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Romp and Revel with We All Play / kimêtawânaw

We All Play / kimêtawânaw

Written and Illustrated by Julie Flett

Published in 2021 by Greystone Kids

ISBN 978-1-77164-607-9

Grades PK – 3

Book Review

“Animals play. And we play too: kimêtawânaw mîna.” This special similarity between humans and the world of animal species is the focus of Cree-Métis author and illustrator Julie Flett’s latest picturebook. Incorporating a patterned text and playful alliteration, Flett introduces the movements of several animal species and then, through illustration, draws parallels to human play: “Animals hide / and hop / and sniff / and sneak / and peek / and peep. / We play too! kimêtawânaw mîna.”  Flett’s illustrations are composed in pastels and rendered digitally, incorporating warm greens and browns and textures that seamlessly integrate the children of various skin hues into the natural environment. A glossary at the conclusion of the book provides the Cree names for the animals and a pronunciation guide. In a note to readers, Flett introduces the Cree concept of wâhkôhtowin – kinship: “we are all connected, living in relationship and in care to one another…” Take up this title’s invitation to head outdoors, romping and reveling in the communal playground of our natural world. 

Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom

Exploring Languages: A Pocket Chart Activity. Flett includes a list of the animals from the book at the conclusion, providing the animal name in English, and then in Cree, including the names for ‘one’, ‘more than one’, and ‘younger, smaller, cuter’. Using a pocket chart and index cards, create cards for the animals names and create picture cards as well. Offer students the opportunity to match related names and pictures. Expand the activity by creating cards for the other languages spoken in your classroom. 

We All Play / kimêtawânaw as a Mentor Text. You and your students can innovate on We All Play by choosing additional animals to write about, following the pattern that Julie Flett has employed. Begin by inviting students to list animals not already included in the text. Offer the students the opportunity to engage in dramatic play, acting out their understandings of how these animals move. Next create a list of words that describe the movements of these animals (you may want to use the web cams linked below for some inspiration). If you can also work in some alliteration, that’s a bonus! Provide students with opportunities to illustrate their writing, emulating Flett’s illustration style.  

Illustrating We All Play. Reread We All Play several times aloud, guiding students to identify the pattern in the text (Flett shares the play activities of three animal species and then offers the refrain “We play too! Kimêtawânaw mîna” with an illustration of children at play). Make a list of the verbs that Flett has included and invite your students to act out these motions and then to create an illustration of themselves or other children engaging in that activity. Students can write a simple sentence to accompany their illustration (for example, “We hide.”) or they can create a longer narrative. 

Animal Yoga. The playful movements of the animals celebrated in We All Play can serve as an invitation to try some yoga in your classroom. You can learn some animal yoga poses on this Gaia site and a search on YouTube yields many videos. 

Observing Animals: Webcams. Webcam views of animals can be endlessly fascinating. Students can practice the science skill of observation by watching animals through the webcams linked below in Further Explorations and making notes about the animal behaviors that they see. Students can meet in small groups to compare their observations and can learn more about how and why animals play by reading the articles linked below. For more on what can be learned by animal observation see our recent entry on April Pulley Sayre’s Being Frog and our older entry on two Jane Goodall picture book biographies. Me, Jane and The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps

Play Text Set: A Solar System Model. Include We All Play / kimêtawânaw in a Solar System model text set focusing on play. Read and compare and contrast titles such as these on the Classroom Bookshelf: The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World, The Floating Field, How to Two, Little Fox in the Forest, The Nowhere Box, The Patchwork Bike,  and With My Hands: Poems About Making Things, Encourage a view of play as both enjoyable and a learning opportunity. Invite your students to reflect on different types of play, including individual play, group play, and organized play, such as sports. What does each type of play have to offer? Consider creating a class-composed book that shares students ideas and images about play. 

Duet Model: A Paired Reading with Move! Pair a reading of We All Play / kimêtawânaw with a reading of Steve Jenkins’s Move! Which also invites readers to compare the movements of animals and children. Notice the different text patterns used by the authors and the different illustration styles. After comparing and contrasting these two books (and doing the webcam activity above), students will be inspired to write and illustrate their own books about animal movements. Additional pairing that would work well with this title are: Melissa Stewart’s Can an Aardvark Bark? and Lita Judge’s Play in the Wild: How Baby Animals Like to Have Fun. 

Play Plans. As summer approaches, invite your students to make plans for how they would like to spend time playing this summer (or vacation, or weekend, or even recess, depending on when you are reading this blog entry). Invite them to share how they like to play, whether it is using their imagination, through movement, with friends, with materials, etc. Use this as an opportunity to further develop community and friendship within your classroom by making connections across common interests. 

wâhkôhtowin / Kinship. In her note to readers at the conclusion of the book, Flett writes: “Whether we are running and hopping through the grass or rolling along the street or pondering creatures in the creek, we are all connected, living in relationship and in care to one another, in kinship. In Cree this is called wâhkôhtowin.” Explore the theme of kinship with your students. What does it mean? What does it mean to them? What are some examples that are meaningful in their lives? What activities could they carry out to promote wâhkôhtowin? 

Julie Flett: Author / Illustrator Study. Learn more about author/ illustrator Julie Flett by exploring her website and the books that she has written and illustrated herself and illustrated for others. Explore the resources linked below to learn more about her artistic inspirations and process. In this interview on the blog 49th Shelf, she describes her commitment to creating books about First Nations experiences, the books she would have liked to read as a child. In this NBC News Story, Flett connects her work to a larger framework of advocacy for Indigenous perspectives. 

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Pronunciation Guide from Greystone Books

Julie Flett: Illustrator Website

Greystone Books: Book Website

CBC Books: Julie Flett is reclaiming Indigenous themes of community and language through her children’s books

49th Shelf: Julie Flett on Illustration and First Nations Children’s Literature

NBC News: Canadian illustrator Julie Flett’s books reveal the truth about modern Indigenous life

Earth Cam: Animal Cams

New York Times: The Best Live Animal Feeds From Around the World

BBC Earth: All Fur and Games: Why Do Animals Play?

WHYY: Which Animals Play and Why?

Books

Clarke, M.B. (2018). The patchwork bike. ill. by V. T. Rudd. Candlewick Press. 

Graegin, S. (2017). Little Fox in the forest. Schwartz & Wade Books.

Judge, L. (2020). Play in the wild: How baby animals like to have fun. Roaring Brook. 

Milway, K.S. (2017). The banana-leaf ball: How play can change the world. Ill. by S. W. Evans. Kids Can Press. 

Riley, S. (20210. The floating field. Ill. by N. Quang & K. Lien. Millbrook Press.

Soman, D. (2019). How to two. Dial Books for Young Readers.

Stewart, M. (2017). Can an aardvark bark. Ill. by S. Jenkins. Beach Lane. 

VanDerwater, A.L. (2018). With my hands: Poems about making things. Ill. by L. Fancher & S. Johnson. Clarion Books

Zuppardi, S. (2013). The nowhere box. Candlewick Press. 

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.