Book Title: We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga Author: Traci Sorell Illustrator: Frane Lessac (need to accent the e) Publisher: Charlesbridge Age Range: 3 to 7 years
OSIYO! Pronounced OH-see-yo, this is how you say “Hello” in Cherokee. This is one of many vocabulary words to be learned in Traci Sorell’s exceptional debut book, and 2019 Sibert Medal Honor Book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga.
Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is the word for gratitude used by people of the Cherokee Nation and also the theme of this beautiful exploration of modern Native life. Set against the backdrop of the changing seasons, the narrator invites us to learn about the blessings and ceremonies celebrated throughout the year.
“When cool breezes blow and leaves fall, we say otsaliheliga as shell shakers dance all night around the fire, and burnt cedar’s scent drifts upward during the Great New Moon Ceremony.”
The narrator also reminds us of the monumental roles and contributions Cherokee citizens continue to provide this country.
“When showers fill streams and shoots spring up, we say otsaliheliga as we embrace a clan relative heading off to serve our country.”
The book is filled with wonderful vocabulary, cultural and history lessons; and, Lessac’s vibrant illustrations makes time spent with each page a truly absorbing experience. Above all, it serves as an important reminder that life is to be lived with gratitude.
“I have a lion’s mane and I’m different, just like you.”
“Do you know that you can actually lionize someone?”
As soon as I opened A Lion’s Mane I understood why it got nominated for the Cybils Awards: the book has heart and is really well produced. I couldn’t help myself, the illustrations transported me back to my kindergarten and elementary years, with colors as vibrant as the ones I used to see the world through. Kuddos to illustrator Jaspreet Sandhu for the playfulness she instilled in her work. They are a delight to look at and, in my opinion, they suit perfectly the narrator ‘s youth and innocence.
I like the fact that Sikh children get to see themselves on the book cover, that kids unfamiliar with the Sikh culture have their curiosity picked as soon as they look at this boy standing in front of a mirror, his hands raised. I want to ask the young audience, “What do you think he is doing?”
I think it would be the beginning of a wonderful conversation.
Another interesting aspect of a Lion’s Mane is its interactive platform, served by the way text and illustrations play with each other. Indeed, at some point the narrator repeatedly asks the reader and the audience if they can see what “lion” means, illustrated in a specific cultural context. The answer is partially in the pose that a character strikes, as well as the writing in the red turban; it encourages the children to read on their own, thus becoming participants of the story.
I learned about a Sikh martial art called Gatka! I didn’t know it existed, I YouTubed it and my jaw dropped. It’s scary great. *Don’t let your kids watch the video!*
The book empowers the reader by its cultural knowledge. It reminds that being different is, in fact, normal, even if it means being the only kid in the classroom wearing a turban on your head. The reader gets to learn words in Swahili, Sikh, Sanskrit… We learn what the lion’s mane means in the Native Indian Ohi tribe, what it meant in medieval times. There would be more to say, notably about great female figures of our century, but I don’t want to spoil your reading experience.
To summarize regarding the review, A Lion’s Mane is a wonderful, meaningful picture book ~ yet another picture book that stole my heart. I have NO doubts children would grab it and read it over and over (I know I did) if displayed in libraries and bookstores.
Other facts you might be pleased to know:
o A Lion’s Mane is written on 100% recycled and chlorine-free paper! 625 trees will be planted for its first edition.
o Part of the book’s proceeds goes to SEVA Canada‘s work to restore sight and prevent blindness in children.
o If you ever looked for a book dealing with bully-ism, this would do wonders in the classroom. The topic is dealt with such a positive and genuine attitude!
o A Lion’s Mane received the 2010 Skipping Stones Honor Award, as a multicultural and international awareness book.
o Age range: 5 to 10 years old.
About the author:
Navjot Kaur is a Toronto-based elementary teacher of Sikh-Punjabi heritage, who grew up in England. A lion’s Mane is her first book.