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Dovey Coe



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About The Book

My name is Dovey Coe and I reckon it don't matter if you like me or not. I'm here to lay the record straight, to let you know them folks saying I done a terrible thing are liars. I aim to prove it, too. I hated Parnell Caraway as much as the next person, but I didn't kill him.
There have been Coes living in the mountains of Indian Creek, North Carolina, going on forever, and everyone in town is amazed that twelve-year-old Dovey might up and do such a terrible thing. Even if the girl does have a tendency to shoot her mouth off, she's had good reason since she's always had to stick up for her brother, Amos, who may be older and bigger, but folks treat like he's slow on account of his being deaf.
Her sister, Caroline, might shake her head over Dovey's high spirits, but if Caroline hadn't been letting the likes of Parnell Caraway hang around her all summer, Dovey wouldn't be in this mess. Dovey's not one to sit back when troubles are brewing, but now with this murder charge, for once she might just have to keep quiet and let the slick city lawyer take care of things...or will she?
Frances O'Roark Dowell has created an irresistible heroine the likes of whom have not been seen since the legendary Scout first appeared in Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird.


Chapter 1

My name is Dovey Coe, and I reckon it don't matter if you like me or not. I'm here to lay the record straight, to let you know them folks saying I done a terrible thing are liars. I aim to prove it, too. I hated Parnell Caraway as much as the next person, but I didn't kill him.

I know plenty of folks who thought about it once or twice, after Parnell shot a BB gun at their cats or broke their daughters' hearts. They're the same ones who go around now making out like Parnell was an angel, a regular pillar of society. The truth is, there ain't no one in Indian Creek who didn't believe Parnell Caraway was the meanest, vainest, greediest man who ever lived. Seventeen years old and rotten to the core.

Of course, his daddy being the richest man in town meant Parnell could do about whatever he pleased without anybody saying boo back to him. Most of the folks who live in town rent their houses from Homer Caraway and buy their dry goods from his store, and they know better than to cross him. You so much as look at Homer Caraway wrong and he can make your life right miserable.

Every time I start complaining about having to walk a half mile down the mountain to school every morning, I remember how lucky we are to own our land. It ain't much -- four acres, a five-room house, and a barn -- but it keeps us Coes from being beholden to Homer Caraway, and I'd walk ten miles to school to keep it that way.

I know it pained Parnell that we weren't indebted to his daddy. Maybe if we had been, my sister Caroline would have married him the way he kept asking her to do. Caroline Coe was the one thing Parnell wanted he couldn't have. As conceited as Parnell was, it took him a long time to figure that out.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, which I do from time to time. You probably want to know where I'm from and who my family is, the particulars folks tend to be interested in.

Like I said, my name is Dovey Coe. There have been Coes living in Indian Creek, North Carolina, since the beginning of time, and I expect there always will be. We're mountain folk, and once you been living in the mountains for a while, it's hard to live anywhere else. You can walk over to the graveyard behind the church in town and see Coes going as far back as 1844. The most recent stone belongs to my Granddaddy Caleb, who passed on two years ago, when I was ten. It says: HERE LIES CALEB COE, LOVING HUSBAND TO REBECCA COE, FATHER TO MATTHEW, LUKE, AND JOHN COE. BORN MAY 17, 1861. DIED DECEMBER 2, 1926. MAY HE WALK WITH THE LORD.

John Coe is my daddy. He's what they call a jack-of-all-trades, meaning he can fix anything you got that's broke and some things that ain't. Folks bring him their busted radios, their hay-wire toasters, their broke-down automobiles, and Daddy tightens a screw here, reconnects a wire there, and makes it good as new. Them who have money to pay give him a dollar or two, depending on the size of the job, and them who don't have a dime in their pocket work out a barter. When Gaither Sparks's carburetor died, we got a new pig and a pound of sugar. It evens out, as Daddy is all the time saying.

Mama grew up over in Cane Creek Holler, not two miles from here. She still hums the songs she learned when she was a little girl while she works around the house, and she has taught many of them songs to me. I try my best to remember them the right way, and I always pretend like I'm paying attention when she's telling me all the things she says a young lady ought to know.

Besides Caroline, I got me an older brother named Amos, age of thirteen, and he loves good adventure as much as I do. We spend a good portion of our days running around on Katie's Knob, hunting arrowheads or hunks of crystal quartz, tracking all manner of wild animals and generally having a big time.

We live in the house my daddy grew up in, and every morning I look out upon the same mountains my daddy looked out upon when he was a child. I like sitting on the porch watching the summer evenings fall across the valley, listening to Daddy pick old tunes on his guitar. I enjoy the cozy feel of sitting next to the woodstove when there's a frosty bite in the air.

There's at least a million other things that all add up to my good life here, more things than I can say or even remember, they're so natural to me now.

That's why it's hard to believe they might send me away from here.

It's not that I blamed Caroline for this whole mess. I know deep inside it ain't exactly her fault. But on top of things, it sure feels that way.

Copyright © 2000 by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Reading Group Guide

By Frances O'Roark Dowell
When accused of murder in her North Carolina mountain town in 1928, Dovey Coe, a strong-willed twelve-year-old girl, comes to a new understanding of others, including her deaf brother, Amos. Parnell Caraway, an annoying teen with his own car, is set on taking Dovey's sister, Caroline, as his wife, attempting to divert her from her dream of going to college to become a teacher. After his proposal is turned down, Parnell is found dead, and Dovey is the only witness. It is up to the judge to decide if the feisty tomboy is innocent or guilty of murder.
Family; North Carolina/ Southern culture; Disability Hearing; Gender stereotypes; Court system; Rich versus poor
• Dovey seems to think her father should have spoken out against Parnell (see pg. 38) and not let things go so far. Why do you think he wants Caroline to make her own decisions about seeing Parnell? Do you think his actions are wise?
• Dovey states, "The way I seen things, us Coes had everything we needed in this world...To my way of thinking, Parnell was a prime example of riches not necessarily making a man satisfied with his life" (pg. 64-5). Do you think this is true of Parnell? How does being rich or poor affect other characters, such as Paris, Caroline, and Amos?
• Parnell laughs when he tells Caroline, "Were you really serious about being a teacher? I mean, I ain't ever seen you pick up a book of your own volition. I ain't even sure you can read." Why does he say this? How does it make Caroline feel? How does it make you feel?
• Amos uses signals to talk with Dovey and with his dogs. Make up some symbols as a group to talk to one another without speaking. Have some sign language books or videos available to students then compare your symbols with the American Sign Language symbols for these things. Schedule a class visitor who can teach students some sign language or learn how to communicate with deaf people in your community.
• Dovey learns about the court system through the process of her trial. Learn the meanings of court terminology ("objection sustained," etc.), what judges and juries do, and other aspects of the American court system. Visit a local courtroom for a tour or listen in on a hearing. Watch To Kill a Mockingbird for another look at a courtroom experience.
• Make a map of North Carolina with the cities mentioned in Dovey Coe, other important cities, mountain ranges, forests, lakes, etc. Write to the governor of North Carolina for information about the state. Find information about the wildlife Amos and Dovey might have encountered on Katie's Knob.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Jennifer Bergen, Manhattan Public Library
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Photograph (c) Clifton 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 Award; the Phineas L. MacGuire series; Falling InThe Second Life of Abigail Walker, which received three starred reviews; Anybody Shining; Ten Miles Past NormalTrouble the Water; the Sam the Man series; The ClassHow to Build a Story; and most recently, Hazard. She lives with her family in Durham, North Carolina. Connect with Frances online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 1, 2000)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689831744
  • Grades: 4 - 7
  • Ages: 9 - 12
  • Lexile ® 980L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

* "Dovey is an original character who speaks with a mountain twang that brings the vivid setting to life."

– School Library Journal, STAR

"This fabulously feisty heroine will win your heart."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A delightful book, thoughtful and full of substance."

– Booklist

"Bears positive messages about family pride, self-reliance, and inner beauty. Dovey's strength of character alone is well worth the reader for young middle school girls. A worthy addition to any middle school collection."


Awards and Honors

  • Children's Literature Choice List
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award

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More books from this author: Frances O'Roark Dowell