We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac (9781632896339)
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 festivals and memorials. This is a book about community that celebrates the earth, survival, and family.
This is Sorell’s debut picture book. A member of the Cherokee Nation, her prose here reflects her skill as a poet, bringing a soaring feel to the moments she shares. The book ends with a glossary of terms that will inform readers about the connection to things like stickball and gigging. Sorell uses the title phrase of “We are grateful” again and again in the book, creating a rhythmic feel of a traditional tale.
Lessac’s illustrations are done in gouache, creating bright and rich colors that show entire scenes on the page. The greens of nature, the blues of the water and sky, the bursts of color in homes and gardens, all have a great depth of color.
A wonderful modern look at Cherokee traditions and our universal gratitude for community and family. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Here are three wonderful new or recent picture books that celebrate nature and outdoors.
In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek (9780062573117)
This book follows When Spring Comes by the same masterful duo. Here Henkes’ poem celebrates the turning of the leaves and other changes in nature. There are the squirrels, the brown gardens, pumpkins and apples. Then leaves fall, filling the air with oranges, yellows and reds that disappear quickly and soon another season is on its way, this time with snow. Henkes keeps the text of the book simple and focused on nature. There is a deep sense of the fleeting nature of autumn and how quickly it passes by. The illustrations by Dronzek are large and fill the page. They will work well shared with a group, who will recognize their own backyards and their own time outside reflected in the book. A lovely look at fall, let’s hope this duo does the other seasons as well. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Once Upon a Jungle by Laura Knowles, illustrated by James Boast (9781784937799)
This clever picture book uses the phrase “once upon a time” to set in motion the food cycle in a rainforest. “Once upon” quickly turns to the animal being preyed upon, eaten or hunted. Ants are eaten by a mantis who in turn is snacked on by a lizard who is hunted by a monkey. The animals get larger and larger as the book continues until finally there is an old panther. After that panther dies, he returns to the dirt where his body enriches the soil and new plants grow. Thanks to the simple phrasing, the book is fast paced and the structure allows readers to be surprised and fascinated. The book ends with an explanation of the jungle as a living habitat. The bright illustrations framed by the black backgrounds leap off of the page and offer a sense of peering through jungle leaves and vines to see what is happening. A very approachable and interesting book on food cycles. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Thank You, Bees by Toni Yuly (9780763692612)
This bright and bold picture book is just right for the smallest of children. Exploring gratitude and appreciating the little things in life, this book moves through a little boy’s day as he thanks each thing that brings him joy. The sun is thanked for its light, the bees for honey, sheep for wool and trees for wood. By bedtime, the little boy thanks the entire earth for the life it gives. Done in very simple language of identifying what to be thankful for and then voicing the thanks, this book shows how easy it is to see the beauty of life. The art of the book is done in collage with items like wood, paper, and fabric. With the white background, the images pop on the page making this a good choice for sharing aloud with a group. It could also be used as an introduction for a gratitude exercise with small children. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Gracias/Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
In this bilingual book, a boy tells the readers everything he is thankful for as he goes through his day. He starts his day by being thankful for the sun that wakes him up. He is thankful for things in nature, people in his life, music and food. At the end of his day, he is thankful for his soft pajamas and the crickets in the garden. This book is thoughtful and joyous look at life and everything small and large that we have to be thankful for.
There is a thoughtfulness in Mora’s writing that shows the depth of the gratitude for each item mentioned. I particularly appreciate the fact that nothing the boy is thankful for takes money to achieve. We can all be thankful for these passing moments in our lives, making this a universal book. Parra’s illustrations done in acrylic have a timeless and rustic feel, often showing signs of wear on the paint that add to the vintage quality. The young boy is multiracial adding another layer of depth to the story.
Highly recommended, this book could be used in classrooms to lead gratitude exercises. It also makes a great conversation starter for families about what is most important, even the smallest things. At the same time, for younger children it is a wonderful quiet book about a boy’s day and its details. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed by HappyNappyBookseller, Latin Baby Book Club, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, and featured on 7-Imp.
All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang
A small child thanks each body part for how well they work. Fine feet hold you up, hands can grab and hold, arms to hug, mouth, eyes, nose, ears, and heart. Each bit of us is constantly supporting our life, allowing us to do what we need to do. Every day we feel so many different things, do so many different things. And in the end? We are part of the universe and alive!
Bang’s art is so beautiful and simple here. The end pages of the book feature some of her work space and then some ideas for children to start creating their own illustrations and books. The book features felt, crayon, paint, and most importantly for its inherent feel: brown paper bags. The brown paper creates a very organic feel to the book that works brilliantly with the subject.
Her words are simple too, allowing children to really think about what each of their body parts does. They will also realize how important each of these small functions are to their days and lives. Bang approaches all of this with a sense of joy and playfulness that is echoed in the art.
For parents who are practicing mindfulness or daily gratitude, this book is the perfect way to get your children thinking in a positive way about small, basic parts of their lives. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.