cover image Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo #1)

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo #1)

Dawn Quigley, illus. by Tara Audibert. Heartdrum, $15.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-06-301538-8

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 Pembina Ojibwe Reservation, where she lives with her mother and grandmother. In a winning, straightforward voice (“Ojibwe is my Native American tribe. You say it like this: Oh-JIB-way. See? Ojibwe”), Jo Jo introduces her growing concerns. Cat Mimi, Jo Jo’s “home best friend who ignores me sometimes,” needs shots, which the girl believes may deflate the feline, “just like a balloon letting the air out.” Jo Jo also worries that her school best friend, Fern, may not want to eat lunch with her anymore. 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 (“If you can say Tyrannosaurus rex, you can say nindizhinikaaz”). B&w cartoon drawings by Audibert (This Place), who is of Wolastoqey/French heritage, emphasize characterization throughout. Front matter discusses reservations and Native Nations; back matter includes a Michif and Ojibwe glossary with pronunciations and an author’s note. Ages 6–10. [em]Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (May) [/em]