The Insignia trilogy by S.J. Kincaid is a fast-paced science fiction adventure series that has been nominated for numerous awards. The trilogy takes place in the future, in the midst of World War III. In the first book, Insignia, we are quickly introduced to the two duelling sides in the war. North America, allied with Europe, Australia and Central America, is now at war with the Russo-Chinese alliance.
A failing student living in poverty, Tom Raines has no hope for a bright future. While at a casino one night with his father, he is approached by a member of the U.S. military who persuades him to be trained as an interstellar combatant. The opportunity to fight in the war using virtual reality is just the break that Tom was hoping for.
Tom begins his training in earnest after receiving a neural processor (brain implant) allowing him to think at a much faster speed than the typical human brain. He soon realizes, however, that unlike the other cadets, he seems to have a special power: the ability to interface with machines. Using only his mind, he can seize control of any computerized device.
In the second book of the series, Vortex, Tom and his fellow combatants rise up the ladder to become mid-level cadets, also called middles. Here, Tom’s loyalty is tested and he is introduced to coalition executives who will decide whether or not to sponsor him. One can only become a true combatant in the war with a corporate sponsor.
The third book, Catalyst, provides a suspenseful and action packed conclusion to the trilogy. A complex plot involving the creator of the neural implants leaves Tom and his friends alone in a very new world, desperate to devise a plan to defeat a ruthless enemy.
The character development in this trilogy is excellent. Throughout the story, the reader sees Tom grow as he learns astonishing secrets about the war. The plot is well developed, and at numerous turns, our protagonist is forced to think big about the world around him. Consequently, readers wonder what the future will hold and whether computers are getting too advanced.
This series has a lot of action, but also incorporates interesting thoughts and concepts. The plot is unique. I also liked the fact that the story takes place in the future, one that could become realistic very soon, given our fast-changing society. One of the few things I don’t like about the series is that each book did not end with a cliff hanger; rather, it simply ends. The reader wonders what may happen next but it does not spark an instant need to read the next book. Still, the trilogy has a novel plot line, one that entranced me. I would recommend these books to anyone who likes adventure, fantasy or science fiction.
My overall rating is 4.5/5 stars.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a historical fiction book. It’s written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. The book takes place in Paris following a young boy named Hugo Cabret. The book is 526 pages long, not including the credits and sources.
Stop! Wait, don’t dismiss this book for being long or historical. This book has so much to offer. It gives you a glimpse of the city of Paris and its residence. You’ll follow the life of Hugo Cabret, who is left to fend for himself.
Hugo is very talented with clocks and mechanics like his father. Hugo’s father was working on fixing a mechanical man at a museum late at night. The museum guard locked the entrance, forgetting Hugo’s father was in there. A fire broke out and Hugo’s father died. Hugo stays with his uncle. Hugo’s uncle would leave Hugo unattended for long periods of time, until one day he disappears altogether. When wandering the streets, Hugo sees the mechanical man thrown out and vows to fix it. I could go on but I don’t want to give away spoilers.
The book is fast-paced and primarily composed of illustrations. The illustrations give a soft and dream-like appearance that’ll capture your attention. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an educational and entertaining book since it’s historical fiction. The book discusses early cinema in France, clockwork, mechanics and automatons. The book has it’s own website and has also been made into a movie.
Check this out:
Scratch is an interactive online game you can play on your computer. It is also a community where you can share your work with people all over the world. You can even work together on the same project. Scratch is made by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab and is free to use and to have an account. It is meant for 8 to 16 years old but can be used by all ages, young and old.
Scratch helps people to think creatively and express their creative side.
To start, you select a background and a sprite (your character). You use a simple programmer interface in order to bring the sprite to life. With the different actions you can put together to program to make your sprite do stuff like dance, climb, run and more! Sprites aren’t only characters, they can be balls, trees, cars, instruments, fruit and more. You can add more than one sprite to make your story complete! Plus, you can add words to make your story come alive.
You use the programming and your keyboard to tell the sprites what to do. You can also make music and add it to make the scene really come to life!
I learned about Scratch at school when one of my classmates taught us about it.
Is it entertaining, educational or a little of both?
It’s mostly entertaining, but it is also educational because it teaches you the basics of programming and lets you show your creative spirit.
Check this out:
What is geocaching?
It is kind of like a free hide and seek game. People hide geochaches all around Toronto and all over the world. Using the free Geocache app on your phone (you need data so use your parents phone), you locate the geocaches near you, then you have to try to find them. Your phone stops locating them within 20 feet so you have about a 20 foot square to explore! They can be hidden in bushes, tied to trees, and in holes under trees. The geocaches are in plastic containers. If you find them, you open the box and you write your name and your account name in the notebook. Then you click on the happy face on the app that says you found the geocache.
Why it’s cool:
Because you can look for them and go to cool parts of the city. For some of the caches you can get a prize but you have to replace it with a prize that you bring along. I got a bracelet with GEO on it.
Educational or entertaining?
Both! You learn to read maps, and explore parts of Toronto, but also have fun – and it’s great when you find a geocache. We do it everywhere we go. Always bring a pen and a little gift!!
Emily reads ‘Meg and Mog – Mog’s Missing’ by Helen Nicoll.
Guess what!? In June I was one of the first people in Canada to see the highly anticipated movie The BFG!
The BFG is the story of an orphan named Sophie who, one night, sees a giant. The giant takes her from her bed in a frenzy to keep his secret. After much bickering they befriend each other and the “Big Friendly Giant” tells Sophie of his troubles. There are bigger, meaner giants and he is the “runt”. He has a mission to return goodness to Giant Country, eventually getting the Queen of England and Ronald Reagan get involved. Yeah.
The funniest thing in the movie was the fact that the giants sometimes made up their own words (none of which I remember). A movie about giants might be scary, and this was from time to time, but most of the time it was all gumdrops and unicorns. My favourite character was the BFG because he was very funny and sweet. The BFG was a dream catcher. He caught dreams. That’s right. Dreams! The BFG did not know English very well and sometimes made up words of his own, which was very cute. I chose this movie for my review because I got to go to a preview for the first time in my life and I wasn’t going to turn it down! I liked this movie because I thought it was really interesting and kid-friendly. Make sure you get to see The BFG!
So, my latest fascination has been with FitBit and all the wonders that come with it. I bought my first FitBit towards the end of May and was honestly overjoyed with the knowledge it gave me and the way it worked. Now, I’m not an overly athletic person, so one would think: why would I need a FitBit? However, I certainly have noticed that since the beauty graced my wrist, I have been making an effort to in fact be more active and reach my goal of 10,000 steps.
One of the fun things about FitBit is it tracks your information and logs it to your online account and allows you to connect and challenge your friends (and well, who doesn’t love a good competition that strives to make you more active?).
There are many different styles of FitBit to choose from, ranging from ones intended for the not so athletic person to the highly athletic person. To make sure that you get the best tracker for your lifestyle, FitBit has developed a quiz you can take to place you with the tracker that best suits your needs. I think this is super cool because the company wants you to get the tracker that you will personally get the most use out of and not confuse you with unnecessary items.
Some features I really enjoy about my FitBit (which is the Charge HR), is the sleep tracking capabilities. I admit it is kind of weird having a watch that knows how well you’ve slept, but it does come in handy when I’m trying to figure out why I’m so tired after sleeping all night. Another feature I enjoy about my tracker is that this one tells time, (because not all of them do). It’s super nice to have a tracker and watch all in one and not have to wear a watch and a tracker. But that might just be me. If you want to go for as many bracelets on your arm as possible, then you go for it and you do you.
Another thing I also really enjoy about FitBit is the understanding and kind people they have working in customer support. I learned this through personal experience after my original FitBit tracker broke, and they were kind enough to replace it for me free of charge. They were also really fast with their replies to my emails. So I was super pleased and impressed with the thoughtfulness and care that were put into fixing my problem and making me go from being sad and upset to overjoyed in less than a day.
Speaking from the perspective of the teenage girl that I am, I love wearing my FitBit and being asked about it, because it makes me feel sporty even when I’m not really as sporty as I used to be. So if you’re looking for a simple way to motivate yourself to get active, I highly recommend using a FitBit and challenging your friends and family to out step you.
Check this out:
Lego Dimensions is a fun video game for kids ages 10 and up. It can be used on Wii U, Xbox One, and PS4. It’s where 3 heroes, (Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle) go to different dimensions to try to stop the evil Lord Vortex with the help of a little robot friend named X-PO. There are levels where you can go to one of the worlds and have fun trying to coexist with the characters you find. My favourite dimensions are: Portal, Dr. Who, and Midway Arcade. These are only some of the 15 dimensions.
You can get to those worlds by buying different packs. There are 3 types of packs: fun packs, level packs, and team packs. Fun packs include 1 character and 1 vehicle or gadget. Level packs include 1 character, 1 vehicle, and 1 gadget. Team packs include 2 characters, and 2 vehicles or gadgets.
Why it’s cool:
It is enjoyable. And, it is fun because when you get a pack, you can build what it is with the virtual instructions, and if you can upgrade it in different sections, you can build it in various ways. At the beginning, you make the Lego Gateway on the Lego Toy Pad, and then you place each character on it when instructed by the game.
The positives are it is fun, easy, and you get to build Lego creations while playing a video game. The negatives are the packs are expensive and some video game parts might be a little frustrating at times. If you are younger, you might have a little trouble building with the Lego pieces.
Is this entertaining, educational, or both?
It is entertaining because you get to build with Lego pieces and it is a fun video game. Mostly, it doesn’t teach you anything, but it shows you things about old shows and movies that you might not have known before. So, it might be a little educational.
I would recommend buying the starter pack and playing the game, and if you like it, then you could start to buy other packs. And, if you really like it, just wait until the next release of packs in September.
I give this game 4 1/3 stars out of 5.
Superwoman is Lilly Singh – a YouTube personality with 9 million subscribers! She’s the coolest, funniest person on YouTube right now (at least, I think so). She is Indian and Canadian, and she lives right here in Toronto. She started making videos in October 2010. Her videos are about many things, but many of them are about her parents and how they behave or react to things. She pretends to be both her parents in the videos. To play her mom, she wears a shalwar-kameez (Indian outfit) with a scarf wrapped around her head, and to play her dad, she wears a wig and paints on a beard and hair on his chest. They have the funniest expressions and accents.
Check out this video I really like. It is about how her parents use technology.
In real life, Lilly’s parents are very different. They are cool and awesome for letting Lilly make these videos.
She also does videos about listing things like, types of siblings, types of laughs and things people say to vegetarians, and so much more. She also does a lot of collabs with celebrities like Selena Gomez, the Rock, and other YouTube personalities. She also has a website: lillysingh.com.
I am not sure exactly how many videos she has made so far, but I know it’s a lot! I have watched many of them, but can’t watch many more yet because they are not age-appropriate. But I guess that’s okay, because the more I grow, the more videos I will be able to watch. I think Lilly is very inspirational, and she is not afraid to be herself. I like that she has an awesome sense of humour, because I love to laugh, especially when she talks about things that I can relate to sometimes.
Lilly has a lot of followers on social media and in most of her videos, she wears Snapbacks – she has over 200 of them! She also has her own liquid lipstick called Bawse (cool way of saying “boss”). It is a beautiful shade of red.
Alas, here we are, the final of the trio of superhero slugfests with 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse. This movie marks the 4th x-men movie to be directed by Bryan Singer (the guy who did all the good ones), as well as the 9th entry into the x-men universe (including Deadpool and the two solo wolverine films). While critic reviews have been mixed for this movie, I thoroughly believe this is in fact the best of the three big superhero movies.
For starters, the film opens in ancient Egypt, giving us our first look at Apocalypse (the titular bad guy). From there, the film progresses, giving us origins for classic X-Men such as cyclops or Night-Crawler. By now, director Bryan Singer knows how to direct an X-Men film, and he sure delivers here. The plot is carried out at a steady pace, sure while half the movie is simply rounding up mutants for the all out battle, I was never truly bored. The film’s almost 2 and half hour running time flew by. The film also manages to fit in quite a bit of fun humour that really works to help lighten the mood in this often dark and intense movie. There are also some very important character moments that really reach at your emotions. One scene in particular involving Magneto (enough said) was truly shocking and possibly one of the best character moments for magneto (Erik Lensherr, played by Michael Fassbender) and for superhero movies in general.
Speaking of scenes, fan favourite Quicksilver (Evan Peters) from X-Men: Days of Future Past returns with another speed sequence through the mansion of Charles Xavier. The visual effects used are top notch and the scene is just hilarious, I had a smile on my face the whole time. The other visual effects are good too, action is flashy and fun, Nightcrawler’s teleportation makes its signature “Poof!”, and the prosthetics used help bring their characters to life.
Moving on to characters, unlike this year’s Captain America: Civil War, the film has a hard task balancing it’s huge cast; fan favourites such as Professor X (James Mcavoy) and Magneto (the aforementioned Michael Fassbender) are given plenty of screen time whereas others such as Angel or Psylocke are quietly shoved to the sidelines. In the way of stellar character development, don’t hold your breath, there is little in the way of any development for the cast- save for one. Magneto is perhaps the unspoken primary focus of this movie, he is trying to live a normal life, until he is recruited by Apocalypse. He goes through what is perhaps his character’s best arc in any X-Men film. What helps is Michael Fassbender’s incredible performance once again as Magneto.
The other actors have decent performances as well. While the films has an all-star cast, there is nothing to special here (aside from Magneto, of course). Nicholas Hoult is great as Beast, and the re-cast, younger versions of classic X-Men such as Storm, and Jean Gray are all fine as well. Jennifer Lawrence seems to be getting a little tired of the X-Men franchise, with a decent but seemingly bored performance. With all that being said James Mcavoy does wonders as Charles Xavier once again. Close to the end he does a fantastic performance with some great scenes.
Aside from that, the rest is a pretty run of the mill superhero film. Once again the X-men continue to fight for their acceptance, stuff blows up, the visual effects are for the most part good, and the costumes are cool and are reminiscent of the comics.
For me, X-Men: Apocalypse was the best of the three big superhero films. While the story is slightly generic, some twists and important moments towards the end help redeem it. This film is flashy and fun, the actors deliver fantastic performances, and is another great X-Men movie to add to the franchise.
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!