Anybody Shining

Anybody Shining

For Ages: 10 - 12
  • 5
Can one mistake destroy the chance of a lifetime? A girl discovers there are many ways of being true in this magnificent ode to handwritten letters and the shining power of friendship from the author of Dovey Coe, set in the Appalachian mountains of 1920s North Carolina.

One true friend. Someone shining. That’s all twelve-year-old Arie Mae wants. But shining true friends are hard to come by deep in the mountains of western North Carolina, so she sets her sights on a cousin unseen, someone who lives all the way away in the big city of Raleigh, North Carolina. Three unanswered letters later, Arie Mae learns that a group of kids from Baltimore are coming to spend a summer on the mountain.

Arie Mae loves her smudge of a town—she knows there’s nothing finer than Pa’s fiddling and Mama’s apple cake, but she also knows Big City folk might feel differently. How else to explain the song catcher ladies who have descended upon the village in search of “traditional tunes” and their intention to help “save” the townspeople? But when the group from Baltimore arrives, it seems there just might be a gem among them, one shining boy who doesn’t seem to notice Arie Mae wears the same dress every day and prefers to go barefoot. So what if he has a bit of a limp and a rumored heart problem—he also is keen about everything Arie Mae is keen about, and has all the makings of a true friend.

And so what if the boy’s mother warns him not to exert himself? He and Arie Mae have adventures to go on! In between writing letters to her cousin, Arie Mae leads her one shining friend on ghost hunts and bear chases. But it turns out those warnings were for a reason…

“Arie Mae’s openheartedness and yearning for connection make for a deeply poignant story, one with a richly realized setting and cast. As Arie Mae begins to see her life in a new light, Dowell (The Second Life of Abigail Walker) examines the clash between city and country life and what true wealth really means” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442432932 | 
  • October 2015 | 
  • Grades 5 - 7 | 
  • Lexile ® 990L
List Price $7.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Anybody Shining

By Frances O’Roark Dowell


Arie Mae desperately wants a friend. Living in the North Carolina mountains in the 1920s, she’s in “a sad and sorry way” because she has so few other twelve-year-olds to choose from. Her pencil races down the paper as she writes letters to a cousin she’s never met, hoping that will bring friendship. And when Tom, a boy from Baltimore, arrives with a group to study traditional crafts, he shines with possibilities. They trade stories and share encounters with a black bear and an elusive ghost. Travel back in time to Arie Mae’s colorful life that’s poor in worldly goods but rich in family, neighbors, music, and unexpected friendships.

Discussion Questions

1. The opening letter tells a lot about Arie Mae and her personality. Discuss what the letter, its details, and its language reveal about her and her life. What does the letter foreshadow about the rest of the story?

2. Friendship is at the center of Anybody Shining. What efforts does Arie Mae take to make a new friend? Discuss what she and Tom do together. Why do they get along so well? Talk about the incident when Tom gets sick on the way to Aunt Jennie’s, and what it shows about him and Arie Mae. What other friendships are important in the story?

3. “Anybody shining, well, they are the on see more

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About the Author

Frances O'Roark Dowell
Photograph (c) Clifton Dowell

Frances O'Roark Dowell

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Dovey Coe, which won the Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award; Where I’d Like to BeThe Secret Language of Girls and its sequels The Kind of Friends We Used to Be and The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far AwayChicken BoyShooting the Moon, which was awarded the Christopher Medal; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling In; the critically acclaimed The Second Life of Abigail WalkerAnybody Shining; Ten Miles Past NormalTrouble the Water; and most recently the Sam the Man series. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at