Tag Archives: Traci Sorell

At the Mountain’s Base

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Weshoyot Alvitre 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Military, Women Pilots, Family, Grief, Culture & Traditions, Historical Fiction, Global Community, Own Voices.

Summary: This is one of the most beautiful and emotional books that I’ve read in a long time.  The story is told in simple, lyrical poetry and encompasses the emotions that thread through a family waiting for a family member to return from war.  They are waiting for a pilot, and she is waiting for peace, wanting to return to her family in the cabin at the base of the mountain.

This story brings to light the beauty of the Indigenous family waiting for their beloved pilot to return, and also of the history of Indigenous women in the armed forces.  Something particularly beautiful about the illustrations is the way that strings are both literally and figuratively woven through the story, tying together the pilot’s experience and the family waiting at home for her to return.  In the back is an author’s note talking about the history of Indigenous women fighting; they have fought during intertribal conflicts, against the European colonizers, and in the American armed forces as well.  Sorell also specifically names one woman-Ola Mildred “Millie” Rexroat, the only female native pilot in WWII to serve as a WASP.  In 2009 she was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor, and a building was named in her honor at the Ellsworth Air Force Base after her death in 2017.

This beautiful book is the first of it’s kind for me, I’ve never read an Indigenous story about women in the military.  I am so honored to be able to read Traci Sorell’s words, and look forward to reading more from her.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Traci+Sorell+Home+PhotoTraci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.

As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.

When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.

Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.

portrait-2Weshoyot Alvitre is Tongva (Los Angeles Basin) and is well established within the indigenous art community as an illustrator. She was born in the San Gabriel Mountains on the property of Satwiwa, a cultural center started by her father Art Alvitre. She grew up close to the land and raised with traditional knowledge that inspires the work she does today.

Weshoyot has been working in the comics medium since graduating from high school. The culmination of having a Native presence was fueled by meeting and being interviewed by the author of “Native Americans in Comics”, Michael Sheyashe (Caddo). It helped to open her eyes to having a representation in the comics medium and connect with other Native professionals in comics.

Alvitre has since contributed to numerous Eisner award-winning books, including the “Umbrella Academy” (Darkhorse Comics) and “Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream” (Locust Moon Press). She has earned accolades for her work that visualize historical material, including “Graphic Classics: Native American Classics” (Eureka Productions) The Cattle Thief[wa1]  and most recently, the first volume of highly acclaimed “Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers” published by Native Realities Press.

Alvitre has also illustrated numerous pieces of political illustrations in support of the NODAPL movement for Standing Rock, amongst other Native issues. One such illustration, in collaboration with installation artist Andrea Bowers, was auctioned live this past summer at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Auction in San Tropez.

Most relevant to this proposal, Alvitre has partnered with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on Native Knowledge 360°, a national educational initiative to inspire and support teaching about Native Americans using the comics medium as a support. She illustrated 12 pages of sequential comic art, each page interpreting a key historical event. The art has been used on their site and as a tool for teachers nationwide. Alvitre is also working currently with seasoned award-winning video game designer, Elizabeth Lapensee Ph. D. (Michigan State University) on an educational game to be used within the Native curriculum nationwide.

Alvitre has made a conscious choice to work primarily within Native-owned publications and educational avenues, to further support a self funded narrative on past, present and future native issues. It is through this voice, and through her artwork, she feels she is able to communicate her unique viewpoint and continue a strong dialogue on issues that are important to her as a Native woman

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Frané Lessac

For ages: 3-7 years

Language: Cherokee, Romanized Cherokee, English. 

Topics Covered: Own Voices, Indigenous Voices, Cherokee Nation, Culture & Traditions, Love, Appreciation, Kindness, Family, Nature, Vocabulary, Literacy. 

Summary: For our next trait we’re taking with us into 2020: Gratefulness and Appreciation!  We honor and cherish the experiences we’ve had in the past and look forward to the future.  

This is a beautiful book about all of the reasons a person would be grateful: cool breezes blowing, community events, and time with family.  We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga is packed with breathtaking examples of gratefulness and community involvement that garner appreciation.  The illustrations are amazingly detailed and show groups of Cherokee people working together throughout the year.  We love the vocabulary and phonetic pronunciations on each page, ensuring that the reader knows how to say the words right off the bat.  Going through the seasons and some holidays, the reader gets a sense of the close-knit community and all of the reasons they are grateful.  It provides education into the culture if readers are unfamiliar with the Cherokee Nation, and there is an extensive definitions list, author’s note, Cherokee syllabary and alphabet in the back of the book.  We really love this book, and it will definitely be read for years and years to come!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Traci+Sorell+Home+PhotoTraci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.

As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.

When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.

Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.

Frane Lessac photo 2.8.10From Frané Lessac’s website: 

I grew up in a small town on top of the Palisades in New Jersey. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline of New York City. In the hot summer months I could hear the shrieks of people riding on the roller coaster at a nearby amusement park.

As a child, I always wanted to be an artist or a veterinarian. By the time I was eight years old I had cats, dogs, fish, snakes, and a pet monkey named Hercules that used to sit on my shoulder. Hercules stank and had fleas and my mom finally said “either you or that monkey has to go.” I spent many weekends in New York City browsing through museums and galleries. I liked to explore New York’s Greenwich Village with my green snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.

My cousin was the great writer and optimist Norman Cousins. Our Thanksgiving dinners were like United Nations meetings. I was surrounded by people of many different cultures and since been drawn towards people from around the world.

At eighteen, I headed for film school in California. My aim: to eventually make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture. I borrowed camera equipment and, given film, took off on the road to the southwest, documenting a rodeo team, a long distance trucker, and even the birth of a baby. Home was a beach house in Malibu furnished with the discarded furniture of movie stars. We had Flip Wilson’s lawn chairs and Barbra Streisand’s settee. I worked hard to help finance my studies. My jobs included running the projector at the local Malibu cinema, chauffeuring the residents of Beverly Hills, and fertilizing cactus with a silver spoon at a desert nursery.

I moved from California to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat. Stunned by its visual beauty, I concentrated on painting the old-style West Indian architecture and its people.

Wanting to publish a children’s picture book about Montserrat, I next moved to London to be closer to publishers. I approached thirty publishers before one finally accepted the idea and the book was released as The Little Island in the United Kingdom. Six months later, it was published in the United States as My Little Island.

My work has led me on many adventures in numerous countries. Traveling continues to be a major source of inspiration for my work as I render my impression of a country and its way of life in oil and gouache paintings. My greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their unique heritage and their own ability to capture in it pictures and words.