Study Guide

One Came Home

By Amy Timberlake

One Came Home Introduction

When we think of the Old West, we think small towns with general stores, shootouts at high noon, and… Wisconsin? Okay, so we don't usually think of Wisconsin when we think of Westerns, but in 1871, when One Came Home is set, Wisconsin was definitely having a moment of being the west West, as opposed to the Midwest. With this in mind, it isn't all that unexpected when the sheriff turns up with a badly decomposed corpse wearing thirteen-year-old Georgie Burkhardt's sister Agatha's dress.

What is unexpected, though, is that Georgie refuses to believe the body belongs to Agatha. Not only that, but she sets off on a mule to find out what really happened to her sister, thumbing her nose at the funeral her family just held.

Published in 2013, One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake, has gotten a lot of buzz thanks to winning a 2014 Newbery Honor Medal. It also won an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel, so if you're not into westerns but mysteries are your thing, there's something here for you, too. And if strong-willed young women are right up your alley, well, Georgie represents in spades.

Did we mention that One Came Home's shootout does not disappoint?

Just to clarify: it doesn't.

What is One Came Home About and Why Should I Care?

We'll admit we don't know much about shootouts at high noon, riding mules, or bathing in the nearest river—two out of three of those aren't legal anymore, anyway—but we do know about trying to control our own lives. Sometimes we even know about trying to control our own lives by controlling other people's lives. Ask us about the time we rigged the office vote on where to get lunch… or, on second thought, just step slowly away and pretend you never heard that. We'd never do such a thing.

Anyway, Georgie Burkhardt in One Came Home is all about control, but she tries to control her own life by controlling her sister Agatha's life—and it's always a losing game. She tries to control whom Agatha "courts" (fancy old-fashioned word for "dates"), where Agatha lives, and even who she marries. And Georgie darn near does it. Trouble is, Georgie's quest for control also might be what gets Agatha killed. Oops.

Even after the sheriff brings back her sister's body, Georgie tries to control what happens to Agatha. Georgie can't accept that Agatha is dead, so she takes matters into her own hands once more. It's not until George returns from her mule-riding road trip that she discovers how little control she ever had over what Agatha did, anyway.

Trying to control our own lives by controlling others' choices never works out, as Georgie discovers after her attempt to do just that leads her to some pretty dark places. So if you need a hand loosening your grip on the reins, then crack open this book and let Georgie show you the way.

One Came Home Resources


One Went to the Web
Here's Amy Timberlake's official webpage for One Came Home.

Who Wrote These Lines, Anyway?
This is Amy Timberlake's official site, with information on all her books.

What Do You Think? What Do Other People Think?
The official Goodreads site for One Came Home. Add your review to the mix when you're done.

Articles and Interviews

Bon Appetit
Amy Timberlake describes how to make a passenger pigeon pie, nineteenth-century style. Yum.

Walking on the Wild Side
This interview deals with issues of environmentalism in One Came Home.

Where Did It Come From?
Amy Timberlake describes the many inspirations for One Came Home.


Phone Calls in the Dark
Amy Timberlake's official description of what it was like to get the news that One Came Home had won a Newbery Honor, filmed for the American Library Association's Annual Conference in 2014.

Books Within Books
Amy Timberlake talks about what other Newbery award winners influenced One Came Home.


One Read Aloud
Grab your ear buds and enjoy the audio book version of One Came Home.

Two Conducted an Interview
Amy Timberlake is interviewed on WriteSpa TEEN about One Came Home.


One Book Cover, Millions of Pigeons
The cover image for One Came Home, complete with more pigeons than you can imagine.

We Like to Imagine What Characters Look Like…
… but here's what Amy Timberlake looks like.