We All Play = kimêtawânaw
We All Play = kimêtawânaw
We play too!
Julie Flett’s We All Play = kimêtawânaw is a wonderfully simple story that highlights the Cree language and the interconnectedness of humans and animals. Told with spare language and full of engaging illustrations, We All Play = kimêtawânaw will please long-time Flett fans and newcomers alike.
In We All Play = kimêtawânaw, Flett draws parallels between the way that various animals and children play. There is a repetitive structure to the book, showing three types of animals engaging in two play behaviours each, followed by an image of children playing with the refrain “We play too! kimêtawânaw mîna.” Seals ‘bubble and bend’, snakes ‘slip and slide’, and children are seen playing outdoors throughout the seasons. Each animal is showcased in a two-page spread, and Flett uses alliteration to highlight their play behaviours. This alliteration makes We All Play = kimêtawânaw a great candidate for read-alouds and storytimes.
Those who are familiar with Julie Flett’s work will likely have a good idea of what to expect in terms of illustrations. My guess is that even those longtime fans will be impressed with the quality of the work here. Earth-toned illustrations of animals and children on clean, uncluttered cream-coloured backgrounds bring the subjects into focus. There is a softness to some of the illustrations and the lines that blends cut-out and collage-like elements with paint beautifully. The animals all have plenty of personality, partly due to their expressive eyes and dynamic poses. Even though the children in the book are only featured on a few pages, there is a good amount of diversity present; they have varied skin tones and hair textures. Most of them seem to be around the same age. In one image, a young girl who is swimming seems to have a limb difference. These are the small but important details that allow children to see themselves in books.
Julie Flett is a Cree-Métis author and, as in many of her other books, is highlighting the Cree language throughout We All Play = kimêtawânaw. We see this in the bilingual title and in the refrains repeating throughout the book. The last page promises to have an English/Cree list of animals as well. Having this type of simple backmatter is an engaging way to extend learning and a powerful way to engage in cultural sharing and the promotion of language revitalization.
We All Play = kimêtawânaw is a delightful and engaging read that is likely to appeal to many young readers. Very young readers will enjoy the cute animals, and older readers will enjoy learning new words in Cree. It would work equally well as a lap book and conversation-starter one-on-one or being read in a storytime. It would make an excellent purchase for all libraries that serve children, especially those looking to acquire more titles by Indigenous authors and illustrators.
Alex Matheson is a children’s librarian in Vancouver, British Columbia.