Middle School Confidential 1: Be Confident in Who You Are is a graphic novel app about a group of friends -- Jack, Jen, Abby, Mateo, Chris, and Michelle -- helping each other cope with middle school and their own self-doubts. Mateo gets teased about his height. Abby gets drift from her mom about her weight. Michelle makes mature observations and asks tough questions but has her faults, too, including when she flips out on Abby and tells her to shut up. When Michelle apologizes, Abby shows her how to say “I'm busy” in a nice way by doing it. The variety of troubles each character must deal with should appeal to youngsters who are undoubtedly facing similiar challenges.
The app version of a graphic novel that adds chapter navigation, audio, and zoom to the experience, Be Confident in Who You Are's watercolor-painted illustrations are hip and well drawn. The info page, which acts as a main menu, explains navigation controls and gives chapter icons for jumping around its eight chapters. Tapping to advance a page does not work, though swipe does. Kids can double-tap to zoom in or out of panels.
Through a discussion-rich narrative and some action, kids can learn to identify emotions, reflect on personal strengths and weaknesses, respect peer viewpoints, build friendships, persevere through difficulties, and put their troubles into perspective. Kids consider issues with the characters such as popularity, patience, put-downs, homework, candor, and self-confidence. The story carries tween and teen lingo most of the time, making it easy to accept as authentic. Navigation suffers a little with slow response time and a missing tap-to-advance feature, but it's well-explained, and kids can jump to the eight chapters via icons.
Getting tweens and teens to talk about personal and social issues can be like pulling teeth .... adult teeth. Administrators and classroom or subject-area teachers could recommend this as an at-home resource for parents expressing concern about the middle school transition or who are seeing mood changes since school started. English or social studies teachers might go one step further by leading group discussions following a group read. They can use the opportunity to help students practice speaking and listening skills like defining roles, acknowledging contributions, and demonstrating multiple perspectives through reflection. Kids could be assigned in groups or individually to create graphic novels on social topics of their own choosing or to write alternate endings for the scenarios in the app. Adult or peer counselors could use the stories in a similar way or to spark individual conversations or appointments at a later time.