five consecutive boarding schools, twelve-year-old Scarlett Flynn is sent to live with her divorced father and his new family in Connemara, Ireland. At first angry and resentful, a sudden crisis and her growing friendship with a reclusive young man named Kian helps Scarlett learn to accept her place in her new family and trust her newfound stability. Noting the novel's appealing rural setting, Karen Hutt added in her Booklist review of Scarlett that "Cassidy perfectly captures" her preteen protagonist's "tough exterior." In School Library Journal Jennifer Cogan praised the novel as "a poignant and strong story about love, forgiveness, and resilience" that features a fast pace and a "quirky and lovable" narrator. "Readers will be captivated by the wise, wild Kian," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the critic

noting that, through this character, Cassidy "adds to the magic that cloaks Scarlett's story."

Cassidy once told SATA: "I've wanted to be a writer ever since I realized there was such a thing. As a child, I was a real daydreamer, always thinking up stories. I used to make books for my little brother and comics and magazines to sell to my classmates at school. I started trying to get my work into print when I was twelve or thirteen—I was pretty determined about it.

"It's hard to know who my influences are—my favorite authors are J.D. Salinger and William Saroyan, and I really rate American teen authors like Sharon Creech, David Klass and James Howe. As I've said, I am addicted to daydreaming, and lots of ideas grow from there. I'm inspired by the Scottish and Irish country-side, and by people who live outside the rules and do things their own way.

"I don't make detailed plans or plots. I think about my idea and daydream around it until I have a clear idea of what's happening. Then I start writing—I try for 1,000 words a day when I'm not teaching. I write in the mornings, at my old desk, with my three cats lounging around nearby, and I start at the beginning and work my way through. When the first draft is finished, I go through it again and try to pull the story together. Then my ‘first readers’ get to see it—my children, husband and a couple of writer/editor friends. I revise again, then send the result to my agent/publisher.

"I thought writing was a quiet, introspective occupation—I've since learned that children's authors have to get out there and do school visits and book festivals and events! That was a scary idea at first, but now I love that side of it too—meeting readers is cool.

"Of my books, at the moment, Driftwood is my favorite—I got really involved with the characters. I have a soft spot for Dizzy, too, as it was my first book to be published, and I love the hippy-traveler world it describes.

"I want kids to care about my characters and feel what they're feeling. That seems to be happening—the feedback from kids all around the world has been amazing. I don't write books to solve problems, but if kids find that my books help them cope with something that's happening in their own lives, that's great, too."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 2004, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Dizzy, p. 321; October 1, 2005, Krista Hutley, review of Indigo Blue, p. 56; December 1, 2006, Karen Hutt, review of Scarlett, p. 44.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Dizzy, p. 738; September 1, 2005, review of Indigo Blue, p. 969; October 1, 2006, review of Scarlett, p. 1011.

Publishers Weekly, October 11, 2004, review of Dizzy, p. 80; November 20, 2006, review of Scarlett, p. 60.

School Library Journal, September, 2004, Jean Gaffney, review of Dizzy, p. 198; November, 2005, Lauralyn Persson, review of Indigo Blue, p. 130; November, 2006, Jennifer Cogan, review of Scarlett, p. 130.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2007, Dodsy Harland, review of Scarlett, p. 521.

ONLINE

Cathy Cassidy Home Page,http://www.cathycassidy.com (October 27, 2007).

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