One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
It was 1871, and thirteen year old plain-talking, sharpshooting, Georgie was shattered when the body of her older sister, Agatha, was returned to her family. Georgie was not convinced, however, that Agatha was dead, since the only thing that was identifiable about the body was a blue-green ball gown. In the wake of the great passenger pigeon migration, Georgie leaves her home in Placid Wisconsin, feeling somewhat responsible for Agatha's departure and possible death, to find the truth about her sister's whereabouts before the funeral. Accompanied by Billy, the one-time love interest of Agatha, Georgie discovers that her sister had traveled with some "pigeoners," a nasty group of people who hunted the migrating bird. Forced to face cougars, shootouts with counterfeiters, and the fear that her sister might truly be gone, Georgie's journey is action packed and thrilling. Her honest voice, wit and pure grit make for an amazing story that never becomes too heavy for middle grade readers. You'll want to hitch your wagon to this stubborn gal, Georgie, and go along for the ride.
This is a newly awarded Newbery Honor Book for 2014. Author notes and selected sources at the end of the novel provide more information about the era and the passenger pigeon - the once infinite flock of birds that blackened the skies, and now, is sadly one of the great extinction stories of our history. This is a truly captivating book with a fascinating setting that made me want to learn more about era, and the extinct bird.