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Middle School Confidential 3: What’s Up with My Family?

August 14, 2014

By: Carisa Kluver

The Digital Media Diet

An engaging & therapeutic read for tweens & teens!

The third title in the Middle School Confidential series is now available for the iPad. This remarkable series is a must read for tweens & teens and a 'must download' for parents, educators and other concerned adults who want the young people in their lives to manage the typical struggles of adolescence just a little bit better. This series is really unique, offering something rare in the App Store; it's polished and well-crafted to the adult eye, but more importantly, teens will relate and enjoy the graphic novel format.

Many of my fans may not realize I am new to the world of children's literature, but if I am an expert in anything, it is actually teens. I spent the past two decades working with, researching and befriending many young people and can tell simply by reading this series that it is 'spot on' when it comes to capturing the interests of young people. The messages in these books & apps are exactly what most of us would like adolescents to understand about this time in their life, but put in a much more believable way than most of us could muster. These titles aren't narrated, but even younger kids will enjoy having the stories read to them. I think many elementary age children, especially 4-6th graders, will relate to the topics. The fictional teen characters in these novels are complex and multi-dimensional, dealing with the kinds of dilemmas that most teens will find all too familiar. Parents & educators can even learn (or be reminded) of what life is like for young people by reading & sharing this book with a young person in their life.

The print versions were published recently, 2008-2010. These are all fabulous books that I wouldn't have hesitated to share with the middle-schoolers I counseled for over a decade. The series is just that exceptional. It's fun, hip and something youth will relate to. It's also packed with great stories that will guide them to feel better about themselves, think more deeply about problems and understand how to be a friend not only to others but to themselves.

In digital form, these books are very well made, nicely augmented with music and developmentally appropriate, right down to the format choice of graphic novel. You can tilt the device for either landscape or portrait and with a simple double tap the view changes & enlarges to read frame-by-frame. This is a very cool feature and includes nice sound effects that are more like a sound track, nicely crafted to match the emotion or activity in each scene. There is an additional page describing each of the teens in detail and now the titles also have interactive quizzes about the content. If a 5-Star app could get better, this series just did with this additional content, especially since these interactive elements help young people integrate the lessons they are learning into their real lives.

Families are a sticky issue for teens and tweens; they need their parents' support but also want to become independent, with their own identities. Annie Fox's third title in the Middle School Confidential series, What's Up with My Family?, brings these topics home for young readers in a way that is hip and refreshing, even for adults reading along. With artwork from Matt Kindt, she captures the essence of adolescent angst without talking down to kids, exploring the richness of their emotional lives. Kindt's illustrations are gorgeous, high resolution and shown either as a full page spread or by individual cells that pace reading perfectly. The dialogue is also well-crafted and believable, coming out of the mouths of a diverse group of teens and adults that most of us can relate to from our own lives.

Fox covers issues that range from over-protective parents to abandonment and loss deftly in this graphic novel for readers 10 and up, based on the print title from Free Spirit Publishing. The series has made the digital transition beautifully, with enhancements from developer Electric Eggplant. Each page is enriched with subtle background sounds and music that match the mood of the story perfectly, much like the music in a movie makes a scene come alive. A must-download for any digital library for 4th through 9th graders, this app series gives youth stories they can relate to with healthy messages about resolving problems, expressing feelings and understanding relationship issues.

Ultimately, What's Up with My Family? is a book app with brilliant storytelling, movie-quality sound effects and seamlessly integrated features. Electric Eggplant has set the gold standard for presenting graphic novels in the digital realm. Overall, this is a well-developed ebook based on top-notch content that is not only educational but also a fun read. It has great messages about all the issues that make middle school one of the hardest times in life. If you work with youth or have a child in 5-8th grade in particular, share your iPad and this book with them - you'll both feel better after reading it. My highest recommendation!

Note to educators: A FREE teacher's guide is also available to accompany this series.

This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our ratin

All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.


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Middle School Confidential 3: What’s Up with My Family?

August 14, 2014

By: Carisa Kluver

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Annie Fox/Matt Kindt

Electric Eggplant

Length (time):
12 - 20 Minutes

Based on non-digital book: Yes

Allows Own Narration:

Uses Motion: No

Age: 8 - 15 +

English •

Length (pages):
40 Pages


Story Synopsis - Middle School Confidential 3: What’s Up with My Family?

Drama with family members can cause tweens and teens to do things that get them in big trouble and leave them feeling confused and frustrated. Based on Book 3 of the award-winning Middle School Confidential™ series, What’s Up With My Family?, this app goes home with Jack, Jen, Chris, Abby, Mateo, and Michelle from apps 1 and 2 as they deal with the fact no family and no family member is “perfect.” They run into a wide range of family matters from sibling rivalry to divorce to dealing with strong emotions in heated situations. 

Written by parenting expert and teen adviser Annie Fox, illustrated by Matt Kindt, published by Free Spirit Publishing, and developed by Electric Eggplant, this graphic novel app enables readers to zoom right into the story world. The app puts decision-making power into the hands of readers, with 8 interactive quizzes that test which responses might improve a given family situation and which are likely to make things worse. With beautiful full-color illustrations and richly layered audio made up of movie-like sound effects and music, My Family will engage and inspire 8- to 14-year-olds (even reluctant readers!). As a bonus for parents and teachers, this app puts thought-provoking storytelling and solutions into the hands of kids who deal with tricky family issues every day. It will challenge them to think about their families in new ways and reveal that while life at home may not always be wonderful, appreciating family members and working together really can help to make things better. [Source: iTunes]

See Annie Fox's website for even more resources, advice column for teens, a free book on 'dating & relating' and much more!

This graphic novel follows the lives of six teenagers with 8 separate stories. The chapters cover issues that impact kids from elementary to high school. The characters, Chris, Michele, Mateo, Jen, Abby and Jack, are all trying to fit in with their families, learn to like themselves and deal with sticky interpersonal issues.


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Orientation: Portrait

Format: Universal


Page Guide/Home Button, About the Cast, Credits, About the App, About the Books, Links (Under Parental Gate): AppStore, Web 

App Release Date:


Size: 56.64 MB

Version: 1.0.1

Lite Version Available: No



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