One Came Home
By Sally Engelfried,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Strong-willed teen girl shines in 1871 mystery.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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 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.
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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.
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?
- Author: Amy Timberlake
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf
- 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
- Last updated: June 25, 2015
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