Bring books back to Nashville

By now, everyone is familiar with the terrible flooding that destroyed many parts of Nashville, Tenn., in early May. Though the oil spill crisis in the Gulf has been garnering great amounts of media attention lately (and rightfully so), Nashville’s needs are still great.

Since we’re a group of readers with a keen interest in books — those world-opening, magical things — it makes sense that we would consider the toll the flooding has had on bookish organizations. At the Book Blogger Convention in May, fellow book blogger Rebecca spoke about Nashville’s great need for books — and followed up with an email this week. It was a siren call I couldn’t ignore. Empty shelves? Kids without reading materials? Not on our watch.

The Pencil Foundation, a Nashville-based nonprofit, is asking for book donations to help restock the shelves of their communities. In addition to its many community programs, the foundation provides books free of charge to teachers in the area — allowing them to obtain much-needed resources for the low-income students in their care. In the recent flooding, the foundation lost more than 2,000 books, as noted at Reader with a capital “R.” Rebecca has started a program called A Dry Read: New Books For Nashville, and I’m here to be a little part of it. Books I’m sending are at the bottom of this post.

According to Rebecca, the organization is in need of:

• BOOKS. Children’s books, board books, pre-school books, flap books, activity (coloring, sticker) books, picture books, young readers, beginning readers, children’s and young adult chapter books, and high school materials. Their most pressing needs are for books struggling readers at the elementary and middle school level can enjoy. High interest non-fiction books are as welcome as fiction. Many students are reading below grade level or are English Language Learners. Books in Spanish would also be greatly welcome. New or used books are great.

• PLASTIC STORAGE BINS AND SHELVING. Again, one reason they lost so much was that their books were stored in cardboard boxes on the floor. Waterproofing their storage would have helped a lot.

• VOLUNTEERS. As books come in and when the book fair itself approaches, Pencil Foundation will need man power to carry, sort, display and distribute books. Anyone in the Nashville area who could donate their time and energy should visit the Pencil website section on volunteering.

Ready to send your books? Post them here:

1300 56th Ave North
Nashville, TN 37209


For my donation, I chose some of my all-time favorites — and it took me a while to narrow down the choices. A jaunt around my local Borders was overwhelming, but I eventually settled on Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee; North Of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley; Ramona The Brave by Beverly Cleary; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; and The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson.

Book review: ‘Somebody Everybody Listens To’ by Suzanne Supplee

For Retta Lee Jones, the town of Starling, Tennessee has never been big enough to house her dreams. Fresh from high school graduation and sweating over a stove at a low-end diner job, Retta’s been talking about leaving town and heading to Nashville, guitar in hand, for as long as she can remember. But when push comes to shove, she isn’t sure she’s brave enough to leave Starling, her pucker-faced mama and quiet, hard-working daddy behind.

But at the prodding of her best friend Brenda, Retta is able to secure transporation (her elderly aunt’s old car) and a means to communicate (a cell phone shoved in her hand by Brenda). With little more than $500 in hand, Retta heads to Nashville to sing.

She’s grown up reading about all the pros, of course. Retta knows she can’t just waltz down to Music Row, busk for a while and suddenly get a contract. But she’s willing to do what she has to — including sleeping in her car — to try and make a name for herself . . . until fate might have other plans.

Suzanne Supplee’s Somebody Everybody Listens To is 18-year-old Retta’s story of digging deep and finding the courage to do the scary thing — the unsafe thing — even when everything in the world seems to be telling you not to attempt it. 

The novel opens with a quote from country superstar Dolly Parton: “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.” And bravery is a definite requirement of this adventure. A series of mishaps immediately make her life in Nashville harder, and the idea of a girl traveling to a city alone with so little cash and no real plan made my stomach churn. I’m a type-A obsessive worrier, see, and a planner. And Retta lacked a plan. How does one just hop into an old car, hit the open road and leave her family and friends behind her? The girl didn’t even have a place to sleep. And if it hadn’t been for Ricky Dean, a kind tow truck driver and mechanic, she’d have been unemployed, broke, beat-up and hopeless.

Basically, I spent the entire novel waiting for something terrible to happen to her. It seemed hopelessly naive that someone would just cruise into Nashville with nothing but their dreams and an old guitar to keep them going, but I guess people . . . do. It’s a world with which I’m not familiar, I’ll say that, but if Supplee’s writing about it, I’m going to assume young people head to Tennessee fueled only by ambition all the time.

I read (and adored) Supplee’s Artichoke’s Heart last year. Rosie, the narrator, was such a charming, real and relatable character — someone I loved and rooted for from day one. Unfortunately with her latest novel, I didn’t ever feel an emotional connection to Retta or feel invested in what happened to her. Part of me was actually angry, as I mentioned, that she’d be so cavalier and wanton, drifting where the wind — and her music — took her.

But maybe I’m just a dream destroyer.

Overall, a decent novel about ambition and never giving up, even when the odds are (more than) stacked against you. I wish I’d been more in tune with Retta, though I did enjoy reading about the “behind the scenes” aspects of the music industry — and a subplot involving her parents and the dreams they sacrificed added a little dimension to the story. But if you’re new to Supplee? Pick up Artichoke’s Heart first, one of my favorite reads of 2009.

3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0525422420 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg