We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
written by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac
A look at modern Native American life through the eyes of an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a word that Cherokee people use to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the Cherokee New Year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by Traci Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and illustrated by Frané Lessac, this nonfiction look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.
★ “A gracious, warm, and loving celebration of community and gratitude” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ “Perfect for holiday and family sharing” —School Library Journal, starred review
★ "Has the ability to resonate with any reader" - Shelf Awareness, starred review
★ "Underscores the importance of traditions . . . while simultaneously . . . challenging dated media images of Indigenous people." - The Horn Book, starred review
In Cherokee culture, Sorell shares, the expression of gratitude is part of daily life and extends from elaborate celebrations to struggles to ordinary life moments. She organizes her debut picture book by seasons, beginning with the fall, which is a time for collecting foliage for basket making and remembering those who suffered on the Trail of Tears. It also contains the Cherokee New Year and the Great New Moon Ceremony, a celebration of renewal and coming together. Each season section starts with the name of the season in Cherokee, an expression of gratitude for the change in nature, and subsequent pages describing community activities pertinent to that season. Lessac's folkloric illustration in bright gouache colors stands in pleasing contrast to the book’s contemporary feel and setting. The text reads like poetry but has a gentle instructional dimension to it. On many pages, Cherokee words are accompanied by English translations, pronunciation guides, and Cherokee syllabary. Back matter contains relevant explanations and provides good context, and the author's note sets past misrepresentations right.
— Amina Chaudhri, Booklist
“I am truly grateful for Traci Sorell's first picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. By focusing on the simple but deeply meaningful theme of gratitude, she's portrayed the strength and lasting nature of her Cherokee heritage in a way that will resonate with young readers of many cultural backgrounds. Further, she does this in a contemporary fashion, not talking about her people in the vanished past but as a vital part of the present-day world. Vividly and accurately illustrated by Frané Lessac, and including Cherokee language on numerous spreads, it both entertains and teaches on every page. It’s the kind of book I want my own grandchildren to read.”
For a guide to Cherokee Words (Spoken & Phonetics) that are found in the book, click here.