Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-be Best Friend

Heartdrum (an imprint of HarperCollins)

Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons!

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…

Illustrated by Tara Audibert


This silly chapter book features a funny Ojibwe girl…, Jo Jo, an intelligent and charismatic first grader who is fretting over two big problems in this series opener…Through it all, cultural information about Jo Jo’s Ojibwe way of life is shared in a way that suggests her pride for her people, traditions, and family. Young readers will revel in the humor this chapter books offers: the wordplay, the nicknames, and Jo Jo’s irrepressible narrative voice…Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) provides a glossary of Ojibwe and Michif words that enhances the experience. Audibert (of Wolastoqey and French heritage) supplies plentiful grayscale illustrations that depict Jo Jo and her friends with big, pretty eyes and expressive faces.”

Kirkus (starred review)

In this buoyant series starter by Ojibwe author Quigley (Apple in the Middle), Indigenous first grader Josephine Makoons Azure, known as Jo Jo, narrates her experiences of home and school on the fictional Pem-bina Ojibwe Reservation, where she lives with her mother and grandmother. In a winning, straightforward voice…, Jo Jo introduces her growing concerns…Quigley adeptly creates strong classroom scenes that convey an inclusive student body’s realistic dynamic and an endearing, assured seven-year-old protagonist who appreciates her cultural identity.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Best Book of the Month for May (ages 6-8 yrs old)

Amazon Books

Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection

Junior Library Books

“A plucky Ojibwe first-grader worries over friendships, her artistic chops and a deflating cat in the charming #OwnVoices series starter, Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend…Dawn Quigley (Apple in the Middle; contributor to Ancestor Approved), a citizen of the Pembina Band of Ojibwe, delivers savvy observations that subtly educate readers about Ojibwe culture, heritage and community.

Jo Jo’s magnetic personality and liberal humor should endear her immediately to readers struggling to sort out their own worlds–she is sure to be young readers’ new “book best friend.”

Shelf Aware (starred review)

“The story playfully captures age-appropriate concerns and interests, as young Jo Jo navigates family traditions and shifting friendships. Audibert’s fun illustrations utilize big expressions to convey the book’s gentle high jinks and Jo Jo’s rambunctious, carefree nature. Quigley includes “Jo Jo’s Glossary” and an author’s note for further explanation about Ojibwe language and culture.

VERDICT A sweet, slice-of-life series debut. Readers will love Jo Jo and want to be her friend.”

*A Best Book of the Year

School Library Journal (SLJ) -starred review

“Through it all, the first-person narrative is consistently engaging, with just the right touch of primary-grade silliness to balance out Jo Jo’s fears about friendship. Will Mimi, her cat and “home best friend,” deflate like a balloon when she gets her shots? And why hasn’t Fern, her “school best friend,” been sitting with her at lunch lately?

Throughout, contemporary Native culture takes center stage: Jo Jo’s multigenerational family lives on the fictional Pembina Ojibwe reservation; some Ojibwe and Michif words are phonetically spelled within the text in a manner consistent with Jo Jo’s hilariously frank voice.”

The Horn Book (starred review)