One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

One Came Home2013_mystery-month-buttonCindy: If Annie Oakley had to solve her sister’s mysterious disappearance…you’d have One Came Home (Random/Knopf 2013) and one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. 13-year-old Georgia is a whiz with a rifle and is helpful in her family’s general store in Placid, Wisconsin. The book opens with this intriguing passage:

So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, `1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister’s first funeral and I knew it wasn’t her last–which is why I left.

Georgia’s older sister had left town with some pigeoners and when the Sheriff went after them he returned with the mutilated body of a red haired girl wearing the remains of Agatha’s blue-green ball gown. Everyone else is resigned to Agatha’s unexpected death, but not Georgia. She is not willing to accept the unidentifiable body as that of her sister and she makes plans to go on her own search. Georgia attempts to rent a horse from her sister’s old beau, Billy McCabe but he alters her plans and provides a mule and himself as a search partner. She is not thrilled with either.

If you like your mysteries with some historical basis you can’t beat the amazing story of the huge 1871  nesting of the passenger pigeon that would be extinct by 1914. Add in confrontations with wild cougars, counterfeiters, and a girl with deadly aim with a rifle and a mystery to solve and you won’t be bored.

Prairie TravelerOne of my favorite parts of the novel is Georgia’s consultation of the very real The Prairie Traveler: A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions (written by Randolph B. Marcy, a captain of the U.S. Army). She consults it for packing for her trip but also takes it with her and uses it to answer the many questions she has on her journey to learn her sister’s fate.

Even faced with a cougar she hopes the book will help her.

I know what you’re thinking–I thought it too. It was hardly the time for flipping through an index! Is it under “catamount,” “lion,” or “painter”?

HA! I love a gal who thinks about an index even in times of crisis. Georgia, I will miss you.

Lynn:  I LOVE mysteries set in different places and times!  Not only do I get a great puzzle to unravel but I get to travel, at least in my mind, to somewhere or some when new.  Like Cindy, I am crazy about this book.  Georgia’s voice carries the story:  funny, brash, naive, endearing and she is a force of nature!  But – I just couldn’t get enough of all the fascinating elements woven into the setting.  I had NO idea about the passenger pigeon nesting although we spent 17 years in Dubuque, right on the southwest corner of the state.  I could easily imagine a counterfeiter’s press tucked into one of the caves though.

This is a wonderful romp with a plot that has more twists and turns than a western Wisconsin highway and the characters are all just as picturesque.  Cindy mentioned the mule and I have to say that Long Ears was a real favorite of mine.  My only quibble with this wonderful book was in believing that Georgia’s family would really let her set off on this journey but, hey, that is a small thing and I did note that Georgie is a force of nature!  This would make a terrific classroom read-aloud that would keep both boys and girls glued to their seats!  Not to be missed.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

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