Often called “The Queen of Appalachia,” the popular country singer and all-around angel Dolly Parton was born January 19th, 1946. The 4th of 12 children, Dolly grew up poor in the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. She started singing and performing at a young age and knew that she was destined to be a professional. The day after her high school graduation, Dolly moved to Nashville to become a country singer. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Parton has composed over 3,000 songs, won numerous awards, including multiple Grammys and two Academy Awards, and captured the heart of America.
In 1988, Dolly Parton started the Dollywood Foundation, a non-profit whose signature program is a literacy initiative called The Imagination Library. The Imagination Library mails an age-appropriate book every month to children from birth to age 5. It began in Sevier County, Dolly’s birthplace, in 1995 but has since expanded across the United States and into Canada and the United Kingdom. To date, the Dollywood Foundation has donated over 144 million books to children in need.
The books sent through the foundation’s partnership with Penguin/Random House are specially printed, personalized with the child’s name, and mailed to their home. Books are chosen according to age level and many of the titles are classics, like The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, and Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.
The first book a child receives is The Little Engine That Could (customized version) by Watty Piper. The month a child turns five years old, they will receive Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! (customized version) by Nancy Carlson.
Selections from the Imagination Library also include a few books penned by Dolly herself!
Children’s books written by Dolly Parton
Coat of Many Colors (1994 Harper Collins, reissued 2016)
Based on Dolly’s popular song about growing up poor and wearing a rainbow coat made from scraps, Coat of Many Colors was first published in 1994 by Harper Collins with illustrations by Judith Sutton. The charming story was reissued in 2016 by Grosset and Dunlap with illustrations by Brooke Boynton Hughes.
I am a Rainbow (2009)
I am a Rainbow was written by Dolly Parton and published in 2009 by Putnam. The book, with illustrations by Heather Sheffield, teaches that it’s okay to feel blue, green with envy, or tickled pink!
Other Books Written by Dolly:
Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You was published by Putnam Adult in 2012, with the paperback released in 2013 by Riverhead Trade. This essay expands on the commencement speech that Parton gave at the University of Tennessee, where she calls on people to “Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More.”
Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, published in 1994 by Harper Collins, was a New York Times best-seller. This autobiography doesn’t hold any deep, dark secrets but tells a heart-warming, rags-to-riches story of this country star.
The Official Dolly Parton Scrapbook
The Official Dolly Parton Scrapbook, published in 1978 by Grosset & Dunlap, is an authorized biography with a foreword by Dolly Parton.
Dolly’s Dixie’s Fixin’s was published by Penguin in 2006. Now rather hard to find, all the proceeds for the sale of this book went to bolster funds for Dolly’s Imagination Library.
Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton
Part of the Musicians In Their Own Words series, Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton was published by Chicago Review Press in 2017.
Just the Way I Am is a 1979 poetry book based on Dolly’s songs. This book is very rare and hard to find.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.