Dawn Quigley, citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, North Dakota, delivers to young readers the clever and quirky story of Josephine Makoons Azure, otherwise known as Jo Jo Makoons (“Makoons” means bear cub in Ojibwe), in a new chapter book illustrated by New Brunswick artist Tara Audibert.
Quigley begins with a note that the story takes place in the fictional Pembina Ojibwe Reservation and explains what a reservation is and that each is distinct and unique.
Jo Jo is a fun and plucky seven-year-old in first grade. But she has a couple of big concerns. The first is that Mimi, her feline best friend, may have to get a needle at the vet. (She has heard that sometimes cats deflate when they get their shots!) Her second concern is that Fern, her human best friend, has stopped having lunch with her at school. Like many first graders, she worries about making new friends. But, in the end, Jo Jo learns that by being a friend to others, she gains many friends in return.
The illustrations by Tara Audibert, whose heritage is Wolastoqey and French, are both whimsical and expressive. She captures the joy and mischievousness of the characters, as well as showcases traditional floral beadwork motifs.
This is a fun and fanciful story that incorporates Ojibwe and Michif words, the translation and pronunciation for which can be found in the accompanying glossary. Jo Jo Makoons, the first in a series, provides Indigenous children an opportunity to see themselves in books and teaches non-Indigenous children more about Ojibwe culture.