Author: Dawn Quigley
Illustrator: Tara Audibert
Review copy: Digital ARC
Availability: May 11, 2021
Summary: 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…
My Review: The first thing to see inside this delight of a book is a yearbook style page with each of the characters in a square like a photo, but several of them are bigger than life and don't quite fit inside the squares. Ears or hair poke out. Everyone is smiling and the mood is lighthearted from the start. Jo Jo tells the reader about her cat and a lot about her name. I love that she informs the reader that if you can say Tyrannosaurus Rex, you can certainly say her Ojibwe name nindizhinikaaz. She even shows the way to pronounce it - nin-Dezh-in-i-kauz. No excuses. Jo Jo is proud of her heritage and is happy to share about how awesome it is to be learning the Ojibwe and Michif languages. Jo Jo also gives a few language lessons along the way and there is a glossary in the back.
Jo Jo is clever, curious, and a bit mischievous which makes her a ton of fun. She gets herself into tricky situations, but she is also quick to find creative solutions. One thing I loved was that she enjoys math. So many adults and children have negative feelings about math, but she gets a kick out of it. She also takes a very literal view of the world and this creates some hilarious situations much like with Amelia Bedelia.
Recommendation: This is the beginning of a great early chapter book series that is sure to be a hit with young readers. There are friendship and family situations that most readers could likely relate to regardless of culture and then there are also some situations that come about that are specifically related to being Ojibwe. It's also simply hilarious. I'm looking forward to sharing this one with students and hope that it finds many, many readers.