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The Clues in the Cover, a guest post by Betty Culley

Yes, my book covers make me cry! I’m not an artist but it’s magic to me how an artist can draw a vision I can only express in words. When I saw Chris Kwon’s cover art for my first YA verse novel, THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE, I got weepy. Part of my inspiration for the book, the mighty Kennebec River that runs through the small towns near me, was depicted with such beauty.

When I saw the cover for my debut middle-grade book, DOWN TO EARTH, I was equally amazed. One reason was that Henry’s house was eerily like my own house, right down to the attic window and the double chimney! And the trees rimming the land are just like the fir and hemlocks on my land. I hadn’t ever sent anyone at Crown Books for Young Readers photos of where I lived, but there it was.

The other thing that amazed me was the way the artist, Robert Frank Hunter, put significant objects from the book in the fireball on the cover. Some of those are: a dowsing stick, a sandhill crane, a compass, a notebook, a tusk, a tie, a slice of pie, and a rubber boot.

The dowsing stick is what Henry uses to find out if he is a water dowser or not. He comes from a long line of well drillers and water dowsers, who use a dowsing stick to find water deep underground. When they pass over water, the stick points downward. Henry doesn’t know if he has inherited this gift or not.

The tusk represents a 10,000-year-old wooly mammoth tusk Henry sees in the Maine State Museum. Unfortunately, in order to study and date it, the tusk was destroyed. Seeing this at the museum makes Henry worry what will happen to the meteorite that falls in his family’s field. It is much, much older than the tusk he saw.

Hints about the other objects in the fireball. The boots — Henry’s little sister. The tie— a visitor who brings a very unusual gift. The compass—saved from a flood.

This is the back of the cover. It has a quote from inside the book of what Henry is thinking when he’s standing on the roof of his house watching the fireball. He considers how big the universe is. That is part of my inspiration for the story—considering how vast the universe is myself and wondering what would happen if a meteorite from far outside our solar system landed here on earth.

Back cover says:
“I know scientists aren’t sure if there’s an end to the universe. I read that you can travel at the speed of light forever without reaching an edge of it. But when I was balanced on top of the roof watching the light burst over me, it felt real, how big the universe is.”

Seeing my covers reminds me how inspiration is everywhere. A book can inspire a drawing. A drawing can inspire a book. A river or a rock can be the seed of a story.  My next middle-grade novel The Natural Genius of Ants is partly inspired by something we usually walk by without noticing- ants. My next YA verse novel The Name She Gave Me is inspired by my own adoption history. Both books are coming out next year. I’ve seen cover sketches, and yes, there were some more tears!

Meet the author

Betty Culley’s debut YA novel in verse, THREE THINGS I KNOW ARE TRUE, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick and on the ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List. Her first middle-grade novel is inspired by her fascination with meteorites, voyagers from another place and time. She’s worked as a pediatric nurse and lives in a small town in central Maine.

Website: www.bettyculley.com

Twitter: @Betty_Culley

Instagram: @bettyculley

Facebook: @bettyculleywrites

About Down to Earth

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.

ISBN-13: 9780593175736
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 08/24/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years


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