Down to Earth

by Betty Culley (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

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.


Starred Review

From Henry, his best friend, and members of his extended family to a visiting geologist from a museum, the characters have layers of complexity that are gradually revealed as the story unfolds at its own steady pace. A captivating middle-grade novel.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7-Fascinated with geology, Henry spends hours breaking rocks open. His family members are water dowsers, people who sense sources of water using a dowsing rod. Henry is anxious because water dowsing is not something one can learn from a book, and not everyone in the family has the "gift." When he tries to use a dowsing rod to find water, he feels an urge to hold the stick toward the sky instead of the ground. Soon, a giant meteorite falls to Earth. Henry is ecstatic to find and analyze the rock from space. But the meteorite has brought more than just media attention and a collector offering a giant financial reward-the rock has caused a disaster, and Henry feels responsible. Culley perfectly illustrates Henry's complicated feelings and insecurities. He reacts like any child would, especially when the small town seems to hold him responsible. Poignant, lyrical prose and an engaging mix of geology, astronomy, and wonder will make this title popular, especially for fans of Nancy Viau's Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head. Henry is cued as white. VERDICT Heartwarming and absorbing, this is a solid choice for middle grade collections. Perfect for readers who want a great small-town story mixed with STEM.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This is the perfect match for middle graders starting to sort through what we do know, what we don't know yet, and what might be unknowable." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Betty Culley
Betty Culley is the acclaimed author of the middle-grade novel Down to Earth, which received a starred review from Booklist, calling it "captivating," and the YA novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, which was a Kids' Indie Next List Top Ten Pick and an ALA- YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee. When writing The Natural Genius of Ants, Betty kept an ant farm and cared for a carpenter ant queen. She's worked as a pediatric nurse and lives in a small town in central Maine. You can find her online at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2021
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 04/01/21

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