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

by Dawn Quigley (Author) Tara Audibert (Illustrator)

The Used-To-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo  Makoons #1)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: Jo Jo Makoons

Hello/Boozhoo--meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

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...

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

A joyful book about growing up Native in a loving community—not to be missed. 


Very few comparable stories for this age group exist; further Jo Jo adventures are promised.

Publisher's Weekly

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 ("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. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (May).

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5-Seven-year-old Jo Jo Makoons Azure lives on a fictional version of an Ojibwe reservation, and likes to do things a little differently than everyone else. When her cat Mimi sleeps on her feet every night and makes them too warm, Jo Jo solves the problem by cutting the toes off all of her nighttime socks. Her idea of Language Arts is drawing pictures with Ojibwe captions for Teacher: "language + arts!" Readers follow Jo Jo through a myriad of first grade adventures involving her family, classmates, and cat Mimi. Even though Mimi is her best friend at home, Jo Jo is worried about her friendship with Fern when the girl stops doing school best friend things like saving her a seat at lunch. 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. The story is interspersed with Ojibwe and Michif words; Jo Jo even explains that if readers can pronounce Tyrannosaurs rex, they should be able to say these words as well. VERDICT A sweet, slice-of-life series debut. Readers will love Jo Jo and want to be her friend.-Danielle Burbank, San Juan Coll., Farmington, NM.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2021
Jo Jo Makoons
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
JUV045000 - Juvenile Fiction | Readers | Chapter Books
Library of Congress categories
American Indian Youth Literature Award
Honor Book 2022

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