Picture Book Review of 100 Bugs! and Interview with Author Kate Narita and GIVEAWAY!

Two chances to win a signed copy of 100 Bugs! by Kate Narita, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman:

1. Follow this blog and comment below.

2. Retweet this post and follow Kate @KateNarita and me @KaitlynLeann17.

Enter by 11-23-18 at 11:59pm West Coast time! (US addresses only)

Haven’t heard about 100 Bugs! yet? Here’s a little synopsis and review by yours truly:

100 Bugs! book cover

100 Bugs! is one of those amazing picture books that is WAY more than meets the eye. Do we find 100 bugs? Definitely. But, there is so, so much more than that!

When we open the book, we are instantly transported to another place where a gorgeous sun is rising over a lovely little farm. Then we meet the beautifully illustrated characters who we joyously follow as we find different bugs and plants throughout the farm.

Page from 100 Bugs! with children searching for bugs in a field

The most amazing thing for me was that I had never heard of some of the plant or bug names before. Luckily, the phenomenal illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman made everything clear. I was overjoyed because one, I got to learn something new, and two, my daughter would already know these names when she went out to explore the world!

By the end of the story, the sun has set, and everyone has learned all about bugs, plants, and things on a farm, but wait!—BONUS—we also did some math! What?! I know, it didn’t feel like it because we were having so much fun with everything else, but we counted, we grouped numbers, and we even composed the numbers to make the number ten every time.

100 Bugs! is a beautifully illustrated, intelligently written way to learn and have fun. As a math teacher, I highly recommend it!

Here is my Interview with Kate Narita:

Author photo of Kate Narita

I’m so lucky to have the brilliant writer Kate Narita here today on the Math is Everywhere blog!

First up, in your bio on your website, you share so many beautiful things about your life, including how much you enjoy the outdoors. Was this how you got your inspiration for 100 Bugs!? And, do you know what attracted you to the outdoors in the first place?

It’s funny the inspiration for 100 Bugs! did not come while I was outside. It came while I was inside my school sitting on an interview committee for a math specialist. My friend and colleague, Teresa Zuckerman, said that in order for kids to be successful in math, they have to understand the combinations of ten. I wondered how come no one had ever written a book about the ten combinations of ten? Surely, someone has done that I thought. But, I checked out a bunch of books about the number 100 and none of them featured the combinations of ten. So, I wrote one.

I don’t know what attracted me to the outdoors in the first place. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved it. There’s a nature preserve near where I grew up called Isaac Walton. I played softball games there. Exploring the woods after the games was such a treat. When I first had children, we lived in a small city in central Massachusetts. I thought I liked it. Then, we started driving to a farm to get our vegetables. As we would drive back into the city, I would feel more and more tense. That’s when I realized I had to live in the country. It took me by surprise. Up until that point, I had thought I was a city person. Now, I know that is absolutely not the case at all. Give me a day in the woods over a day in the city anytime.

As a math teacher, I’ve got to know, how did you get the idea to relate bugs and plants to counting?

This part of the 100 Bugs! story is much more magical than the initial idea arriving during an interview at school. The same day as the interview, I attended my writing group at night. I mentioned the idea to a fellow member who was also writing a math book. She said, “I don’t want to write that book, you write it.”

On the way home in the car, the first verse came to me, “Dragonflies, dragonflies, zipping all about. One by the weathervane, nine by the bugbane. How many dragonflies out and about? (This is no longer the first verse by the way.)” There was absolutely no planning involved. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the American poet, Ruth Stone. Stone, who was born in 1915, said she’d be out working in the fields and a poem would come rushing toward her. She’d race inside to grab a pencil and try to grab the poem by its tail, sometimes writing the poems down word-for-word backwards. That’s similar to what happened to me. The book came to me word-for-word while I was driving.

Why insects and plants? I think that’s a two-part answer. I have always loved dragonflies. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Homewood. I played softball for eight years and spent hours on the practice field. The practice field was near a nature preserve and large dragonflies would often flit overhead while I caught pop flies. Now, I live on a small mountain in Central Massachusetts surrounded by a state park. During the summer months, I’m surrounded by dragonflies and I absolutely love it. The original version of the manuscript mentioned five dragonfly species and five damselfly species. I never intended to write about insects–it just happened!

As for the plants, my mom is a gardener. When my kids were younger and we visited my parents, I would sometimes spend a little extra time in the bathroom because no one could bother me in there. Behind the closed door, I would read my mother’s gardening magazines. I think that’s how the plant names were able to pop into my consciousness. I’d unwittingly lodged them into my subconscious while taking a break from the demands of raising young children.

Why do you think the groupings you’ve provided in 100 Bugs! are so important for young readers?

As my colleague said, “In order for kids to be successful in math, they have to understand the combinations of ten.” It doesn’t seem like such a simple concept is the keystone to mathematical success, but it is. For example, fourth grade students learn how to multiply and divide two multi-digit numbers. But if they can’t add and subtract fluently, they will not calculate the correct answer. Plus, if students have to work to add and subtract numbers, they’re spending their mental energy on addition and subtraction instead of focusing on the conceptual understanding of multiplying and dividing.

Kate Narita and a former student

Kate Narita and a former student

You have such a touching story of how your dad inspired your joy for literature, can you share it here, and also tell us, have you ever asked your dad why he chose Shakespeare to read to you?

On my website, I mention that I couldn’t wait to go to bed because I knew my dad would read me a book. Reading with a parent is such a magical experience. It’s as if the two of you get to explore an unknown world that nobody else knows about. Of course, that’s not true, but that’s how it seems. The rest of the world falls away, and suddenly it’s just you and a person you love inside the pages of a book. I felt the same way reading with my own sons. We read as much as we could day and night for years. My most coveted memory of raising my own kids isn’t their first step or their first words, it’s all the hours we spent reading together.

Kate Narita's boys all grown up

Kate Narita’s boys all grown up

I’m so grateful you asked this question about my dad because I had to call him to get an answer. My dad studied English at college and taught middle school English for years. He read an article that claimed if you wanted your kid to be successful in linguistics and language, you should read them texts published before the eighteenth century. I have no idea whether or not that claim is true–keep in mind the paper was written in the 70’s. But whether or not the statement is true, I’m grateful to whoever wrote it because it meant I was able to spend more time with my dad.

Where is the most interesting place you have written or gotten inspiration to write?

I’ve been writing seriously for almost fifteen years. Eleven years ago, we lived in Japan for a semester while my husband worked at Osaka University. Every morning I woke up before the kids, turned on the warm kotatsu, and wrote. A kotatsu is a table that’s low to the ground. So, you sit on the floor and stick your legs under the table. A blanket is sandwiched between the tabletop and the table legs. The blanket falls over your legs like a tablecloth. Meanwhile, there’s a heater on the underside of the table. So, for five months my legs delighted in their daily, solitary trip to the leg sauna while my mind delighted in escaping into imaginary worlds.

As a writer, what is your process for writing picture books?

An idea pops into my head, and I try to write a first draft. If I force it, the draft will most likely feel, you guessed it, forced! But sometimes, that’s how I start–with a forced first draft. If I’m really struggling, there will be way more than one forced draft! Then, I’ll be walking in the woods or driving in my car or waking up in bed, and a line will come to me that’s not forced. That means it’s time to get busy. As soon as I can, I write that line down and craft a new version. Next, I’ll take the spontaneous version to my writing group and revise based on their feedback. This present and revise step could occur for many drafts. Then, when I feel as though there’s no possible way to make the manuscript stronger, I submit it. Of course the editor has many ideas on how to make a manuscript better. So, the revision process starts all over again once a manuscript has found a home.

What’s your goal for 100 Bugs!? How do you hope it changes the world?

I have a couple of different goals for 100 Bugs! First and foremost, I hope kids and their caretakers have fun while reading the book. Suzanne Kaufman’s gorgeous look-and-find visual storytelling makes 100 Bugs! an easy book to enjoy. Shared reading is such a pleasure especially when the person you’re sharing the story with is a loved one.

On that same note of child and caregiver, I hope readers will be inspired to stay outside for a whole day. Nature presents gifts for us to marvel at every day. But, if we don’t spend extended periods of time outside, we miss them.

Finally, I hope this book brings joy to the classroom. Every kindergarten and first grade teacher has to cover the combinations of ten in their math curriculum. Why not introduce or reinforce the concept with a fun read aloud? It’s a great way to engage kids who otherwise might not gravitate toward math.

Your agent is the talented Stacey Glick from Dystel, how did you find each other?

Yes, I’m very lucky to work with Stacey. We found one another at Rutgers One-On-One-Plus Conference. I can’t say enough positive things about this conference! It’s a fantastic place to meet industry professionals and get detailed feedback on your work. In October of 2015, I attended for the fifth time. Stacey volunteers on the conference board. That day she spoke on a panel and mentioned she had sold a counting book called Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. I wondered if Stacey would be interested in my counting manuscript. Spoiler alert-she was!

Meanwhile, I knew my forty-five minute one-on-one critique would be helpful, but I also knew the editor wouldn’t be interested in that particular manuscript because her company didn’t publish early readers. By this time, I’d been writing for thirteen years and I had many manuscripts. So, I didn’t give up hope. I learned what I could from the editor and turned my attention to the rest of the conference. During the five-on-five block, that’s a forty-five minute round table discussion with your mentor and four other mentor/mentee pairs, I met the editor who originally acquired 100 Bugs! She said she loved publishing books by teachers and librarians because other teachers and librarians wanted to buy their books.

For thirteen years I had been unsuccessful working with an editor or an agent, and within a few weeks of the conference ending, I was working with both!

Last but not least, if you got to spend an afternoon with your favorite author, would you rather: go outside and fly a kite or sit by the fire and have tea?

I’m cheating a bit here… I’d like to take a walk in the woods and then sit by the fire and have tea. In fact, that’s how I’d spend most of my days if I could!

Hahaha, I love the mix of the two. Wow, Kate, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. These amazing answers will definitely stick with me and inspire many.

If you want to get in contact with Kate Narita, here’s her website: http://www.katenarita.com
And to purchase 100 Bugs! go here http://www.katenarita.com/100-bugs.html

100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Don’t forget to follow this blog and comment for a chance to win a signed copy of 100 Bugs!

30 thoughts on “Picture Book Review of 100 Bugs! and Interview with Author Kate Narita and GIVEAWAY!

  1. Great interview! I love the outdoors too and garden every year. I’m also a math geek in disguise and a proud owner of a bug jar to set all unwelcome insects free outside.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great interview. I totally related to it so much. Great questions Kaitlyn! You asked things people really want to know. Vivian Kirkfield does that too, so I’m not surprised to find you are friends.

    Why I related to this interview….. I have a similar relationship w/my Dad and as a kid, loved reading with him and listening to records. My mom is an ESL teacher, so she gave me my love of words and even editing. Our sons look to be around the same age, and we both love nature conservation and bugs. As far as Kate’s creative process, I have similar issues with forcing creativity and then relaxing elsewhere as the ideas flood in…not always paper and pen around, is there? I think many people can relate to this.

    I have been a fan of @lilmonkeydraws for a while, so having her as the illustrator is an extra bonus, and Kate is an interesting new find for me.

    Finally, why I would love this book is that I have a big understanding of the difficulty kids face learning & memorizing solid, basic, math facts. This is not just from having been a teacher, but because I WAS one of those students who had math problems, and this grouping strategy could have made a difference in my understanding. This book offers kinesthetic learners an interesting and fun way to learn.

    As many of you know by now, I always think educational books NEED songs to go with them, not just to elevate them but to make the facts interesting & memorable. My opinion is based on my experience teaching concepts while using music successfully. I would love to write a bug counting song to add to my nature songs for schools. Sneaking math in sounds like a fun and needed bonus. I probably would not do the math part without the book. Just a bug song. Still fun, but not as much… thanks for the consideration. Peace, Annie✌🏼🎶🎨📚😊


    1. Wow! Such wonderful insights, I’m so glad we are friends now. And I can’t thank you enough for comparing me to the phenomenal Vivian Kirkfield 😊

      I love the idea of making the song, the brain stores songs in different areas than most other learning so it sticks out to kids. I’d love for you to share it, especially with you and your students singing it 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely interview! I feel a kinship with Kate and her love of the outdoors. Congratulations to her and thanks for this interview Kaitlyn.


    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was an absolute pleasure. I have to say, I’ve re-read it many times just because I enjoyed her answers so much, as a parent, teacher, and new winter! And I’m so glad you feel this kinship, both of you (through your books) will be an inspiration for my daughter for years to come!


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