February 21, 2024

We Need Everyone

Written by Michael Redhead Champagne
Illustrated by Tiff Bartel
HighWater Press
40 pp.
Ages 6-8
January 2024
Belonging is such an important emotional need for children and for all. But too often we compare ourselves with others and see their gifts and accomplishments as greater than our own, worrying that we don't belong or aren't good enough. Community advocate Michael Redhead Champagne will help children see that they all belong because we need everyone.
From We Need Everyone, written by Michael Redhead Champagne, illustrated by Tiff Bartel
We Need Everyone's book character Michael, easily recognizable by his bouncy asymmetrical hair, speaks to everyone about gifts. 
Gifts are skills and talents we share with others. Every gift is different, and every gift is special.
For many children, recognizing their own gifts may be a challenge, so Michael takes them through a series of steps to finding their gifts. These include making lists of what they like to do as well as what they are good at doing. If they have difficulties identifying those, they can always ask for help. Then it comes down to practising those gifts.
From We Need Everyone, written by Michael Redhead Champagne, illustrated by Tiff Bartel
But there is more to having a gift if we are to share them and build strong communities. Michael Redhead Champagne equates building community with activism and speaks of all those who help make our communities richer: artists, athletes, chefs, gamers, storytellers, and friends.
When you share your gift, you give strength to others. Even if you feel too small, too young, or too quiet, your gift is too special to keep to yourself.
Michael Redhill Champagne speaks from a place of knowing. He is Ininew (Cree), having been raised in Winnipeg's North End with his family from Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba.  He knows what it means to belong to a community and to make a community. He shares his inspiration through public speaking and writing, hosting media events and telling of stories. We Need Everyone, his debut picture book, continues his message of empowerment and influence by helping kids see that they all have superpowers that are their gifts, and that these gifts, though not always easily identifiable, are what will help make our communities stronger. 
From We Need Everyone, written by Michael Redhead Champagne, illustrated by Tiff Bartel
Winnipeg artist Tiff Bartel ensures that the illustrations in We Need Everyone reflect Michael Redhill Champagne's message that everyone is needed. She includes children of all skin colours, sizes, and abilities. She shows a girl in a hijab cooking, children gardening, a child playing sledge hockey, another signing "I love you" and others painting. Some are active, some are quiet, some are sharing their cultures, and many are learning. And they are engaged joyously and vibrantly in ways to enrich their communities and acknowledge their own gifts.

We need everyone, and by sharing their gifts of storytelling and art, Michael Redhead Champagne and Tiff Bartel will give children strength and inspiration to see themselves as needed and belonging too.

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A free teacher's guide, titled Teacher Guide for We Need Everyone:
Empowering Students to be Active Community Members Through Indigenous Perspectives in Primary Classrooms and Beyond
  is available from HighWater Press (Portage & Main Press) here.

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