Book review | Down to Earth by Betty Culley
Author: Betty Culley
Genre: Middle Grade
No. of pages: 224
Published on: 24th August 2021
Published by: Crown Books for Young Adults
My rating: ★★★★☆
Counting by 7s meets See You in the Cosmos in this heartwarming coming-of-age story perfect for the budding geologists and those fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.
Henry has always been fascinated by rocks. As a homeschooler, he pours through the R volume of the encyclopedia to help him identify the rocks he finds. So, when a meteorite falls in his family’s field, who better to investigate than this rock enthusiast–with his best friend, James, and his little sister, Birdie, in tow, of course.
But soon after the meteorite’s arrival, the water in Henry’s small Maine town starts drying up. It’s not long before news spreads that the space rock and Henry’s family might be to blame. Henry is determined to defend his newest discovery, but his knowledge of geology could not have prepared him for how much this stone from the sky would change his community, his family, and even himself.
Science and wonder abound in this middle-grade debut about an inquisitive boy and the massive rock that came down to Earth to reshape his life.
Born in a family of Dowsers (a pseudoscience where people who used to find water bodies below the ground using sticks), Henry has always been interested in rocks. When a meteorite hits his family land in a small town in Maine, he— along with his best friend James and little sister Birdie, goes on to investigate this huge shiny rock that Birdie has named 'Big Hat'.
As Henry and his discovery become a news sensation far and wide, the meteorite brings flood and water scarcity in the town. With everything to lose, the townspeople starts blaming Henry and his family and the cursed rock. But Henry wants nothing but protect his space rock from the townspeople's wrath and the rich people from the city who wants the rock for their private collection.
Down to Earth is a book about finding yourself. With Henry having doubts about his dowsing abilities, and him clinging with hope that one day he will be a dowser just like his father, his uncle, his grandfather and his ancestors, this piece of meteor is all Henry can hold onto.
This book has been written with such child-like innocence. I loved how Henry's family do not dismiss his interest in the meteorite and instead helps him defend the space rock. Even when his family home gets destroyed in the flood, his relationship with his family, his uncle and his grandparents is what keeps him going. I also loved the bond Henry and James share— Henry being a homeschooled child and James a schooled child. This doesn't affect them, instead they share little bits and pieces of their lives with each other. And little Birdie is the sweetest bean in the whole book.
This book is not just a middle grade book, but it emphasises on your beliefs and your heart's desires. The story is set at a different time, where people were quick to accuse every abnormality to the dark sciences and prejudices. Henry's fight against these prejudices— for his family and his beliefs, the empathy this little boy has, and his strong will for what he wants in his life— is an inspiration. It was a joy reading this book.
Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know I True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth, is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s an RN who worked as an obstetrics nurse and as a pediatric home hospice nurse. She lives in central Maine, where the rivers run through the small towns.
I received a copy of the book in exchange of an honest and unbiased review