One Came Home (paperback)
by Amy Timberlake
AR Level 4.8, 9 points
I have always been a fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I loved the way she told her story, but also taught me what it was like to grow up on a prairie, in a small town, as a homesteader, or where ever she was living at the time (depending on which book I was reading). My favorite was The Long Winter, because we got to learn about Almanzo Wilder and their love story began.
This isn’t Laura Ingalls Wilder. It isn’t an average family in an average western town living average lives. However, it does tell the story of a feisty Georgie Burkhardt and her experience in 1871 in a small town, Placid, Wisconsin. Her sister Agatha disappears after following some pigeoners, and then a body is found. Everyone assumes it is the badly decomposed corpse of Agatha due to the dress the body is wrapped in and the auburn hair. However, since her face was shot off with a rifle and the body was dismantled by animals, it is virtually impossible to identify (yes, a little gruesome- see “what I didn’t like about this book”). The body is buried and the family mourns, all except for Georgie, who refuses to accept the truth. She sets off with her sister’s former suitor (one of two) to find out the truth and prove her sister is either still alive, or at least not the corpse they found. It becomes an adventure in the wild west (sort of), with danger, mystery, love, and an education in pigeoning.
What I liked about this book was the history lesson. If I was to experience life during another time period, I always thought it should be life as a pioneer or in a pioneer town, probably due to my Wilder obsession. I wanted to wear long dresses made of calico, listen to the wind blow the prairie grasses, and wear tall boots on Main Street (because they’re all called Main Street) in the mud. I also like when the character is a strong and well-developed.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t totally age-appropriate. Being written at a 4.8 level, I can’t imagine many fourth graders reading about the stench of a decomposing body, the rippling muscles of a hot 19 year old, or a girl kissing said hot 19 year old while being engaged to another full-grown man. Or the shooting. Or the allusions to death. Or Georgie’s consideration of God’s existence or decision whether to murder a man or not (in defense of the hot 19 year old). As an adult reader, these are all interesting dilemmas and turns of events, but I just can’t see one of my students appreciating it.
I have to mention that this book is a Newbery Honor Book. There were several under the “honor” category this year, so I’m on a quest to find out why.
Book 13 of 52