Browsing articles in "Kids’ Panel"

Magic, swords and dragons: Christopher Paolini’s ‘Eragon’ soars, reviewer Noah says

Aug 2, 2017   //   by Noah   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Magic, swords and dragons: Christopher Paolini’s ‘Eragon’ soars, reviewer Noah says
Eragon book cover featuring a dragon

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

Eragon by Christopher Paolini, one of my favourite books, is both adventurous and suspenseful. The book takes place in the mystical land of Alagaёsia (pronounced al-uh-GAY-zee-uh), a land with dwarves, humans and elves living together in peace since the beginning of time. When humans arrived in the land, they went to war with the elves, and the Dragon Riders were created to keep the peace. These human magic-wielders had fulfilled their task for countless years, until one turned against the others, ending the reign of the Riders.

All of the dragons were slayed, and all of the Riders vanished from existence. However, there were three dragon eggs that survived, in the presence of the evil human king, Galbatorix. If the king gets one of the eggs to hatch, he will be able to control all of Alagaёsia. As it turns out, one of the eggs has been stolen, and hatches in the presence of a farm boy, in the north of the land, isolated from the rest of the country. The name of the farm boy is Eragon.

Eragon travels the land of Alagaёsia with an old storyteller named Brom who trains him in the uses of magic, swordplay, and dragon lore. They want revenge on the Ra’zac, evil beings who work for the king and killed Eragon’s stepfather in search of the farm boy. The Ra’zac want to bring Eragon to the king in order to make him work for their master, but Eragon has managed to evade them. After tracking them to a small town, he is captured and thrown into prison. Eragon is questioned by a Shade, the darkest spirits that walk the earth. He manages to escape, along with a fellow traveller named Murtaugh. Eragon, through his magic, learns that an elf is captive in the prison, and manages to save her. The three cross the great Hadarac Desert, hoping to reach the Varden, a group that rebels against the king’s reign. Whichever side controls eragon, the first Dragon Rider in hundreds of years, will have a major advantage in the war.

The story is very adventurous, as there are many chases, battles, and traps. Both sides use different means to try to sway Eragon to join their side. It is also very suspenseful. Most of the time, characters refuse to explain their full history to anybody, as any information could fall into the hands of the enemy. Eragon has many adventures and in just the first book of this series, meets with the dwarves in their magical city, talks with an elf, and rides a dragon: feats that few, if any, of the people in Alagaёsia can boast of.

Because of the high-action adventure, the suspense, and the amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. There are three other books in the series.


Kris reviews Anusree Roy’s ‘Little Pretty and The Exceptional’

Jul 5, 2017   //   by Kris   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Kris reviews Anusree Roy’s ‘Little Pretty and The Exceptional’

A gifted and haunted older sister and an air-headed younger sister duo, along with their traditional immigrant father, struggle with mental illness in the family while opening a new shop. It sounds like a clichéd story of a family overcoming their dark past and everything is back to normal and everyone is happy at the end. However, it was a pleasant surprise to be wrong.

Little Pretty and The Exceptional is one of the six plays that charts new Canadian experiences at the Factory Theatre in Toronto.

It’s a bittersweet family story that deals with heavy themes. Simran (Farah Merani) is an aspiring lawyer — the exceptional — while her younger sister Jasmeet’s (Shruti Kothari) highest ambition is to be prom queen — little pretty — and spending time with her boyfriend, Iyar (Shelley Antony). Dilpreet (Sugith Varughese), their father, acts traditional and thinks differently from the sisters, but together they plan the opening of their sari shop on Gerrard Street East. Simran becomes frantic after receiving poor LSAT results. Over time, Simran’s mental state declines, and the family has to support each other through the hardship.

The acting was notable, particularly Sugith Varughese as Dilpreet, the father. Sugith portrayed the character to a T. He never broke character and even put on an accent. Even without lines, all the actors still stayed in character; it was most noticeable during the microwave scene, when the actors were waiting for microwaved Chinese food. Iyar, portrayed by Shelley Antony, lacked depth as a character originally. He would awkwardly leave when the scene became serious and didn’t quite fit. However, in the second part, Iyar became more aware, resulting in a better character. Jasmeet also matured in the second part, but lacked a reaction when she learned new information about their family’s tragedy.

The set was spectacular. The lighting was the most impressive aspect; it helped smoothly transition between scenes and set the mood of each scene. A good example is when Simran was hallucinating — the flickering of the lights in the shop added a horror feel. The usage of all of the stage was wonderful. An example of this is Simran peeking from the curtain and stepping out from there. All of it is made even more impressive by the fact that the whole story took place in one location, the shop.

The playwriting/script/plot was good. The struggles of an immigrant family, the ties of family and the toll of mental illness on everyone was portrayed well. The family strain when Simran was slipping away from them was tear-jerking. Simran having schizophrenia wasn’t shown well; the various symptoms were questionable, especially in a specific scene where Simran was detached from her body. It could’ve been interpreted in many ways. It could’ve shown disillusion of reality or another personality (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or Depersonalization Disorder. It was also disappointing to how quick and easy it was for Simran to find the right medication that works and getting the correct diagnosis, considering the play took a minute or two to microwave Chinese food for authenticity.

The story set a base for the actors, but the actors really brought it to life. Everyone stayed focused throughout the production and the set allowed the scenes to feel more real. The plot had so much potential, but could’ve been more precise. It’s a play worth checking out. Unfortunately, Little Pretty and The Exceptional showings ended on April 30th but the Factory Theatre offers other productions also worth looking at.


Kris meets Libby, a friendly ebook and audiobook borrowing app

Jun 14, 2017   //   by Kris   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Kris meets Libby, a friendly ebook and audiobook borrowing app

Readers are just one tap away from unlocking the power of the written word.

Libby is an app developed by OverDrive Labs. It’s another resource to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks and it’s available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Introducing Libby

Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library.

Libby allows you to use multiple cards and different libraries, which is great if you want to include the whole family. Libby’s design is simple and easy to use. The app starts with the user saying hi to Libby. All materials will be available as soon as you log on. There are collections of different genres and types of materials. There is a single bookshelf that automatically presents all of your loans and holds, all the materials you borrowed through the OverDrive app (or your library’s OverDrive website) will show up in Libby too. All the materials can be downloaded and borrowed with a single tap.

Some advantages of using Libby is that your session doesn’t time out, you can download your materials to use offline, you can sample books, tag your materials, you can keep track of what you read with your activity tab and you can skip and rewind your audiobooks. The best part about Libby is that materials are always available and will be returned automatically, so fees will never be a problem.

This is an educational and potentially fun app. Libby has books and materials for everyone. From beginning readers with read-a-long picture books to the foreign language learner and anyone else. However, you still must monitor children using Libby to keep them away from material that isn’t age-appropriate. It is possible to apply preferences but some materials could slip through and the setting could be changed easily.


Noah finds excitement in Farley Mowat’s ‘Lost in the Barrens’

May 31, 2017   //   by Noah   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Noah finds excitement in Farley Mowat’s ‘Lost in the Barrens’
Lost in the Barrens cover

Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Published in 1956, this story is both adventurous and exciting. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.

Editor’s note: To accurately describe the content of Lost in the Barrens, this review references terms for Aboriginal Peoples used in the book that were in common use at the time of the book’s publication.

Awasin, an Indian Chipewyan, has lived in the north all his life. Jamie, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and attended an expensive, private boarding school. He was sent to the school after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. But Jamie’s uncle and only living relative, Angus McNair, does not have enough money to continue sending his nephew to the school, so he arranges to have Jamie brought to the north to live with him. When Jamie arrives at Angus McNair’s dwelling in the woods, he and Awasin become good friends.

Jamie is enjoying his life in the north. But winter is coming, and an Indian camp even farther north is running out of food. This camp, led by a man named Denikazi, normally has plenty of caribou meat to last the winter. But this year, the caribou are late in coming, and the camp is starving. In a desperate effort, Denikazi and a group of hunters go searching for the animals, hoping to find enough meat to feed their camp for the rest of the year. When Denikazi and his hunters arrive at the Chipewyan beach in their canoes, looking for supplies and help, Jamie and Awasin eagerly volunteer.

Everything was going well on the hunting trip, until Denikazi and a small group of hunters decided to leave the boys behind, heading northward at a faster pace in order to hunt. But the boys get bored and want some adventure. Leaving the camp by canoe, they paddle miles downstream. After a day’s excursion, Jamie and Awasin find a rapid that they can’t traverse. It wrecks the canoe, and the boys are left stranded on the endless tundra.

This book is very exciting, and there are many times when it is suspenseful. It is also interesting to see how resourceful the boys are in their quest for survival. They build an igloo of stones, spend days making clothes of deer skin, and collect lots of fuel for fires. When winter arrives, they can be seen as courageous and inventive. After finding a small hidden valley, they construct another cabin, this time out of logs. Jamie and Awasin show incredible skill while they prove that surviving in the frozen north is not hopeless.

One of my favourite things about this book is that Jamie and Awasin’s beliefs are challenged. The Indians were traditionally terrified of the Eskimos (now called the Inuit), thinking that they were cannibals and inhospitable. The two boys were in constant fear of these men of the north. During the long, cold winter months, a short change in the weather convinces Jamie and Awasin that it is time to attempt a break for the south where they will be safe, but they travel less than forty miles when a storm rolls in. The two boys, just minutes away from death, are lucky to find an Eskimo’s igloo. After days spent recuperating, they become friends with a young Eskimo. Jamie and Awasin realize that the Eskimos are, contrary to their previous beliefs, warm and welcoming people.

One thing that I dislike about the story is that time passes so quickly. There are multiple instances when, in just one paragraph, many days pass. This makes parts of the story seem like you are just reading about the passage of time.

Farley Mowat has managed to create an extreme survival story in unbearable conditions – the endless Canadian north. Lost in the Barrens also has an amazing blend of diverse cultures and near death experiences. Overall, the book has a very strong sense of danger. At every turn, the boys are trying to solve the problem of what could kill them next – the cold, the wild animals, food shortages, or living conditions. The book is suspenseful and exciting; in every chapter, Jamie and Awasin are put to the test to survive in the barren north.

In conclusion, the read deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Emanuel pieces together what Lego’s Build Zone is all about

May 17, 2017   //   by Emanuel   //   Age 4-8, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Emanuel pieces together what Lego’s Build Zone is all about

Hello, my name is Emanuel and today I’m going to review Build Zone. If you don’t know what it is, let me tell you: it’s a series that features different kids building Lego sets. Sometimes there is a friend that helps the host.

Build Zone is a video series on YouTube by the Lego company. They build Lego sets with a friend and there are four seasons of the show. The show is very descriptive and interesting because the hosts REALLY put a lot of effort into it. If you watch it you will notice this by how the hosts describe the different parts of the Lego sets, go through how to build them, and give advice.

At the end of the show they do a stopmotion movie featuring the Lego set they just built. They also add a cardboard surrounding/scene for the Lego set.

The show is about eight minutes long, which makes it easy to watch. Some of the hosts are close to my age (8) which makes me think, “If they can do it, then why can’t I?”

The hosts work together to build the Lego sets, they all have the same room to work in. They’re really creative and they seem to use a lot of time and effort to build the set. My favourite Lego set they built was ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!

I like Build Zone because the episodes are so funny and they fast forward the building process. They even show the mistakes that they make throughout the video as they try it again and again. This shows that the hosts put a lot of time and effort into the build.

Thanks for reading!


Joshua Explains His Dance Inspirations

May 3, 2017   //   by Joshua   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Joshua Explains His Dance Inspirations

All the way from Uganda, Joshua shares his love of dance and where he gets his inspirations!


Ava Shares Her Connection to Her Furby

Apr 26, 2017   //   by Ava Joy   //   Age 4-8, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Ava Shares Her Connection to Her Furby

Little Ava introduces us to the world of Furby Connect with the cutest flare!


Emanuel Explains Slugterra

Apr 12, 2017   //   by Emanuel   //   Age 4-8, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Emanuel Explains Slugterra

Even with a cold, Emanuel gives a thorough report on the world of Slugterra!


Noah Raves About ‘Ready Player One’

Apr 5, 2017   //   by Noah   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Noah Raves About ‘Ready Player One’

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline book coverIntricate and plot twisting, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a suspenseful dystopian novel. The entire story occurs in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. Developed by multibillionaire James Halliday, the OASIS has everything that you need in life, from schooling, homes, food, and games, to cars, spaceships, and weapons. There is not a single person on the planet that does not use the OASIS. As a result, the Internet and OASIS have become synonymous. All you need are a pair of haptic gloves and a visor. However, when James Halliday dies, his billion-dollar fortune is the prize of finding the easter egg that he has hidden inside the OASIS. By finding cryptic clues and fighting great beasts, one user will win the fortune and the game.

Our protagonist, Wade Watts, has none of the amazing qualities of a true OASIS Gunter, the name for a person that searches for the hidden egg. With a Level One avatar and using it only for his schooling, he has no coins, points, or cool weapons. But Wade solves clues and finds himself at the top of a leaderboard after defeating one of the mythical guardians of the keys, devices that open the gates to a new puzzle challenge.

There are a few lessons that can be learned from reading this book. Early in the competition, Parzival, Wade’s avatar, races against the other people on the contest leaderboard. However, when several Gunters figure out that the IOI, an internet service provider, wants to win the game to take over the OASIS for evil, Parzival turns to his friends for help. As a result, we see that friendship and cooperation can be used to defeat evil.

The book is full of adventure as we watch Parzival battle great beasts and legends. Best of all, it is played like a videogame, so there is a lot of detail and suspense. One of the most interesting things is that James Halliday was born in the 1980’s. As a result, Gunters like Wade have read every book, watched every movie and played all of the games from the era, in the hope of finding some obscure reference or hint. Although I was not alive at the time, it is interesting to see how Ernest Cline has managed to combine those tidbits of the past with the setting of the future. This book takes a chilling look at the possibility of a dystopian future, and combines it with the era of the invention of the first 3D video game.

Overall, I give Ready Player One 4.5/5 stars.


Julia Learns What Kids are Doing Online

Mar 29, 2017   //   by Julia   //   Age 16-19, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Julia Learns What Kids are Doing Online
desktop computer

From keeping in contact with a friend, to knowing what the weather is going to be the next day, kids these days are constantly immersed in a technological world.

It is interesting to look at the differences between generations. Each have their defining qualities that help separate them from the next. The current generation or “youngest generation” has technology as just that. It is evident in their everyday lives. From keeping in contact with a friend online, to knowing what the weather is going to be the next day, kids these days are constantly immersed in a technological world.

When we ask kids just what it is they are doing with technology, most of the time I find that they are using it to learn and discover things about the world. For example, my younger sister loves to draw and is very talented at it. I also noticed that my younger sister spends a lot of time on YouTube. At first, both my mom and I thought that she was just wasting her time watching some of the brain-numbing content that YouTube has to offer. But when I actually inquired her on what it was she watched, she revealed that she was doing the opposite. She was stimulating her brain and used YouTube as a tool to improve her artistic abilities. She would search for and study videos showcasing things such as “shading techniques” or “how to improve you speed drawing” – things that were beneficial to know for her artistry. Things that 10 years ago she would have had to take a class to learn.

This isn’t the only topic I would like to touch on. Kids aren’t just using technology to enhance their skills. They are also using it to learn more about what is going on in the world.

Have you ever had a moment where you may have been discussing some political issue as adults and had a kid pipe-in with their opinions? Then you just stare in disbelief that the kid is even aware of what is happening? This is a situation I am witnessing more and more as time goes by. Kids are using technology as a way to learn about “adult problems.”



The Kids' Panel

Meet our kids' panel: a savvy group of kids with a strong point of view about the media and the culture they consume. Culturally diverse, a range of age and interests, they'll provide you with an insight into kids' media ... what works, what doesn't and why. Check back often for new reviews. We think you'll be inspired! @storyartscentre