We All Play by Julie Flett | Review

Julie Flett is a Cree Metis writer, illustrator, and artist whose children’s books, often bilingual, have received critical acclaim, including the Governor General’s Literary Award and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, it advocates for indigenous youth and other community members and helps preserve and share indigenous languages ​​among the English-speaking population.

We All Play, written for babies and toddlers up to the age of seven, brings us raging, splashing children in many shades of brown and their animal relatives: rabbits hide and hop, foxes sniff and sneak, owls look and watch, buffalos growl and roll, and more. Flett’s alliterative verbs for each species burst the pages with action and in the interludes when human children return – to refrains like “We play too!” – it also offers Cree translations (kimêtawânaw mîna).

Her illustrations, collage-like watercolors, are priceless. The yapping and yawning pups make you want to reach through the pages to scratch behind the ears, and the wiggling and wiggling bears peer out of the page with such expressiveness that you’re sure they can actually see you.

Flett wisely saves a longer translation for a list of animals at the end of the book. The list includes English – for example “beluga” – followed by Cree words for a beluga (wâpamêk), more than one (wâpamêkwak) and (our favorite) a “younger, smaller, cuter” beluga (wâpamêkos). It provides pronunciation guidance and also informs readers that audio pronunciations for all words used in the book are available on the We All Play page on greystonebooks.com. More of her illustrations can also be seen there.

She closes the book with a message of oneness for all of us, including animals that love to play. “We are all connected with one another, live in relationships and care for one another, in relatives,” she tells us. “In Cree it’s called wâhkôhtowin.” She says she is happy to share this relationship “with you hoppers and wigglers and wobblers and hikers – and wonders”. And we are grateful to feel this connection with her and all of creation in return.

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