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Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing
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Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  159 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
The story of Sequoyah is the tale of an ordinary man with an extraordinary idea—to create a writing system for the Cherokee Indians and turn his people into a nation of readers and writers. The task he set for himself was daunting. Sequoyah knew no English and had no idea how to capture speech on paper. But slowly and painstakingly, ignoring the hoots and jibes of his neig ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 1st 2004 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Community Reviews

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Jul 12, 2010 S10_Abby rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-american
Grade Level: 1-4
Award: The Robert E. Sibert Honor Book

This is a picture book describing the true story of a man, Sequoyah and how he invented the Cherokee written language. Sequoyah was born in the 1760s into the Cherokee tribe in Tennessee. Although he was crippled he was able to work as a metalworker, making things like forks and spoons. Later in his life, growing tired of his people not having a voice to combat the ever-present White Man’s voice, he put his mind to develop a way of writing fo
Oct 24, 2011 Crista rated it liked it
2005 Jane Adams Award Honor Book

This is an amazing bilingual story that tells the tale of how the written Cherokee language came to be that is in both English and said Cherokee. A family of unknown ethnicity visits the Redwoods in California in 1958. The dad begins to tell the story of how they got their name and why their namesake was so important. Sequoyah was an everyday person who didn’t want the voices of the Cherokee to fade away and blend into the white man’s world so he decided to captur
538am_Allison Nork
Oct 07, 2013 538am_Allison Nork rated it really liked it
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing is a multicultural non-fiction book that I would recommend for 1st-3rd grades. It tells the story of a metalworker who was crippled that no one payed much attention to. He realized that he loved his Cherokee people and did not want their amazing voices and stories to ever disappear. Because of this he decided to create a language for the Cherokee people to use. Through many trials and tribulations he was successful and is looked to as the ma ...more
Barb Middleton
May 27, 2016 Barb Middleton rated it it was amazing
Terrific book on a Cherokee man named "Sequoyah" who invented a language. Very few people in history have invented languages in use today making this all the more remarkable. He was persecuted for writing and was also a cripple. A remarkable person.
Amy Edwards
Good book. Important note at the end explains that it is difficult to separate fact from legend when writing about Sequoyah. This book does a good job explaining the syllabary system of Cherokee writing that Sequoyah used.
Apr 09, 2016 Carmen rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of the invention of a written language.
T. Denise
Feb 09, 2009 T. Denise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: native-american
I loved this book. This is a story of struggle, perserverance, and sustainment of a culture. Rumford pens the life of Sequoyah, a Cherokee man responsible for the creation of a syllabic alphabet for the Cherokee people that still exists today. Interestingly, Sequoyah's first attempt at creating an alphabet was ridiculed and rejected by the Cherokee people.(They even claim that he is possessed and burn his home), but Sequoyah responds by teaching his daughter to read. Soon, everyone is reading an ...more
Mar 16, 2014 Cacox rated it it was amazing
James Rumford's Sequoyah is the remarkable story of the man who overcomes hardship and goes on to invent the syllabary of the Cherokee language, in part so that he can teach his daughter to read. As Rumford points out, this is remarkable because only a handful of people in the history of the written word can claim to have done this, with Sequoyah's instance being the most recent. Anna Sixkiller Huckaby translates the story, on each page you see both English and Cherokee. The story is elegantly i ...more
The pictures in this book are wonderful. They were not done as actual woodcuts, but they look like woodcuts because the drawing paper was adhered to a rough piece of wood so that each pass of chalk or colored pencil brought out the wood texture. I enjoyed reading the book to my children age 10 and 8, and stopped midway to talk about the printing press and it's importance in history, and why storytelling was important before books could be printed on Gutenberg's letterpress, etc. At that point, I ...more
Sep 08, 2012 Wendy rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
quick read, telling how Sequoyah developed the Cherokee writing system. also a story of perseverance. written in both English and Cherokee. a limitation is that there is a lack of source material. one benefit is the emphasis of the long literacy history of Cherokee people.
Sam Ott
Oct 11, 2015 Sam Ott rated it really liked it
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People, Written by James Rumford, Published November 1, 2004.
Genre: Biography
Format: Picture Book
Plot: This book tells the story of the Cherokee metalsmith, Sequoyah, who developed a written Cherokee syllabary that is still in use. He tried to make symbols for every word, but after his shop was burned with all his work inside he decided to make letters for each syllable, which his people eventually fully adopted. This book tells his story with English te
Sequoyah is a man who came up with a writing system for his people. At first, he was resented by his people because they thought the symbols were evil. After going through the hardships, not giving up to give his people another way to communicate, Sequoyah was able to create a Cherokee writing that everyone at the end appreciated.

This could be a good book to use when teaching about the different cultures and their writing in particular. It would allow students to see how writing came about in C
Marissa Yetter
I really enjoyed reading this, as it is someone who wanted to make a difference, even though the odds were against him. Even though he didn't know how to read or write, not even the letter "a", he used symbols as his form of writing. He preserved even though the town was against him, and he found he needed to go on a different path, then stopped everyone in their tracks when he proved them wrong. Then everyone began following Sequoyah's invention. This changed history for the Cherokee nation. I ...more
Stacy Nyikos
May 01, 2014 Stacy Nyikos rated it liked it
Rumford introduces Sequoyah and his amazing feat with a superb, living analogy. He compares Sequoyah to the giant redwood trees that may or may not have been named after him. This sets the tone the legend-like telling of a man who did a great, and very real, living thing, for his people. Rumford uses a legendary style because “not every event in his life can be supported by facts” (31). Yet the tree analogy breathes life into the legend and reflects the continuing everyday influence Sequoyah’s w ...more
Sep 02, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it
This is a biographical book about a native American named Sequoyah who created a writing system for the Cherokee language in the early 1800s. It is a story of great perseverance and ingenuity. Sequoyah is a hero to his people because his creation allowed the Cherokee to read and write in their own language. They were able to send letters, print books, and record the stories from their oral tradition, to ensure that they would not be lost even with the changing culture.
This book could accompany l
Laura Noto
Sep 24, 2009 Laura Noto rated it really liked it
Sequoyah is a picture book for grades 1-3. It follows a man through his life and his attempts to make a written language for his verbal Cherokee language. It begins with a family on vacation in the 1950s talking about the giant Sequoyah trees. They wonder about the man who the big, strong trees were named after. Then the father of the family tells the story of Sequoyah. You learn that he was just an average metalworker that was crippled. Since he wanted his people to stand strong in the
Oct 11, 2011 528_Kristin rated it really liked it
Opinion: This is a very interesting book. It again is a quick read and is written as a biography. The story is a very fast version of the history of Cherokee writing. I like it as in introductory piece, but I would have liked more details. He seemed to have lived a very interesting life. The book points out that we don’t often know the history of who created different alphabets, but this story gives that creation a voice. I liked the link between the trees and the life of the Cherokee. The actua ...more
Hannah Jefferson
Oct 10, 2013 Hannah Jefferson rated it really liked it
This book is a great read and a quick read for anyone interested in linguistics or Native American history. Framed by a young boy talking to his father and asking for whom the sequoia trees are named, this is an inspiring story about a recurring theme in popular biographies: people overcoming the doubts and taunting of others to achieve great things.

According to the book's copyright page, it is illustrated with "ink, watercolor, pastel, and pencil on drawing paper adhered to a rough piece of woo
Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford is a Sibert Honor Book for ages five to eight. Rumford tells the story of Sequoyah who developed a writing system that is used by the entire Cherokee nation. His writing system was turned into print in order to make books and newspaper, not just for writing letters and notes.

Rumford does not offer any citations about where he found his information or how he researched his book. The end of the book does offer a synopsis of i
Nov 09, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, cherokee
This was an interesting book about how the Cherokee people began writing. Sequoyah was an uneducated man who thought it would be important to have a language that they could write down. The people of his tribe did not agree with what he was doing at first, but once he proved how beneficial it would be they got on board with it. This would be a good book to read when studying the Native Americans. It would also be good to read when studying the forced migration west for the Native Americans.
May 02, 2016 Gabriella rated it really liked it
Shelves: rll538
Written about the man who invented the first form of writing for the Cherokee people, Sequoyah begins with beautiful illustrations of the giant Sequoyah trees of California and a child asking why they are named that. The story is creatively written in the form of a poem to tell the story of Sequoyah, who wanted to bring reading and writing to his people. The book is written in english but includes on every page the Cherokee symbols for each line of the story.
Nov 03, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: libs642
Junior Book Reading Log
Source: Sibert award 2005

Beautiful illustrations created with a watercolor, ink, chalk, and color pencil accompany Rumford's tale of Sequoyah, the Cherokee man gave his people the power to read and write in their own language. Sequoyah was ridiculed and discouraged, but like the tall trees named after him, he stood unwavering and persevered. The Cherokee people held on to their written language throughout history against all odds. On each page readers will hav
Edward Creter
Sequoyah the Cherokee was the man who invented a way of writing that still inspires people of all walks, Natives or otherwise. His amazing story is captured forever by author James Rumford, and is written in two writing styles, American English and Cherokee. It's a cool way to appreciate written languages, and Sequoyah's story too.
Mar 09, 2011 Esther rated it really liked it
Shelves: native-american
Published in 2004 by Houghton Mifflin
Interest Level: 5th-8th Grade

This is a story about a man names Sequoyah who created a written language for the Cherokee people. This book is a bilingual book, which blew me away and there was an alphabet, explanation, and shot timeline at the end to explain the text and story in a deeper way. The illustrations were interesting but not distracting and the story was extremely interesting. I think that this true story is amazing and that many students would be i
Sep 16, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Biography of the man who invented a form of written Cherokee. Originally, he was derided by other Cherokees until the usefulness of the writing became apparent. This picture book biography is in English as well as in Cherokee. Nicely illustrated.
I loved reading this story of Sequoyah with his humble beginnings but brilliant mind and how he understood that to preserve his people they needed written language. He spent a lot of time and was even ridiculed by his own people for what he was trying to do. In the end, he developed a syllabary (rather than characters to represent single sounds, they represent a syllable). The characters he developed were beautiful but a little too curvy and detailed for print type. Someone helped him simplify h ...more
Kelsey Walker
Dec 04, 2014 Kelsey Walker rated it it was amazing
-biography of Sequoyah
-invented writing for the Cherokee
-The Cherokee written language is displayed below the English language in the book
-3rd-5th graders
Mar 30, 2015 C rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
A great children's story about a literacy genius and pioneer. And a story of how perseverance and faith in an idea can make an ordinary person into a hero.
Mar 22, 2012 Audrey rated it really liked it
This is the biography of Sequoyah, the man who developed the Cherokee alphabet.

This book is very unique. Each passage is written in both English and Cherokee. The illustrations were created using a complex woodcutting method, and are quite interesting. The book explains that much of the information available regarding Sequoyah is undocumented, and is actually based on legend. But, the basic fact that he created the Cherokee alphabet remains accurate. The back of the book has a table showing the
Oct 05, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
My 8 yr old and I both really liked this book. It tells the story of Sequoyah, and how he created the Cherokee alphabet, in an informative way without being too didactic. I was interested too learn what an inspirational man Sequoyah was, who was resilient and determined. I think I learned just as much as my soon. The illustrations are nice and the inclusion of the Cherokee alphabet is fantastic. This is a great book for teaching but also for any kid or parent.
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I have been writing, illustrating, and designing children's books since 1996. I am on the verge of self-publishing through books that are printed on demand and via the internet. For more on my children's books, see my website: I also have a blog about writing and illustrating children's books at Besides commercially published books, ...more
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