“I wanted Indigenous children, Kids with long, Curly hair & cat lovers to feel represented…” – An Author Interview with Michael Redhead Champagne

Decorative header image including a photo of author Michael Redhead Champagne (photo credit to Travis Ross).

Michael Redhead Champagne, a Time Magazine Next Generation Leader (2015) is an Ininew public speaker, writer, award-winning community advocate, and on-screen personality. We Need Everyone is Michael’s first children’s book. You can find Michael on Instagram, Facebook, & X (Twitter).

At Diverse BookFinder, we’re all about the importance of diverse, representative literature for children. What does representation mean for you?

To me representation means reading books that have stories with authors, illustrators and characters that reflect my life experience and who I am – that goes for everyone!

We Need Everyone is your first children’s book. Why did you want/what inspired you to reach out to this audience?

I was inspired by the many gifts and talents of kids and young people I saw around me in Winnipeg’s North End – they are so talented and have such abilities and skills that the world needs. Too often I would see situations where systems or those in positions of influence would minimize or even ignore those youth and their abilities and potential. I want every kid to know the world needs them and their special gift!

Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne.

Cartoon of children gardening: two kids planting in a raised bed and two holding a crate of plants, with inspirational text about community and working together.
Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne

You’ve mentioned writing stories as early as kindergarten, and have since used your gift for talking and storytelling in many different ways. Did you always want to be an author? What inspired you to take on this medium?

When I was a kid, I moved often. Because of this I didn’t have relationship permanence in my friend group and felt chronically lonely always in a new school environment. Characters and books created a type of relationship permanence and continuity that carried me through difficult times. I hope my words and stories can be of comfort to others experiencing hardships and an encouraging tool to help them take positive action.

What do you find to be the most difficult part of creating books for children today? What is the most rewarding?

The most difficult thing is getting the idea from a great story or activity that I love to share with others, things that feel so alive and always moving, into the manuscript written, more solid feeling format. The most rewarding is working alongside a team of helpers who can help me find these important stories and craft them into books for kids and families to read and learn from together!

What was your favorite childhood book? What was it about it that you loved?

My favourite childhood book was probably One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish [by Dr. Seuss] and I what I loved about it the most was the rhythm within the words. I hope to one day write a song or even a book that has a catchy rhythm as you read it out loud.

Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne.

 Illustration of diverse cartoon children in a sunny outdoor setting with flowers, engaging in a discussion about gifts and talents, alongside a small gray cat.
Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne

What was it like working with Tiff Bartel? How involved were you in the illustration process?

It was a breeze! I mean it was mostly phone calls and emails and then Tiff was able to just go with her heart and the first concepts she came up with I fell in love with. There was very few notes or changes needed as Tiff’s gift of being an illustrator is here in this book on full display.

In “We Need Everyone,” you talk about a variety of gifts people could have and ways they could share them with others. How did you decide which gifts to highlight?

The gifts highlighted in the book are the gifts I most often hear young people themselves express in my talks and presentations. It was important for me to include gifts such as being a good friend and gamers because those types of gifts may sometimes be overlooked. However, they can teach us so much about how to look at challenges and how to care for one another.

Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne.

A colorful illustration divided in two: on the left, an adult consoles a child with a question mark in a thought bubble; on the right, a thought bubble shows children engaged in cooperative activities.
Illustration by Tiff Bartel from We Need Everyone by Michael Redhead Champagne

You are portrayed as a character in the book, so you are directly speaking to the fictional children and to readers. Why was this storytelling method important to you? Why not express the same message as the typical narrative? P.S. We love that your cat, Sushi, is also a character in the book!

It was important for me (and Sushi!) to be in the book because I wanted Indigenous children, Kids with long, curly hair & cat lovers to feel represented. I wanted my most authentic self to speak to kids and families of all ages so they could look into their most authentic selves for their own gifts.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Diverse BookFinder audience?

Thank you for your leadership in amplifying diverse stories and for highlighting We Need Everyone. On behalf of myself, Tiff and Sushi, kinanaskomitinow (“its is you I am thankful for” in Ininew, swamy cree).

Diverse BookFinder would like to thank Michael Redhead Champagne for his time and input.

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