Given that International Women’s Day was held earlier this month, I thought it only right to feature a biography for children of an inspirational woman for my Music Book Review. So, for this month I have chosen a book from the Little People, Big Dreams series of books about Dolly Parton written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and Illustrated by Daria Solak. Starting off this review with the blurb from the back of the book (the bit in bold is about the series as a whole and the bit in normal type is about this book specifically.
Discover the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.
Little Dolly grew up singing near the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. She was poor in money but rich in love and talent. After school, she moved to Nashville to pursue her singer-songwriting dreams. Dolly became a musical superstar, but she never forgot where she came from. She now uses her wealth to give back to people in need. This inspiring story of the country legend’s life features a facts and photos section at the back.
I’ll be honest here and say that basically this blurb gives you almost as much biographical information about Dolly Parton as the book itself! It is a book aimed at young children, and as you will know if you have a small child in your house, their attention spans are often rather short. So, while this is the story of how a little girl who dreamed of becoming a singer became Dolly Parton, the author purposely does not overwhelm the book with information about Dolly’s life. She tells her story but gives just enough information so that your small child doesn’t get bored and wander off.
Now this biographical information is actually given twice. The first time Dolly Parton’s life story is told in story format, almost as if she were a fictional character. And it is accompanied by beautiful, cartoon style illustrations by Daria Solak. The story and illustrations together will surely capture the imagination of any child reading this book. Dolly’s biography is then repeated on the last couple of pages in a Facts and Photos section. So where her life story is accompanied by Daria Solak’s illustrations in the main body of the book, this almost feels like a sort of reveal of the real life person who the story is about. It’s nicely done I think, and shows the real person behind this story.
The book is great for young children and is a very cute book. It is part of a series of books about inspiring people, and we have read a couple of the books in our house with both of the children. Mob children both love a non-fiction book, especially my little boy, so the series is always a hit in our house. The Little people, Big Dreams series covers a huge range of people from famous musicians, like Dolly Parton here to artists like Frida Kahlo; fashion designers like Coco Chanel, to people like footballer/campaigner Marcus Rashford and American Vice President Kamala Harris. It’s a great series of books with the simple message that if you have a dream and you work hard, the you, too, could achieve that dream.
For this review I asked both my 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter to read this book, and this is what they thought of it:
5 year old: It was really, really good and interesting. Dolly Parton is still alive today and I learned that she loves music, she had a beautiful voice. The pictures are nice. I think the book is for children my age, and it made made me want to listen to her music.
8 year old: I like the book, and it’s interesting. It’s about Dolly who is a famous singer. I learned about her work in the music industry and that she started singing on the radio at age 10. The book makes me want to learn more about her life. I think the book is a bit more for my sister, not for my friends because they aren’t as interested in music as I am. But if people my age are interested in music, then I think the book would be interesting for them.
A bit about why I chose to review this book about Dolly Parton rather than any of the other musicians featured in the series. Simply put, Dolly Parton is great. Her music is fantastic and was very much a feature of my upbringing – I grew up in the 80s and 90s (and a bit in the 70s, but I really don’t remember that much from then….) So I got to watch films like 9 to 5 and hear many of Dolly Parton’s songs when they were still new. I still love them, and I love many of the covers of her songs, like the Whitney Houston cover of the song I Will Always Love You and the band White Stripes cover of Jolene – Dolly Parton is a great composer as well as brilliant and charismatic performer. She is also a fantastic business woman, as outlined a little in the book. And as International Women’s Day falls in this particular month, it’s good to look at the work of an inspiring female composer and artist who has taken charge not only of the artistic side of her work, but also the business side. From what I read of her she is a very inspiring woman – there is, of course, the reading programme for children mentioned in the book, but she also donated a lot of money towards the Covid vaccine research effort. And the money that she earned from Whitney Houston’s cover of her song I Will Always Love You she used to buy a strip mall in an area of Nashville, Tennessee that was an area where mostly black families lived, and she set up her office there as well as investing in the mall, and so the facilities available in that area. There are a lot of reasons to admire this fantastic woman, and her music is absolutely brilliant too.
At the time of writing this book can be purchased from Amazon (or your local bookshop) priced at £8.20, but be aware that prices on Amazon do go up and down depending on demand for the book. I would recommend it for younger readers as it is quite simple, with only a bit of biographical information. Would recommend for ages 4 or 5-8, and the upper age would only really be as a springboard to finding out more about Dolly Parton. I must admit I would buy the book for my 5 year old not for my 8 year old, though he did find it quite interesting.
In the meantime, have a listen to one of my favourite Dolly Parton songs:
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