What People are Saying About

Jo Hackl


Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

A masterful debut. Cricket is my new hero, brave and funny and full of heart. Jo Watson Hackl’s new middle-grade novel has art, poetry, and adventure—and I couldn’t put it down.

—Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory Be

Our kids can’t put the book down!

–Sarah Parsons, Westmoore Elementary

Jo Hackl’s presentation to my 7th grade English classes provided enriching, interesting, and important information about books, writing, and the writing process. She explained how she developed the concept of her book and how she researched, which was wonderful for my young writers to hear as they study historical fiction. Perhaps most beneficial was her advice about being curious, writing often, and ignoring spelling and grammar until one’s first draft is complete. How encouraging for my students to get a behind-the-scenes look at the journey of writing a book! I would highly recommend Jo Hackl as a guest speaker for any unit on writing.

—Allison O’Rear, CCES

We enjoyed every second of author Jo Hackl’s visit with us this week. It was a great time of interaction that fostered a love for writing and a grand discussion of her book, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe. We loved having the chance to talk about moments from the book and how she was able to create such authentic characters and scenery. She was able to share how she used her love for nature in her writing and tell us some of her favorite childhood experiences in Electric Mills, MS. Having Jo at any school would be special, but especially so since all of our students had just finished reading her book. Their excitement of meeting the creator of such a special story was so contagious and they bubbled over with questions and connections as the presentation rolled on. I felt like this was a tremendous opportunity for students to also learn about the writing process and many tips for becoming a writer. Jo was a wonderful encouragement to them to pursue their own writing, calling them her “fellow writers.”

–Elizabeth Sistrunk, Brandon Elementary School

Jo Hackl takes young readers on an adventurous journey filled with resilience, love and suspense. The way she intricately weaves together people and places kept my scholars wanting to spend hours combing through the novel.  My scholars were able to escape the world’s “New Norm” of masks and quarantine and live vicariously through Cricket as she races the clock on her quest for “home.”


– N. Cole –  Communities In Schools, Morningside Middle School

A tale of adventure, full of mystery and suspense.

—Robert Beatty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Serafina and the Black Cloak

A charming mystery with a clever and resourceful protagonist. Cricket’s adventures, driven by a longing to heal her family, are as informational as they are exciting. This book grabs readers from the start and journeys with them though ups and downs and twists and turns that leaves he reader sad, hopeful, and above all, grateful for a delightful story well told.

—June Wilcox, M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers/Kids’ Indie Next List Summer 2018

Set in Mississippi…the story is colorfully narrated by Cricket, who comes across as idiosyncratic, intrepid, and wholly likable…..An engaging first novel with a distinctive Southern setting.


A brilliant, utterly absorbing debut. I couldn’t get enough of Cricket’s adventures and Jo Watson Hackl does a remarkable job bringing this vibrant character and her world to life. Totally unputdownable.

—Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author of The Map to Everywhere

A heart-warming coming-of-age story.

—Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky

League Academy Middle School students enjoyed a recent visit from….author of Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, Jo Hackl. Our students were inspired talking with Jo about writing and were captivated when she read the sequence of her main character Cricket’s heart stopping encounter with a copperhead snake! Students all want to know more and they cannot wait to read Smack Dab when it comes out in July!

—Regina Joseph, League Academy

Ms. Hackl’s recent author’s visit was fantastic. The students were engaged the entire time. She sparked their interest and made them think about the writing process in a whole new way. They have since made powerful connections from her presentation to their own work. Her book now has a long waiting list in our library!

–Wendy Neisler, Highland Mill Montessori School

We are incredibly grateful to Jo Hackl for creating and implementing a nature session at the Resnick Aspen Action Youth Forum!  At the conclusion of the session, our young leaders made personal action pledges on at least one way they intend to make nature more a part of their day, and Jo personally inscribed her book Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe to further inspire our participants. We appreciated Jo’s extraordinary talent and passion in cultivating such a meaningful experience, and we would highly recommend this program to other forums!

– Christian Devers, Co-Director of the Resnick Aspen Action Youth Forum