We All Play

Author: Julie Flett

Publisher: GreystoneKids

Release Date: May 25/21

Length: 40 pages

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you, Edelweiss+ and the publisher, for an eARC of this book.

Every time I read a new Julie Flett book, I have a deeper appreciation for her as an author and an illustrator.  We All Play is quietly beautiful if there can be such a thing.

Using two-page spreads, we see a variety of North American animals playing. Using natural muted colours, readers will see rabbits, seals and geese along with animals not as common, buffalos, bats and lynxes playing. After each set of three animals, Ms. Flett shares children playing similarly to the group of animals just showcased. Not only are land, water, and air animals depicted, but so are the seasons represented and animals active during the night.

As much that I adore the artwork in this book, it is the careful consideration of Julie Flett’s words that make this book stand out for me. There are only four words on each page, which means they have to stand out and stand out they do! The use of alliteration and vocabulary word building is one that educators will love to use as a mentor text. Ms. Flett delicately balances using familiar words (hide and hop) to ones not used as frequently (nudge and nuzzle). Again ending the set of three with children and the line “We play too!” until we are all tuckered out and need to rest.

The final copy of the book will include a glossary with all the animals in Cree and English. Another spectacular picture book, reinforcing that we are all connected and more the same than we are different. Classrooms and libraries need more books by Indigenous Peoples, sharing their perspectives on everyday life and events. Preorder this one that comes out in May.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Birdsong, Wild Berries and When We Were Alone

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Prek +

Siha Tooskin Knows Series

Author: Charlene Bearhead & Wilson Bearhead

Illustrator: Chloe Bluebird Mustooch

Publisher: Highwater Press

Release Date: May 26/20

A new Indigenous series that primary teachers are going to be asking to use in classrooms and provides readers to see themselves in normal day-to-day activities and also opens a window for others to experience another culture.

This series introduces readers to Siha Tooskin, a young Nakota boy (aka Paul) and the many ways of knowing from everyday activities spent with various family members. Although found in the easy paperback section of my public library, for many readers, this may be classified using Melissa Stewart’s genre classification of narrative nonfiction. I say this because of the amount of learning and information about the Nakota culture and ways of knowing may not be familiar to readers.

There are many reasons to love this series. First off, the books are short in overall page length, the longest being 38 pages and would work as a read-aloud or independent reading for older primary readers. Although it may appear there is a great deal of text on each page, it is large and manageable. There are coloured illustrations and at least one two-page spread in each book. The back matter includes a glossary of Nakota words used and an explanation of pronunciation. My personal favourite the growth of a plant at the beginning of each book, sharing with readers how the plant will grow as they read and can also use as places to rest or stop.

From Siha Tooskin Knows The Sacred Eagle Feather by Charlene Bearhead & Wilson Bearhead,
illus. by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch

Currently, there are eight books in the series; below is a brief synopsis and do not necessarily need to be read in order.

  • Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People: In this book, Paul Wahasaypa has to bring something to school representing his culture. As he walks home from school with his dad, he learns of the many origins of various Indigenous people in the areas of agriculture, housing, irrigations, transportation, medicine and education.
  • Siha Tooskin Knows the Sacred Eagle Feather: Paul goes on a walk with his grandfather to collect eagle feathers. While walking, his grandfather explains why the eagle is so important to Indigenous people; how the eagle feathers are used in dance and considered sacred, including offering tobacco for the gifts of the feathers.
  • Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair: Paul shares with his grandfather how boys at school tease him about his braids. His grandfather reminds him how his hair is his connection to his mind, body and spirit. That the braid reminds him of his strong family ties and that he is to honour his family by treating everyone with kindness and respect
  • Shiha Tooskin Knows the Catcher of Dreams: Paul races home as he uses his observational skills his Mitoshin (Grandfather) has taught him to see that his grandparents have unexpectedly come for a visit. Paul’s new sibling is about to be born, and as they wait to find out if he has a new baby brother or sister, his Mugoshin (Grandmother) shares the teaching of the dream catcher that she is making for the new grandchild.
  • Shiha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life: Paul gets a chance to go for a walk with his mother in the woods. While walking, she passes on the lessons taught to her by her parents. Paul learns how nature teaches us about strength, generosity, kindness and humility and the part humans play.
  • Shiha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine: Paul is not feeling well and ends up being in the hospital. In the hospital, Paul learns how there are healing practices from his culture as well as Western medicine to help him in the healing process. I will note that the ambiguity of Paul’s illness leaves the reader with unanswered questions.
  • Shiha Tooskin Knows the Offering of Tobacco: Paul shares with his teacher the importance of offering a gift back to Mother Earth or to a learned individual to show honour and gratitude for gifts and knowledge shared.
  • Shiha Tooskin Knows the Love of the Dance: Paul brings his friend Jeff to attend his very first Powwow. His grandfather and Paul share with Jeff the different types and descriptions of the dances he will see.

I learned quite a bit reading this series and know that ALL students in elementary schools would gain some new knowledge. Sold individually or as a collection, this is a series that for schools, I would suggest multiple copies and for libraries depending upon your patron’s needs, perhaps the same. As stated earlier, here is a series with a character going about everyday life intertwined with his culture today and connected to the obstacles overcome in the past. I hope that we can see more books like this, written in the same manner and fingers crossed a series published for older elementary students too – there is a void in this area!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: All elementary schools