Review of Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend
by Dawn Quigley; illus. by Tara Audibert
Primary    Heartdrum/HarperCollins    80 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-06-301537-1    $15.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-301538-8    $4.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-301539-5    $4.99

This series opener introduces Jo Jo Makoons Azure, a rambunctious first grader with “strong lungs” (according to her mom) and a wish to make more friends. In eight brief yet eventful chapters, we follow this seven-year-old ­Everygirl through a relatable and entertaining series of misadventures and misunderstandings — over everything from rhyming words, to teachers (“Jim” is astonishingly not the P. E. teacher’s first name), to Little Shell ­Elementary School’s yearbook cover. 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 (“If you can say ­Tyrannosaurus rex, you can say nindizhinikaaz [“my name is…” in Ojibwe]”). Audibert’s cartoony illustrations add humorous layers to this exemplary transitional reader.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a programming librarian at the Covington Branch of the Kenton County Public Library in northern Kentucky.

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