Events downtown

Jun 21

Book Launch with Children’s Author Betty Culley and RH Editor Phoebe Yeh
Location: 273 Congress St, Portland, Maine 04101, US
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Event website

Betty Culley’s debut novel in verse Three Things I Know Are True, was a Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick, an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee, and the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature. Her first middle-grade novel Down to Earth was 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. Visit her online at

Phoebe Yeh is a VP/co-publisher at Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House. She worked with Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen on THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS series and with Walter Dean Myers for twenty years. She edited MONSTER, the first Printz winner, and the New York Times bestselling series BIG NATE by Lincoln Peirce, and THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL by Soman Chainani. For Crown, she has edited and published the LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL graphic novel series by Jeffrey Brown; THE LAST GARGOYLE by Paul Durham; FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, edited by Ellen Oh and FRESH INK, edited by Lamar Giles in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, the New York Times bestseller, DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone and MY SO CALLED BOLLYWOOD LIFE by Nisha Sharma, both debut novelists; and WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES edited by Cheryl and Wade Hudson.

“Wistful verse highlights small but telling moments throughout Rynn’s search…The author’s lived history with foster care and adoption gives the narrative nuance and authority. Emotionally complex and empathetic characters…and a faithfully depicted rural landscape form an exemplary backdrop for this contemplative novel.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Compassionate and compelling.”

The Name She Gave Me tells the story of 16-year-old Rynn, named Scheherazade by the birth mother she’s never met, in stark and moving verse. Culley brings her own insights as an adopted child who reconnected as an adult with siblings she never knew she had to this powerful and poignant tale about family, friendship, and love in its many forms, for fans of Robin Benway, Cynthia Hand, and Jandy Nelson.

Now sixteen, Rynn and her adoptive parents live on a small garlic farm in central Maine. Rynn’s father is kind and gentle but oblivious to Rynn’s mother’s temper and coldness toward their daughter. Though she can’t open her adoption records until she’s 18, Rynn begins searching on her own – and discovers that, though her birth mother has died, she has a younger sister in foster care two towns away. Rynn has always longed to know her biological family, but if she reconnects with her sister, it could drive her adoptive family apart for good.

Culley’s first YA verse novel, Three Things I Know Are True, is an all-too-timely tale about a girl and her family changed forever by a gun accident that leaves her brother in need of round-the-clock care. It received numerous awards, including the 2021 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List, the 2021 Maine Literary Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature, and Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year 2021, as well as starred reviews from BookPage and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

“Culley gives readers characters that are natural, fallible individuals, which add credibility and tenderness to the story. Endearingly executed, this gentle tale will see readers applauding as they reach the end.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“Quietly and emotionally intelligent, this tale satisfies.”

In The Natural Genius of Ants, Harvard’s dad is a doctor, caring for the smallest and sickest babies in the hospital where he works. After a mistake leads to tragedy, Dad isn’t the same, but a summer trip back to his hometown of Kettle Hole, Maine, could be just what the doctor ordered.

In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm–just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness. Luckily, his new friend Neveah has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions. So the kids have a lot to learn–about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong.

Culley draws on her time as a pediatric nurse in Maine, as well as keeping her own ant farm and caring for a carpenter ant queen, in this lyrical coming-of-age story about forgiveness, moving forward, and coming home. The Natural Genius of Ants is a perfect summer read for budding scientists, as well as fans of her first award-winning middle grade novel Down to Earth.

Down to Earth tells the story of an inquisitive young boy with a fascination for rocks, and the meteorite that lands in his backyard and sends shockwaves through his family, his community, and his life. It has been met with critical acclaim, including a starred review from Booklist which hailed it as “a captivating middle-grade novel,” and named a Junior Library Guild Selection.