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We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,557 ratings  ·  403 reviews
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.

Appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary
ebook, 32 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Charlesbridge Publishing
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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Dave Schaafsma
Otsaliheliga is the Cherokee word for “we are grateful,” which the tribe says throughout the year as a way of giving thanks for their blessings, while not ignoring the many struggles they have been through. Traci Sorell, a member of the Cherokee nation, creates a dual language picture book—Cherokee and English-- about the different ways the Cherokee people express gratitude "throughout the year and across the seasons.” The art from Frané Lessac
is wonderful, colorful.

The book for most readers wi
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
4-1/2 stars – ½ star off because there is no story that flows and I would have enjoyed the book more had there been one.

The illustrations are really special. They’re gorgeous and detailed with lots to view. I adore the art!

I learned a lot about the modern Cherokee Nation. I found it interesting that, like Jewish people, they celebrate New Year in the autumn. It makes sense to me.

There isn’t exactly a story here. The repetition will probably appeal to children though, and I did appreciate how m
Traci Sorell has with her We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga created a truly glowing, moving and yes indeed brightly sparkling homage to the Cherokee Nation (of which she is a member), a simple yet at the same time deeply profound narrative that above all, that first and foremost presents and depicts the modern Cherokee not as exotic, not as the "other" but simply, sweetly, descriptively as individuals, as people going about their day to day business, their routines (like everyone tends to do), being ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars This is so special! It is a beautiful, deeply meaningful book that is important for anyone, at any time of the year. The idea to constantly cultivate gratitude as a part of life, though days and seasons, is so powerful and so necessary. Certainly this isn't the first or only book to point this out, but it does so very well. I think I might have enjoyed it more if it was a more cohesive "story" but I still think it's very effective. It is also a very important and needed look at modern ...more
Karen Witzler
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quite lovely. A modern Cherokee family in the USA moves through the seasons informed by their own cultural background: words, language, rituals are introduced to the young reader as a natural part of their world. A glossary and note on the Cherokee syllabary and language follow. Nice illustrations. Children's picture book - ages 3 - 10. A 2019 Robert F. Sibert Informational Award Honor Book. ...more
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Picture-Books About Gratitude and/or Contemporary Native People
First-time author Traci Sorrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, presents a picture-book tribute to the seasons, and to the Cherokee practice of gratitude in We Are Grateful / Otsaliheliga. Set in the here and now, the simple narrative chronicles life in the Cherokee community throughout the year, from the Great New Moon Ceremony in the fall (Cherokee New Year) to the Green Corn Ceremony in the summer. At every occasion, the people are otsaliheliga (grateful)...

A lovely little book, We Are Grat
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens-ya
The text, complete with Cherokee words, language, and pronunciation guide on each page, and the seasonal themes are beautiful. I thought the illustrations were too simplistic personally, but appreciated they were colorful. A great book to read to little ones (and adults) on Thanksgiving, in honor of the people whose land we reside on!

Books not only please, but teach us. I am grateful to Traci Sorell for this beautiful book, telling of the Cherokee tradition of expressing gratitude. The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. All through the seasons, including planting strawberries, "an ancestral story's sweet reminder not to argue with each other", the harvest that includes the "Green Corn Ceremony" and saying goodbye to a clan relative "heading off to serve ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
A beautiful celebration of gratefulness as expressed by Cherokee people throughout the seasons and a wonderful book to explore thankfulness on different occasions and during different activities.

From the author's note:
"I a grateful for the opportunity to provide a contemporary view of Cherokee culture in this book. From my childhood until today, there have been few books that show present-day Cherokee children and their families..."
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This would make for a great read aloud in grades k-2 with a big question in mind like, "What are we grateful for in our lives (at different times of the year)?" The author, Sorrell, describes what members of the Cherokee Nation are grateful for in each season. While some things are unique to the tribe's culture or celebrations (e.g., shell shakers dancing during the Great New Moon Ceremony), some are universal (e.g., "have hope as our elisi, Grandma, cradles the newest member of the family"). Wh ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
This picture book looks at modern life in the Cherokee Nation. Looking at being grateful, the book explores the year and its seasons. Along the way, various Cherokee words are shared with the reader both in English lettering and also in Cherokee syllabary. Throughout the book, a strong connection with nature is shared with buckbrush, cane flutes, wild onions, and large gardens. There is also a clear connection with Cherokee history from the Trail of Tears to family members who have passed on to ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The hardcover* of this is stunning. Well worth five stars, because it's not only universally important, but it's universally appealing. It's about thankfulness, and joy, and looking to the future. And the style of the illustrations serves to keep it light and accessible, too.

At the same time, points are made that can be discussed with older children. For example one young man goes off to serve his country, even though that same country has often treated his First Nation very badly. Also note tha
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This is unique! I don't think I've ever read a children's book that so succinctly describes modern Cherokee family and traditions, and introduces kids to the language, as well. This is certainly one to treasure.

Veg*n parents note: As the seasonal activities change, there is a brief reference to eating hens' eggs and "catching crawdads for supper." We see people wading into a stream with some sort of fork-like instruments to illustrate the latter.
I loved this idea, because Native language revitalization is a passion of mine. However, the illustrations weren't quite my aesthetic and there wasn't really a plot. I wanted to like it so badly, but I can't quite see it as a read-aloud. ...more
Monica Clark-Robinson
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is definitely a current favorite! Expect this one on awards lists, for sure! Terrific, poetic text, fantastic fine art illustrations, and a sensitive portrayal of the lives of the people of the Cherokee nation make this one a winner!
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Sticking a note on this to pull it back out in November for storytime and the display.
A beautifully illustrated book about a Cherokee family and the traditions they celebrate.
Christina/ The Blog for Teachers, Readers, & Life!
Ages: 3-9

We are Grateful Otsaliheligo follows a Cherokee family and their community throughout the seasons of the year. This book is a wonderful way for children to learn some Cherokee words through the vocabulary that is phonetically and syllabary represented.

I am so excited to share this book with you because I have studied children’s literature for years. I have had a hard time finding quality children’s books that depict Native Americans in a positive modern light.
Awards/Recognitions: Sibert
Alex  Baugh
This is a lovely duel language, English and Cherokee, book about the different ways the Cherokee people express gratitude "throughout the year and across the seasons" as a reminder of both their blessings and their struggles. Following one family throughout the year, readers learn that each season is greeted by saying otsaliheliga (we are grateful), followed by descriptions of the celebrations and rituals which are observed as the seasons change. Sorell, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, h ...more
Beth Anderson
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am grateful for any book that builds knowledge and understanding of a culture. Traci Sorell takes us inside the Cherokee community sharing celebrations, crafts, history, family traditions, food, games, language, and customs through the four seasons. In the text and illustrations children will no doubt find connections to their own lives as well as differences. It’s a great book to inspire conversation and let us all stop and consider what we are be grateful for.
Nancy Kotkin
Nonfiction picture book depicting modern life for the Cherokee people, written by a member of the Cherokee Nation. Bright, colorful, modern looking illustrations. Includes pronunciations for Cherokee words, a glossary, a Cherokee syllabary, and a personal author's note. There is also a classroom guide available online. This book is an excellent social studies text for elementary school. As a child, I would have loved learning the Cherokee words and traditions.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written and illustrated book goes through each of the four seasons, and tells of things the Cherokee people are grateful for. Each season has wonderful drawings that show the beauty of that time of year, while the text tells of the activities and traditions that the Cherokee participate in that demonstrate their gratitude, and help grow their tribal identity.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
A lovely picture book about a Cherokee community celebrating a year's worth of traditions, festivals, and every day activities. Each spread introduces the Cherokee names, spelling, and pronunciation. The illustrations are vibrant and warm. ...more
What a beautiful book! A wonderful entry point for young readers (and adults) into the Cherokee culture. The illustrations were amazing and I loved seeing the diversity within the group, as well. Definitely a book to share.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love, love, love this. It is authentic and amazing and beautiful. The Cherokee words are written and presented phonetically. The text flows, the art shines, and the message of gratitude and community is a reflective one without being preachy. All the stars.
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am grateful beyond measure for this book.
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love how this teaches appreciation and words in Cherokee!
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Loved sharing this book with my students and was incredibly happy to have the pronunciations online.
Carol Tilley
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful in every way.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I chose We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga because I liked how it was different from the previous books we have read in class. Majority of the books have been chapter books and as someone who wants to teach younger grades, I figured it would be smart to analyze and review a picture book. However, I was also interested in the topic because teaching about the culture of Indigenous people is very important and is a lesson that students should know. For too long, Native Americans have been cast out of le ...more
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Traci Sorell writes award-winning poems as well as fiction and nonfiction works for children and teens. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives on the tribe's reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. Find out more about Traci and her work at


Articles featuring this book

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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