One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

This historical fiction middle grade book had a mystery that kept me flipping through the pages until the very last moment. I doesn’t get much better than this.


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. from Goodreads.

A small and worn set of buildings is dwarfed by a massive blue sky full of pigeons that are flying through the title, “One Came Home.”


Georgina Louise Burkhart, Georgie, is a kindred spirit. I was once a 13 year old determined that I knew the ethics of the world and the right and wrong ways to do everything. Like Georgie, I was really never a free spirit. I clung to rules and plans. And like Georgie, I long held the belief that I knew more of the ways of the world than adults. 13 can be such a miserable age – standing on the precipice of the long walk into adult hood. But 13 year olds are frequently wonderful – determined, honest, and true – and their opinions and insights should never be ignored.

So, first things first with all middle grade books: get rid of the parents! This book satisfies my middle school “Where are the Parents?” bingo game for several squares but, really, it is Georgie who runs away to find her sister.

My sister would never die and then just lie there. It made no sense.

– One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Ever pragmatic Georgie plans to head out on her own to find her sister. She starts, as all practical people do, with a book. She prepares and packs according to the advice of The Prairie Traveler: A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions by US Army Officer Randolph B. Marcy. The inclusion of this real book, published in 1859, helped to further blur the lines between the historical fact and the mysterious fiction of the story.

And, like most fantastic historical fiction, this book is centered around a piece of history that was previously unknown to me. I was shocked to learn that there were enormous passenger pigeons that would migrate across America. Although now extinct, these birds were once the were the most numerous bird in North America. They were followed by people, changed the income of cities, had a religious component for some Native American tribes, and was an important source of food for many people. It never ceases to amaze me that there are whole sections of American History to which I remain completely ignorant. And in each of them are countless stories.

Whether history is of interest to you or not, the mystery of what has happened to Georgie’s sister is sure to pull you in and hold you to the very end. Clear your schedule before you start this book because you won’t be able to turn away until the very end.


This is my first middle grade book for Believathon. This fulfills the prompt for the Key: Read a Mystery Book.

The map for the manor of make-believathon shows a red X through the key icon

Tell me, please! Am I the only one who didn’t know about the pigeons??


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