Dowell, Frances O'Roark. Anybody Shining
7 October 2014, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Arie Mae lives in the mountains and finds the children in her area lacking. She desperately wants a friend, and when her mother mentions that she has a wealthy cousin in Raleigh, Arie starts writing to her, hoping that she will write back. When the local "songcatcher ladies" have a group of Baltimore children visiting the settlement school, Arie is enthralled by their speech and how clean they are. She makes friends with Tom, who is lame because of a fall from a horse, and his sister Ruth, who is a bit snotty. Tom wants to be a reporter, so is interested in some of the hill stories, so Arie takes him on adventures that involve bears and ghosts, even though his mother warns her not to let Tom get too active. There is tension between Arie's father and the ladies who run the school because they want the people to only embrace the traditional ways and not to corrupt traditions with modern trappings. Can Arie learn some big city ways while still being true to her roots? And will che ever hear from her cousin?
Strengths: This is a very good picture of what life was like in the hills of North Carolina in the 1920s. The dialect is not emphasized too much, but there was just enough to add some flavor. The characters are interesting without being overly quirky, and traditional ways are interspersed with an educated population.
Weaknesses: The book design didn't succeed for me-- the cover is very murky in person, and the text is printed in brown ink, with the letters to the cousin in a very light shade of brown that was hard to read. The letters to the cousin didn't really serve a purpose, and since both the letters and the narrative are both in the first person, and sometimes the events of the two ran into each other with no clear delineation except for the color of type.