One Came Home



Feisty heroine shines in award-winning historical mystery.

What parents need to know

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

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.

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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. 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. 

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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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Amy Timberlake
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Brothers and sisters, History
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 8, 2013
Number of pages:272
Available on:Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Awards:ALA Best and Notable Books, Newbery Medal and Honors

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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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 the time. Well written. Very appropriate. Women are considered unable to some things and are held back sometimes. But again, it is accurate for the 1800's. Read it! I reccomend it. Teaches about the time period.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byMadelyn843 August 1, 2015

Not Bad

There's nothing parents should be worried about. I was disappointed by the lack of romance, and there wasn't much action either. The plot didn't satisfy me at all-the ending was boring and out of nowhere, the rest was a wild goose chase- but the writing was exceptional. It was the only thing that kept me reading. I liked the pigeon descrpitions and the old timey feel.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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