Sorell, Traci. (Illus. Frané Lessac). “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga.” Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2018.
It can be difficult finding really good picture books accurately depicting a modern Native American family. “We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga” is one of those books. Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, guides us through a year of seasons with a Cherokee family, ending with the celebration of Cherokee National Holiday.
We start in the fall, when the Cherokee New Year is celebrated with the Great New Moon Ceremony and finish up at the end of summer for the Cherokee National Holiday. In between, there are family traditions, cultural symbols, traditional food, and modern references like a family member leaving to serve in the U.S. military. Along the bottom, some pages provide pronunciation guides, English translations, and the Cherokee syllabary versions of words used in the text.
The colorful folk-art illustrations on double-page spreads show the diversity of people within the Cherokee Nation. The back holds a page of definitions, author’s note, and information about the Cherokee Syllabary. This book is simple beautiful and a must-buy for every Idaho elementary school library.
Dewey: 975.004 Interest Level: K-Gr. 2
Reviews and Awards: Booklist, Horn Book Magazine starred; Kirkus Reviews Starred; Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor, 2019; School Library Journal starred.
Upper elementary students might like: “Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves: A Play About the Cherokee Syllabary” by Wim Coleman (illus. Siri Weber Feeney). *Could be readers theater or a stage production, too.)
Older readers might like: “The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokee” published by University of North Carolina Press.
Fiction Pairing: “How Spirit Dog Made the Milky Way: A retelling of a Cherokee Legend” by Michael O’Hearn.
On the Web:
Learn more about Cherokee National Holiday at https://holiday.cherokee.org/.
Discover Cherokee Bean Bread with this short video: https://www.pbs.org/video/discover-cherokee-bean-bread-n5x5dk/