Grammy-nominated musician and Memphis-native Valerie June Hockett debuts her first children’s book “Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June’s Sweet Little Baby Banjolele.” The author will be conducting her first book reading at Third Man Books, Nashville, Tennessee on Nov. 1 to mark the official release of the book.
The book starts with a young Valerie, who is aspiring to become a musician, receiving a talking toy banjolele as a present. The baby banjolele first imagines that its voice would soar and be heard throughout the world, but very quickly obstacles and skepticism muddles this bright optimism. When Valerie and her new instrument could not play through a whole song they played with other instruments at school, and they were teased and ridiculed, by calling the banjolele “just a toy.” Eventually, the toy instrument finds the courage, belief, and love it needs, coughs out a last bit of dust, and belts out.
“As I traveled the world telling the story of my banjolele, I always knew it would make an uplifting children’s book,” Hockett said in a press statement. “It wasn’t until I got a call from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities that I was encouraged to sit down and write it out.” As she was telling kids the story before the book was even written, she said could see children light up with excitement. “It’s been thrilling to witness that same light awakening within them. Believing you can achieve your dream is a way to be an inspiration for your community,” she said. “Like a great Nigerian proverb teaches us, ‘Thoughts and dreams are the foundation of our being.’”
Valerie June Hockett has written songs for iconic performers like Mavis Staples and The Blind Boys of Alabama in addition to releasing her own songs and albums. She received a Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Song for her single “Call Me Fool” which was released as part of her 2021 album “The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers.”