Title: One Came HomeAuthor: Amy Timberlake
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Themes: Loyalty, Bravery
Age Range: 4th-8th Grade
Summary: from Goodreads
In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.
But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.
This is an odd little book. I enjoyed it, both as a mystery story, and as the story of a strong young woman, but the subject matter seems a little mature for the intended audience. While there is very little in the nature of graphic descriptions or violence, the fact is that the major impetus for most of the plot is the discovery of a decomposing body. I think there are definitely readers in the targeted age range that are mature enough not to be put off or frightened by that, but the fact of it makes it a little more problematic for use as a while group or guided reading novel Of course, a case could be made that there are many video games or movies that kids this age are exposed to that are more casually graphic about violence, but I'd probably stay away from it as required reading at the bottom of the range.
That said, there are many things that are really good about the book. It was listed on many lists of he best children's fiction in 2013. Georgie is a strong, sassy female characters, which I am always happy to see in books for kids. Her loyalty to her sister known no bounds, and she is brave, even if impulsively so. The historical context of the novel provides an interesting look at both passenger pigeons, which were hunted to extinction, and the small towns that were affected by their yearly migrations. The mystery itself is pretty engaging, and there are elements of danger that make the story pretty exciting. Overall, I think this is a good book to have as part of a classroom library.