The Truth Behind the Fiction

JJ Goes to the Northwoods is a work of fiction. However, it is largely inspired by real people and places. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to the real-life people and places behind the story. 

The Cabin

The cabin in the story really exists (and it looks EXACTLY as it does in the illustrations!) It has been in my father’s family for several generations.

His great grandparents bought it in the 1870s. They actually moved the cabin from Chicago to its current location in Marinette County by train. My dad, Tim Hardgrove, grew up going to the cabin with his parents, his sister, Kathy, and his uncles. He spent a lot of time hunting in the woods up there, and still does today. My dad’s parents, my Grandma and Pop, moved up to the cabin full time in 1975 and we’ve been going up ever since.

Because my dad loves spending time up north at the cabin so much, I wanted to work him into the story somehow, so he became JJ’s little brother, Timmy, who also loves spending time up there! This photo of my dad was used as inspiration for Timmy’s character.

Grandma & Pop

In 1975, my dad’s parents, Joe and Alice Hardgrove (Grandma and Pop) of Fond du Lac, moved up to the cabin full-time. My family has been going up there ever since!  Grandpa and Pop have passed away, but their memory definitely lives on in every trip our family takes to their cabin. The illustrations of Grandma and Pop are based on photographs of my Grandma and Pop.


Many people ask me if JJ is me as a young girl. The answer is no. I was never afraid of animals or bugs like JJ is in the story (ok, maybe I was a little afraid of daddy long legs). But, there is a story behind her name. Many years ago, my younger sister, Lori, and I were talking about what we might name our children. I had the idea to name my daughter JJ, for Jaime Jr. I never had a daughter and when I told Lori about my idea for the story she immediately said “You HAVE to name the character JJ!” I agreed, I thought it was perfect! And since I was already giving the illustrator photos of real people, I figured why not give her a picture of me as a young girl as inspiration for JJ?  I gave the illustrator this photo of me as 4th grader at St. Pat’s in Fond du Lac. I loved that vest! 

Jaime as a 4th grader

If you’d like to know more about any other aspect of the book, let me know!

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