We All Play / kimêtawânaw mîna (2021)

A book review

We All Play / kimêtawânaw mîna Cover Art. Illustrations by Julie Flett.

Julie Flett’s 2021 picture book, We All Play / kimêtawânaw mîna, we see the many ways that children and animals share their love of play, and it is written both in English and Cree. Like its contemporary Watercress, We All Play found itself at the top of several bestseller lists in 2021 including the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Public Library, Kirkus Reviews, and the Globe and Mail. It is also a recipient of the American Indian Youth Literature Honor and was listed as a 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor title. As Nell Beram puts it, “This jubilant picture book uses gamboling animals and kids to illustrate the Cree concept of wâhkôhtowin, or the kinship among living things.” In the book’s endnotes, Flett speaks directly to her readers, saying:

We all love to play. You may have played while you were reading this book. Maybe you played by sounding the words out in this book, saying them or signing them quickly and rhythmically, or getting up to jump and hop like the animals and kids in the story.

When I was growing up, my dad shared a lot about our relationship to animals and to each other, including the land, plants, beetles, the earth, wind, water and sky. 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.

In his 2006 book, Optimal Parenting, Ba Luvmour devotes an entire chapter to play. Play is a vital part of development and well-being, for people of all ages and is not necessarily “equated with fun” (p. 25). He writes:

“Play allows us to represent ourselves and our deepest consciousness unbound by ordinary structures…Play allows us to connect with the whole of ourselves and our world. It is the natural movement of non-alienated people, an expression of health and, given full support, a way to optimal well-being” (p. 25).

When BodyBeing children play, they do so with words and through sensory experiences…

Amanda Fisher-Katz-Keohane