One Came Home

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
One Came Home Book Poster Image
Strong-willed teen girl shines in 1871 mystery.

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn much about passenger or "wild" pigeons, a now-extinct North American bird that bears only a slight resemblance to modern-day pigeons. Kids also will get a feel for life in rural Wisconsin in 1871 from Georgie's descriptions, especially from her preparations for her journey to look for her sister. Amy Timberlake's author's note about her extensive research for the book appears in the end pages.

Positive Messages

Forgive others their mistakes as you hope to be forgiven for yours. Sometimes you have to prove the truth to yourself, even if the people around you think it's obvious.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Georgie is stubborn and disobeys her mother's wishes, but she has a loving, loyal heart and an intelligent mind that doesn't allow her to take things at face value. Her traveling companion, Billy, is patient with Georgie's ignorance in matters of love and respects her wishes to uncover the truth about her sister.


One Came Home opens with a funeral, and the decomposing body is described in some detail, including the fact that the victim was shot in the face. Georgie's an expert rifle shooter and kills birds and other small animals for eating. She has a scary encounter with a cougar, and when she falls from a pile of rocks and bruises her face, some people assume Billy has been hitting her. During a conflict between Georgie and Billy and some men who want to do them harm, Georgie shoots one man's thumb off and Billy is tied up and badly hurt. 


Georgie describes Billy as being "well made" and describes her unwanted feelings of attraction to the older boy as "cozy"; they inspire her to propose marriage to him. Her sister kisses one man when she's engaged to another.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Newbery Honor book One Came Home is about Georgie, a 13-year-old expert rifle shooter who runs away from home to look for her presumed-dead sister in 1871 Wisconsin. A 19-year-old neighbor boy comes along to help, and when Georgie falls from a pile of rocks and bruises her face, some people assume the boy has been hitting her. When some men try to do them harm, Georgie shoots one man's thumb off, and the boy is tied up and badly hurt. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAnn Nonymous January 11, 2015

Well written, keeps your attention.

It's a murder mystery. A girl's sister ran away and is proven dead. But, the sister refuses to beleive it and goes on a hunt for her. Accurate for th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byIzzyRR27 December 29, 2018

One Came Home is Amazing

I read this book when I was in 4th grade, and I kept skipping through parts because it was a very descriptive book. Now that I think about it, though, it was a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In ONE CAME HOME, Georgie's family is heartbroken when a dead body is found wearing Georgie's sister's blue-green silk dress, but Georgie refuses to believe it's really her sister Agatha. Feeling that it's her fault Agatha ran away, 13-year-old Georgie embarks on a journey to uncover the truth. When Agatha's former beau Billy insinuates himself into the quest, Georgie unwillingly accepts him as her companion, and the two travel through rural Wisconsin. As Georgie pieces together the facts about her sister and uncovers the truth about her sister's romantic history, she also learns quite a bit about herself and discovers that even the most stubborn girl can learn to be flexible.

Is it any good?

Georgie's voice is distinct and likable, as is her courage and determination to find out what really happened to her sister. This mystery/coming-of-age story moves at a leisurely pace during Georgie and Billy's journey as Georgie's memories slowly reveal the motives of the characters. Although the slow pacing of One Came Home might deter some readers, it should be fine for those used to historical fiction.

Timberlake gracefully fits in quite a bit of information about the passenger pigeons whose migration triggers the events of the story without seeming to teach. After the exciting action-filled climax, the final resolution unfolds slowly, which may frustrate some readers -- but it's ultimately satisfying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how historical fiction for kids often wins awards (One Came Home received a Newbery Honor). Why do think this is true? Do you think this book deserved an award?

  • How would today's technology have changed the way Georgie approached finding out the truth about her sister's fate? Do you think it would have made it easier? Is there anything about it that would have made it more difficult?

  • Can you think of any modern-day phenomena that compare to the passenger-pigeon migration coming through Georgie's town and the excitement it caused? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and mystery

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