Browsing articles in "Age 9-15"

The Maze Runner Book Trilogy: Seth’s Review

Apr 13, 2016   //   by Seth   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on The Maze Runner Book Trilogy: Seth’s Review

Time to review James Dashner’s post apocalyptic science fiction Maze Runner trilogy (this review will be excluding the prequel The Kill Order). This is a fantastic trilogy that uses its intricate writing style to shield the books in a cloud of mystery. These books are definitely worth a read.

A photo posted by James Dashner (@dashnerjames) on

The first book (The Maze Runner) opens with a teenage boy (Tomas), confined to a lift, moving skywards. He has amnesia and cannot remember anything, save for his name later on. As the lift stops, several other boys around the same age as him greet him. It is revealed that these boys have been placed into a large maze, with one way out. They must use teamwork in order to survive the many obstacles ahead of them, from the deadly maze (The Maze Runner), to the scorching remains of Mexico (The Scorch Trials), and even to confronting the sinister organization that put them through all these trials (The Death Cure).

As a side note, the Maze Runner movies will not be taken into consideration for this review. I viewed the first one and I disliked it, as it strayed too far from the source material for my taste. As a result, I have also not seen the second movie, released last year in 2015.

First off, the writing style in these books is phenomenal; it is written from a third person perspective. However, because Tomas has amnesia, it becomes more like a first person adventure; we discover and experience the same things Tomas does at the same time as him. Tomas is almost an extension of us the reader. We experience everything through his eyes, and that is an element that makes the book more engaging. The genius twist with this however, is that by using a third person perspective, we can observe what emotions and thoughts are running through the other character’s heads. It is a fantastic way to learn more about each character while at the same time experiencing every event with Tomas.

Furthermore, the plot in each book is engaging and well written. For the first two books (The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials), there is an added layer of mystery surrounding each. That notion is always present at the back of your mind and in the book, with subtle hints towards future plot points. This helps engage the reader, as they want to uncover the truth about these mysteries. The plot is well written with the story moving at a faster pace to engage readers. There are handfuls of action and character drama to really round out these books. With each death defying scenario the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat wondering what happens next.

Finally with the third book, all the mysteries are uncovered, however, there is still another added layer that really makes you wonder if Tomas and the other Gladers are really doing the right thing – accomplishing the correct task. The only criticism I can really give to these books is that the ending is somewhat anti-climactic and leaves you almost frustrated as the ending appears as if the author (James Dashner) could not think of a suitable ending.

The Maze Runner trilogy is a fantastic young-adult book series that will engage you to the very end. Aside from a disappointing and anti-climactic ending, these books are phenomenally written, expertly paced, and amazing. If you have enjoyed book series such as the Hunger Games in particular, you will love these books.


Maryam Shares Why She Loves Jessie

Apr 6, 2016   //   by Maryam   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Maryam Shares Why She Loves Jessie

Jessie is my favourite TV show right now. I discovered it a year ago and can’t get enough of it! I even series-record it on our PVR!  The show started in 2010 and, sadly, the show ended in October 2015. I watch it so much, that my Mom asked me why I like this show more than other shows. I said “I don’t know” because I don’t really think about it. But she asked me to give her some reasons and so I had to think about it. That’s when I decided to do a review of it, so here it is!!!!…

Jessie is an awesome TV show because it is about a teenager who originally lived in Texas, and then moved to New York to follow her dreams and become an actress. But on the way, she meets a young girl named Zuri who wants her to be her nanny. At first, Jessie was happy, but then she saw the other kids she had to watch: Luke, Emma, and Ravi. When she saw the way they were acting, she wasn’t too happy about becoming a nanny…

It is a very popular show, and I think that is because it’s so diverse. All of the kids are different ages, and come from different cultures. Emma is the eldest, and she is the only biological child of the parents. Their dad is a movie producer and their mom is an actress, so they’re away most of the time… that’s why they need Jessie. After having Emma, they adopted Luke from Detroit, (but he thinks he is from Krypton). Then came Ravi from India and Zuri from Uganda.

The many ages, cultures, and personalities of the characters make the show fun for kids because there is at least one person that they can relate to. When I first started watching, I liked Zuri because I was younger, because she is cute, adorable, and fun. Now that I am growing older, I like Emma because she likes fashion and is more mature. I also like Jessie, because she really cares for all the kids. Luke is very funny because he gets into a lot of trouble, and I can relate to Ravi because he is from India and so am I. He speaks in Hindi sometimes, and although I can’t understand it because I speak a different language, my parents understand and they translate it for me.

The show also has Bertman, the butler, who takes care of the house and food. He is very lazy, and has only gone through one sponge (for cleaning dishes, etc.), in his ten years of working.  He is very humorous because he plays pranks on the kids. The kids prank each other, Jessie, and especially Bertram.

The show stars Debbie Ryan (as Jessie), Peyton List (as Emma), Cameron Boyce (as Luke), Karan Brar (as Ravi), Skai Jackson (as Zuri), and Kevin Chamberlin (as Bertram). I wish it kept going, but as all good shows, it had to end. The good news is that some of the kids (Emma, Ravi and Zuri), moved on to a new show called Bunk’d. It’s about kids at a camp. Luke is in a different show called Gamers Guide To Pretty Much Everything. He sometimes shows up on Bunk’d as well. The other characters (Jessie and Bertram) don’t show up at all.

For people who have seen the show, they already know all that I wrote about, and for the people who have not seen it yet, watch it…you’ll LOVE it!


A place for everything and everything in its place.


The Walk: Griffin’s movie review

Mar 16, 2016   //   by Griffin   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on The Walk: Griffin’s movie review

The Walk is a movie about a young street performer from Paris, France, named Philip Petit, who dreams of walking between New York’s World Trade Center “twin towers” on a high wire. With a group of “accomplices” and friends, and many months of planning, he succeeds!

The Walk is a true story that took place in 1974. It’s the story of a young man’s adventure, and a movie that you will not soon forget. I recommend this movie for 10-11 years and older, but maybe not for those afraid of heights. At the time of Petit’s walk, the Twin Towers were still under construction, and set to be the tallest buildings in the world.

I have always loved Phillip’s story of determination. I have enjoyed the many books he wrote or that were written about him, and the movie is no exception. The movie has inspired me to look into Phillip’s story to learn more about his lifetime and the adventure he had! I will say he is an amazing person and The Walk is a great way of capturing his story: anything is possible!


Aidan explains Besiege, a physics-based siege engine creator

Mar 2, 2016   //   by Aidan   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Aidan explains Besiege, a physics-based siege engine creator

Check this out:

Besiege – A physics-based siege engine creator

Why it’s cool:

If you like breaking things without much thought, this game isn’t for you. You have to be smart to break buildings in this game. Besiege is a game created by Spiderling Games and released on the 28th of January 2015. It gained a lot of popularity through gamers on YouTube. The goal in Besiege is to complete the assignment given to you at the start of every level. The assignments can vary from destroying a castle to delivering wood to a farmer. Creating your contraption is the focus of the game. Currently, there are over 50 blocks to use on your creation. Every part of your creation is configurable. You can map each block to a different key on your computer. Besiege forces you to learn how to make steering systems. Without them, you only go forwards or backwards.


  • Beautiful graphics.
  • Realistic physics.
  • Great and supportive community.
  • New update every month.


  • The more blocks in a creation, the more the game lags. (Turning down the game speed can help fix this problem.)
  • Besiege is an early access game (still in progress).
  • Lack of an in-depth tutorial.

Is it educational?

Besiege forces you to learn basic engineering. The game teaches the player a machine, such as a car or a tank – not only 4 wheels and an engine, but a lot more complicated. Players learn to create their own steering systems, aerodynamic planes, and to be cautious around explosives.


9/10 – Highly recommended for people who like to think of inventive ways to destroy buildings.

Where to find it:

You can find out more information on Spiderling’s website.

Besiege can be purchased on Steam.


Jolie checks out Kinky Boots on stage

Feb 24, 2016   //   by Jolie   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Jolie checks out Kinky Boots on stage

Check this out:

Check out Kinky Boots on stage

Jolie at Kinky Boots

Kids’ panellist Jolie’s favourite part of Kinky Boots was the music, which mostly was written by Cyndi Lauper.

A few weeks ago, my friend went to see the play Kinky Boots at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in downtown Toronto. She said she loved it so my Mom and I decided to get some tickets and go.

We drove downtown and walked over to the theatre. I was really excited. Outside the theatre, there was a pair of giant red ‘Kinky Boots’ which I thought were so cool I took a picture with them. We eventually went into the theater, got some snacks, and sat down just before the play started. The seats were very comfy and the view was awesome.

The play was about a man named Charlie who is struggling to keep his father’s shoe business alive. He accidentally meets a drag queen named Lola who could not find good sturdy boots for his shows. This gives Charlie an idea and he decides to work with Lola to come up with new red ‘Kinky Boots’ which can support Lola. A brand new line of boots is created at the Price and Sons shoe company. Charlie has to work to gain the support of the community as designing boots for drag queens is not very common especially in his little town. The story takes you on a journey of new friendships and accepting people for who they are.

My favourite part of the play is the music which mostly was written by Cyndi Lauper. I also liked the dancing. The girl who falls in love with Charlie was also really funny.

Although Kinky Boots may not be right for all kids, I thought it was an awesome play. Most children eight and up would probably love it.

Is it entertaining, educational or a little of both?

It’s mainly entertaining, but there is a good life lesson to accept people for who they are.


Seth reviews Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (spoiler-free)

Feb 17, 2016   //   by Seth   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Seth reviews Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (spoiler-free)

JJ Abrams had a lot to prove with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, the new installment in the Star Wars franchise. Not only did he have to appease longtime fans that still had the sour taste of the prequels lingering in their mouths, he also had to please Disney and George Lucas himself, the man who started it all. Did he pull it off? Is this film worthy of the high title that is “Star Wars”? The answer is yes, absolutely yes.

To begin this review, let’s commence with the plot; this is perhaps the most plot-heavy Star Wars film to date, with new blood introduced, as well as the returning cast. The plot fires along at a steady pace, never padded-out nor any scene feeling prolonged, however that being said, it feels as if the film needed more time to explain some of it’s more cumbersome ideas. The film gives you enough context to comprehend and care about the action on screen, however the lack of explanatory substance means that certain elements are left with unanswered questions that linger on in the back of your mind. New villains are introduced without much back-story to the point where you have to simply accept them without actually having any knowledge about them. This is forgivable however, as the film could not possibly explain all of its elements in full detail, other films such as Episode’s VIII and IX will explain underdeveloped aspects. With that said, the plot is almost a simple rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), many plot elements are borrowed straight from the film. It was a little disappointing to see what appears to be a recreation of George Lucas’ space opera. The plot does introduce new elements to keep the film fresh though, and the characters new and old inject even more life into this substantial film.

The characters in this installment are phenomenal. The film takes time to develop and fully flesh out the protagonists to the point where they are more than simple characters on screen. John Boyega’s, Finn, is a great protagonist who struggles through the film to find his real purpose, while simultaneously fleeing from his past. He is a great character. The actor is relatively unknown, however, John Boyega really helps bring Finn to life. While Finn may be a fantastic character, the real star of the film is Daisy Ridley’s, Rey. This is the greatest character in the film; she has a massive character arc that transforms her as she discovers her true role in this galaxy. Every one of her scenes is truly awe inspiring as you witness a phenomenal performance by Daisy Ridley. She brings true life to a character that could have simply been a copy-and-paste protagonist like so many other films. Furthermore, the high bar set by the protagonists is also cleared with the antagonist. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is a very different villain compared to the rest of the series. He is brash and has bursts of anger that make him different compared to the icy calmness that always culminated Darth Vader. Not only that, though, he is a conflicted character for reasons I will not spoil. This conflict is evident throughout the movie, and at it’s finale, Kylo Ren, delivers what is surely one of the film’s most poignant and emotional moments. Also, the droid of this film BB-8 is funny, adorable, and the new R2-D2. He is present throughout the film, and he adds to the charm of the film.

The returning cast is just as superb, with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) receiving the most screen time. Harrison Ford has not forgotten how to play Han Solo, the characters you once knew and loved are back and better than ever. It’s just unfortunate that some of the cast does not receive such treatment. Certain characters such as Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Strom Trooper Officer Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) are one-dimensional characters with little back-story and development, it is a shame considering these characters have a fair amount of potential to become fully fleshed out characters.

Moving forward the visual effects deserve mention. While nothing ground breaking (Such as techniques used in the original Star Wars), the effects do the film justice. Taking notes from the prequels, JJ Abrams used old school techniques to emulate the epic space battles. Using models and other practical effects, on location shooting, and huge sets, JJ Abrams recreated an authentic feeling Star Wars experience. While the visual effects are superb, it is the attention to detail that really skyrockets this film. From the specific glow and hum of light sabers to the sound and spark of blasters, it is truly dizzying observing how much time was put into recreating the classic Star Wars props.

The action on the other hand is divisive. This film had more emphasis on plot and character development, rather than on spaceships and aerial dogfights. They are still there, however, they are almost background detail for what is going on in the foreground. The action in these dogfights is also predictable with little suspense; however, viewing the X-Wings and TIE Fighters destroying each other with 2015 technology is awe inspiring and fun to watch. The light saber fight is also somewhat disappointing. It is not the worst in the series, however, the prequels had better light saber fight sequences than this film. The unfortunate passing of legendary film choreographer, Bob Andersen (1922-2012, he worked on films such as the Star Wars films, Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, etc.), is evident here. The stunt work feels amateur compared to its predecessors.

JJ Abrams also made some smart decisions when it came to the music; he hired John Williams to once again compose pieces for this film. His new pieces blend seamlessly with the classic pieces, they feel new yet hearken back to the original score, with many of the same instruments and notes used. Emotional and important scenes are emphasized with the classic arrangements, which helps to elevate the action with a sense of nostalgia – watching as the Millennium Falcon soared through the sky while John William’s signature score bellows through the theatre was a moment to behold.

Conclusively Star Wars is officially back, for those who were skeptical — fear not! All of the praise and critical acclaim are not in vain as they speak the truth. From the moment the film opened and the sprawling exposition appeared, I knew this would be a fantastic film and I could not wipe the smile from my face. It’s excellent characters and memorable moments outweigh the negatives by a mile. JJ Abrams should be commended for his admirable attempt to reboot Star Wars. The force is strong with this film.


Maryam feeds her inner bookworm

Feb 10, 2016   //   by Maryam   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Maryam feeds her inner bookworm

I love to read books. Toronto has a really good library system and it is called The Toronto Public Library (TPL). The first branch opened in 1810 (wow!) and today there are 100 branches in Toronto.

I usually go to my local library branch with my little brother and either my Mom, Dad, or Grandma. It is an awesome place for people, and especially kids, who love to read and learn from books, magazines and the Internet. You can find tons of information on practically anything you want! Everyone gets a library card, even little kids, and you get to put your signature on the back.

Maryam at the Library

Kids’ panellist Maryam, who loves to read, is a big fan of the Toronto Public Library system.

We can borrow as many books or DVDs as we want, you just have to sign them out and return them by their due date. My brother and I take turns to pick a movie every week, and they have recent movies, too. Sometimes you have to be on a waiting list to borrow a movie that is very popular — like Despicable Me or Inside Out.

There are also a lot of programs at the library. Little kids have an area where they can just sit and read with their moms or dads. In between reading, they can also colour and play computer games. Older kids go to the library to do work in groups for school projects and while they work, they are even allowed to bring snacks. For teens, there is a writer-in-residence, youth hubs, homework help, and volunteer opportunities.

Some other programs are: author talks and lectures, book clubs and writers groups, career and job search, computer and library training, culture, arts and entertainment, ESL and newcomer programs. The options are endless!

To see what is available, we often visit the TPL website — — to see the monthly calendar and the flyers for all the different things our branch has going on for the month. They even have a Dial-a-Story program where you can call this number — 416-395-5400 — literally anytime, and can hear a story in 16 different languages!

The very best thing about TPL is that even when I am visiting my grandparents in Pennsylvania, I can access books through the e-books (electronic books) system using this link — All I need to do is sign on with my library card number and a password and click borrow. It’s that easy. When I’m done, I click return. You can even borrow audio-books (to listen to stories) and music and even videos! They have a lot of choices.

This is why I am a fan of TPL.


Griffin reviews Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Jan 20, 2016   //   by Griffin   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Griffin reviews Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

I recently finished reading Un Lun Dun, a fantasy novel by one of my new favourite authors, China Miéville. It begins with the main character, a girl named Zanna, supposedly being part of a prophecy, calling her to an “ab-city” called Un Lun Dun with her friend Debba. However, half way through the book, it is revealed that the “person” who foretold the prophecy is actually quite often wrong. It is then shown that Debba is the one in the prophecy and that Zanna should never have been involved.

Un Lun Dun is quite a complicated story. There are lots of twists and believe me, if you do read it, you will be quite surprised by it. The book is set in London, in probably the 1990s, but also takes place in Un Lun Dun, the ab-city version of London. The book mentions other ab-cities including Naw York and Tokyno. The difference between ab-cities and normal cities is that in ab-cities, anything can happen. For example, the London Eye, London’s giant Ferris wheel, is the Un Lun Dun Eye, a huge water wheel that supplies power for the entire ab-city.

In an ab-city, there’s a thing called moil, which recycles thrown away objects from London and the Un Lun Doners recycle them to create homes. In an ab-city, you could live in a castle built of typewriters, or in a small cottage made of cardboard boxes, or (my personal favourite), you could live in a giant mushroom.

Un Lun Dun is a very good fantasy/adventure novel for anyone who enjoys cobblestone streets, urban adventure and two-headed, three-eyed, triple-legged creatures and such! It is an imaginative way of looking at cities we might think we already know.


Mac checks out I Funny: A Middle School Story

Jan 6, 2016   //   by Mac   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Mac checks out I Funny: A Middle School Story

Check this out:

I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (©2012 by James Patterson, Illustrations by Laura Park. Little, Brown and Company); Book One of a thee-book series.

Why it’s cool:

I Funny: A Middle School Story is a book about what it would be like to be a comedian in a wheelchair in middle school.

Jamie Grimm lives with a family with his step mom and step dad and cousins.

The biggest bully in the school is his adopted brother, and he has three funny friends. He falls in love with Suzie, who is from his school.

Jamie enters a contest because of his uncle Frankie, who owns a seafood shop by the sea. Uncle Frankie showed Jamie a newspaper ad announcing “The Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic” contest because he thought Jamie was funny enough to win.

Just by looking at the title, you know the book is funny. And, if you really want to laugh, do read it.

Is this entertaining, educational, or both?

I Funny: A Middle School Story is entertaining because, every 15 pages or so, you get a laugh from one of the jokes.

For some people, it is educational because you learn how to be funny, and what things are funny, but some people don’t think that can be educational.

So, really, it just depends on your point of view.


Maryam Takes the Cake!

Dec 30, 2015   //   by Maryam   //   Age 9-15, Kids' Panel  //  Comments Off on Maryam Takes the Cake!

Yolanda Gampp is a professional baker, who was in a show on Food Network called Sugar Stars. She makes specialty cakes, and desserts.

Yolanda is on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube too. She posts YouTube videos every Tuesday, at 11 a.m.

You can find her in this video, which is a tutorial on how to make emoji cakes. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Her YouTube channel is called How To Cake It, and her website is

Every week she has a new tee (t-shirt) that somehow coincides with the cake she is baking that week.

Yolanda is very funny, nice, and always has extravagant ideas for her cakes.

My favourite cake that she has baked is her minion cake! Bananaaaa! I love minions, and Yo put so much effort and detail into it.

If you want to know how to make this cake, please check out this video:

Yo always has great tips and advice to make the cake easier to make.

If I could meet her, I would be very excited! 🙂

If I could make a tee, I would make one saying: I <3 YOLANDA! <3


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