Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June's Sweet Little Baby Banjolele
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Once upon a time, a sweet and tiny little instrument was given to a singer named Valerie June. It had a round-face and four strings. It was so small that she thought it was a toy.
Grammy nominated musician Valerie June’s Somebody to Love: The Story of Valerie June's Sweet Little Baby Banjolele is a hardcover children’s book inspired by how June wrote the song "Somebody to Love" from her album Pushin' Against a Stone. In the book, a young aspiring musician, Valerie, is given a toy banjolele. A banjolele is a very unique four-stringed musical instrument. It has a body like a small banjo, and the neck is like a ukulele. At the beginning, the baby banjolele dreams that its voice will soar and be heard all throughout the world, but very soon its musical journey meets with challenges and doubts. The little banjolele just could not play through a whole song! Valerie and banjolele want to play with the other instruments at school, but the others make fun of the banjolele saying " You're just a toy". Embarrassed the banjolele, once more, can not finish the song. But “I have a dream, and I want to sing,” the toy banjolele stubbornly refuses to give up. Finally, the toy finds the courage, and belief, and love it needs, coughs out a last bit of dust, and belts out a gorgeous a song. Valerie names the banjolele Baby and both go on to perform all over the world together forever.
About the motivation behind the book, Valerie June said: “As I traveled the world telling the story of my banjolele, I always knew it would make an uplifting children’s book. 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. One of the nation’s most historical dreamers is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As a black female artist, his message taught me the power of dreams at an early age. He was a light for me. Each time I’ve shared this story with students, I watch as their eyes light up with wonder. 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, like a great Nigerian proverb teaches us, “Thoughts and dreams are the foundation of our being.”
Writer: Valerie June
Illustrator: Marcela Avelar