One Came Home

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

One Came Home is a brilliant story set in 1871 in Wisconsin about a 13 year-old girl whose sister goes missing at the same time a body is found wearing a dress she owned.

Georgie is convinced her sister, Agatha, is alive.  The body is badly decomposed and in a few pieces.  Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Georgie sets off on a borrowed mule with Billy, a boy who loved Agatha, to the town the body was discovered, Dog Hollow.  Agatha was last seen with a pair of traveling pigeoners (people who followed the passenger pigeons before they were extinct).  Georgie starts asking questions and soon discovers a family up in the hills by the name of Garrow.  Their oldest daughter ran off at the same time as Agatha went missing to get married and she looks just like Agatha.  One of the Garrow sisters has a ribbon in her hair matching the Agatha’s dress.  Georgie is convinced it’s the same material so how did the little girl obtain the ribbon?

Before Georgie can find out, she stumbles upon a hidden cave full of counterfeiting plates.  Running from the Garrow men, Georgie finds herself using her sharp-shooter skills to scare them off and break up the ring.  A hero and still doubtful her sister is dead, Georgie returns home when her grandfather unexpectedly dies.  She resumes her life, helping in the family store, still wondering about her sister.

Finally, a letter arrives.  It’s from her sister.  She ran off to attend college to study nature in Madison, WI.  She had seen the articles in the paper about Georgie and wrote to see if all was okay.  She had met up with the Garrow girl and had sold her her dress for her wedding.  The Garrow girl was accidentally shot when she grabbed a shot gun and the trigger went off.  Panicking, her father left her body to be found.

And the ribbon?  The dress had been torn in an argument with her father before she was shot.  Her little sister then took the material for a bow.

Full of every twist and turn you can imagine, One Came Home by Amy Timberlake deserves the Newbery Honor Award it won in 2014.  It may be better suited for older kids just because of the subject of death.  Georgie grows as a person as she learns self-sufficiency and the depth of love.  Extremely well-written, historically accurate, a vivid picture of the passenger pigeon, and an overall great read.  Highly recommended.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare follows a sixteen year-old girl who leaves her native Barbados for the colony of Connecticut in 1687.  Her parents and grandfather have all died and she only has one aunt on her mother’s side.  She arrives unannounced and it is apparent from the beginning she does not fit in in this Puritan town.  She can swim for one thing and she is unused to hard labor and small towns having an aristocratic background.

She is immediately courted by the most eligible bachelor (and the richest) in town, William Ashby.  She helps her cousin, Mercy, with the school and teaches a girl named Prudence how to read when her mother refuses to send her to school.  She meets an elderly woman named Hannah who has been accused of witchcraft mainly because she lives alone and is a Quaker.

Kit is drawn to Hannah and they develop a secret friendship.  Hannah offers worldly wisdom, telling her “The answer is in thy heart.  Thee can always hear it if thee listens for it.”

Hannah’s magic cure for everything:  Blueberry cake and a kitten.

Prudence asks why people say she’s a witch.  Kit says cause people are afraid of things they don’t understand.

Hannah says there is no escape if love is not there.

Kit is attracted to Nat Eaton, a ship captain’s son, who helps Hannah as well.

A sickness develops and the Puritan colony blames Hannah the witch for cursing them.  They try to run her out of town but Kit along with Nat’s help warns her in time.  With Hannah gone to live in a neighboring town, the townspeople turn on Kit, claiming she is a witch as well.  No evidence exists and with Prudence’s help who proves she can read and write and has not been infected by witchcraft, Kit is set free.  Kit ends her courtship with William who did not come to her defense at her trial and plans to return to Barbados when winter ends.

She sees Nat in early spring who now has his own ketch, and he immediately asks her uncle for her hand in marriage.

A wonderful book with happy endings for all involved.  All the love stories end up fulfilled and justice does prevail along with stereotypes being broken down.  Great story of standing up for others when it’s the right thing to do even when your life is threatened.  Great historical depiction of life in the early American colonies and Puritan life.  Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1959.  A classic of literature not to be missed.