We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Spread the love

Title: We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga 

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Frané Lessac

Publisher: Charlesbridge, Sept. 2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: thankfulness, seasons, Cherokee, Cherokee language, community



Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles-daily, throughout the year, and across the seasons.


A look at modern Native American life as told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation

The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. 


Why I like this book:

Any library that showcases diversity, and that should be every library, should have a copy of this lovely picture book about a family and their Cherokee community celebrating gratitude daily, and around the seasons/year. For example, in the fall the family is grateful for a new baby while the community welcomes the Cherokee New Year. It is a great example of the use of specific family and general community examples allowing the reader glimpses into the history and culture of a Cherokee community.

Frané Lessac’s illustrations are warm and vibrant, and always connect the reader to the earth and nature in some way. Each double page spread introduces the reader to Cherokee names, spelling and pronunciation.


While about daily and seasonal thanksgiving, I think this would be a fantastic text to use for any school discussions about Thanksgiving!

Great for units/story times on seasons, gratitude, family, and Native American nations.

Traci Sorell, who was born and raised in the Cherokee Nation, exposes the reader to the Cherokee language (originally created by Sequoyah) and to Cherokee Syllabary (spelling and pronunciation – explained in the back of the book). There is a glossary and an author’s note that lend more information to a topic that I haven’t seen before in a PB. 

If you are working with slightly older children, look at Talking Leaves by Joseph Bruchac , which gives historical context of the development of the first written Native/Aboriginal Cherokee language.

Check out the interview I did with illustrator Frané Lessac a few years ago. 

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.


This entry was posted in diversity, Perfect Picture Book Friday and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. This sounds like an amazing Native American story with a focus on traditions and culture! Many of the books I review are not Canadian Indigenous. We need more books about Native American life. Timely choice.

  2. Oh this looks incredible; what brilliance to combine the glorious virtue of gratitude with cultural awareness and celebration. Thank you, thank you!

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    A beautiful story and a beautiful book! I’ll suggest this title to some of my elementary school librarian friends. Thanks for the rec, Joanna!

  4. I also posted on this lovely picture book today 🙂 Quite irresistible!

  5. What a great book. I haven’t seen it yet and will be sure to find it. My library has it on order and I have a hold on it. Thank you!

  6. This book looks wonderful. I love beginning the new year in the fall – and the idea of carrying thankfulness with us through the year. If my library doesn’t have this one, I’ll get it for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.