I’ve heard wonderful things about the Highlights retreats for writers. I haven’t gone yet, but I hope to someday. This is the transformation I imagine happens😊😉

She breathes in.




The pitter patter is the only sound, no others around.

She can feel the pink of the budding flower as she turns away from her computer. She steps through the open glass door into another world.

It’s like a jungle, this forest. Shaded yet bright.

She wanders and wonders, briefly frightened.

There’s no one…are there beasts? Is this disconnection loneliness?

No—it’s beautiful, full of connection.

A bird hops on a branch and stares right at her, cocking its head, curious.

The bird is beautiful, precision in color and feathers. Not perfect, some colors bleed into others. But perfectly smooth and well-groomed, every feather in its place, exactly where it should be.

She looks at herself, disheveled, hair gone awry. She pulls her shirt and smooths her pants, then laughs at her ridiculous drive to fix herself in such a place.

The stream up ahead flows crystal clear. She peers at a tadpole, hopping, swimming, moving about, and breaths in again…

The end

As always, we ask, where’s the math?

The most obvious is the time we take for ourselves, to be with nature, and to get away—a small amount for most of us!

Of course, math is all about patterns too. Here’s an interesting article about how bird feather patterns can CHANGE!

Here’s some fun bird math: Bedtime Math

And of course, the time it takes for a tadpole to become a full grown frog, between 2.5 and 3 months.

Also, if you haven’t popped by to read the interview with Vivian Kirkfield about her upcoming counting picture book, click here, leave a comment, and get entered to win a SIGNED copy when the book releases in April!


A Little Rain

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Mathiseverywhere blog!

Here’s another fun, little story for your enjoyment. My second entry for Ms. Susanna Hill’s Valentiny contest (Get it? A tiny Valentine’s story?😁)

The rules: create a Valentine’s story where someone feels guilty. It must be geared to kids 12 and under and be 214 words or less.

A Little Rain

Cloud looked down below. Kids bounced about in their heart-shaped costumes, laughing and playing.

Cloud smiled.

Drip, drop.

“I don’t want to rain on their parade,” Cloud thought.

So she squeezed—ERG! and squished—EEP! Then, KRR-ACK! Thunder and lighting.

The kids screamed and ran, huddling around their teacher.

“Oh no!Cloud thought. “I’ve got to get out of here!”

“Wind,” Cloud called out. “Please blow me away.”

Wind grinned and winked, “My favorite thing to do.”

He gathered up speed. He WHOOSHED! and he WHIRLED! Then WOOOO! he blew Cloud away.

The kids huddled closer to their teacher as the wind whipped at their clothes, their hair, their festive hats.

“Uhh ooh,” Wind howled as he started spinning out of control.

“It’s a whirlwind!” the kids screamed.

“Get inside!* their teacher yelled.

Cloud heard their cries and turned to see. “Oh my,” she thought. “This is all my fault.”

She zoomed back to where she began. She didn’t try to hold anything back or move out of the way.

It started to drizzle. The vortex disappeared.

The class stopped, looked up, and shouted “HOORAY!”

Sometimes it’s okay to have a little rain on your parade.

The end

As always, we think, where’s the math? Everywhere, of course!

The likelihood of rain on Valentine’s Day can be calculated by weather forecasters, the amount of Valentine’s Day parties in elementary schools in America can be counted, and of course, we can count the number of times we do something to help and it ends up going awry instead.

For more math:

Here’s a fun blog post about timing storms Thunderstorms! It’s just math…

And here’s some fun statistics for you really awesome math people: Rain Probability.

Finally, here’s the science I used to get the thunder and lightning in the story: The Science of Lightning

Also, if you haven’t popped by to enter ti win Vivian Kirkfield’s Four Otters Toboggan, coming out in April here’s the link:

Morty’s Valentine’s Day: a fun, little tale to brighten your day

Here’s a little story I cooked up for Ms. Susanna Hill’s Valentiny contest (Get it? A tiny Valentine’s story?😁)

Here’s the rules: it needs to be geared to kids 12 and under, be about Valentine’s day, and have someone who feels guilty. Oh yeah! AND it must be 214 words or less😉

This story was inspired by a picture that Facebook recommended I use for a response to a post. This little guy, pictured below, would normally just be a cute penguin, but after participating in Storystorm, I had a whole new perspective, and this story was born.

Without further ado, here’s Morty’s Valentine’s day story in 214 words:

Morty’s Valentine’s Day

Morty’s a penguin with all the moves, and he’s ready to use them this Valentine’s Day.

As Zelda glides by, Morty lifts a kissing plant above his head and winks.

Zelda rolls her eyes and struts away.

Morty straightens his tie and slicks back his feathers as Trisha waddles over.

“Hey, Trisha, wanna dance?”

He takes a step, and…

SLIP—he slides right into her!

They luge down a path—AHH!—straight into the water: SPLASH!

“Nice day for a swim?” Morty ventures.

Trisha shakes her feathers and huffs away.

“I’ll never find ‘The One,'” Morty thinks as he plops down.

He pokes at the snow, slowly making his strokes bigger and bigger until…

Wow!” Karissa whispers. “Did you do that?”

“Oh, this?” Morty shuffles shyly. “It’s just scribbles…”

“Can you draw me?” Karissa asks.

“Uh…um…erm…you? I don’t know…”

“Oh…I understand.” She turns away.

“NO! Wait!”

“Wait? For what? For you to say I’m not pretty?”

“No, not at all. It’s just…you’re—”

“Not good enough to draw?”

“No! You’re the prettiest penguin I’ve ever seen! I could never make anything as beautiful as you.”

Oh, Morty!” Karissa throws her flippers around him. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has very said to me.”


Best Valentine’s day ever!

The end.

Now, as always, we wonder, where’s the math? Everywhere!

The velocity at which the comical luge happened, the likelihood of any of Morty’s ideas working, the number of times poor Morty struck out, and the infinite love he and Karissa now share😊

Happy almost Valentine’s day. I hope you enjoyed!

And as a special treat. Come back to the Mathiseverywhere blog for an interview and book giveaway with debut author Vivian Kirkfield! Just posted yesterday here, so you still have time to enter the giveaway!

Interview and Picture Book Giveaway with Vivian Kirkfield

If you’d like to be entered in the drawing for a SIGNED copy of FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK coming out in April, make sure to comment on this blog post and for extra entries, retweet the following tweet:

Here’s a bit about Vivian:

cropped-pippa-home-page-031-e1543009948671 (2)

Vivian in her world
Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found

Vivian, thank you so much for stopping by the MathIsEverywhere blog today. Ready to dive in?

Totally ready, Kaitlyn. Thank you so much for having me here!

I adore your first book Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking (Positive Parental Participation). What was the first (or your favorite) recipe or art project that you created to match up with a picture book?

show me how cover

Show Me How!

That’s easy! One of my all-time favorite picture books, probably out of print at this point, is Gift Bear for the King by Carl Memling, illustrated by Lillian Hoban. It’s a charming story of a little bear who belongs to an old lady and an old man, but, when the King’s messenger announces that it is the King’s birthday, they decide to give the bear as a gift. There is a wonderful refrain, a tale of obstacles to overcome, and a happy ending. The book was published in 1966 and I started teaching kindergarten in 1967…it was one of the first books I purchased for my class library. And when my own children were born, I read it to them. The craft activity is ultra-easy…make a king or queen for a day crown using a sheet of construction paper, pair of scissors, stapler or glue, and crayons/markers for the child to decorate. And because the story is all about a journey, the cooking activity was to prepare homemade trail mix from healthful ingredients.

You are one of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met, do you attribute this quality to a specific person or event in your life? If so, who?

People used to ask me what I was ‘on’ because I was smiling and upbeat all of the time. I’d tell them I was high on life. But seriously, I can’t even take credit for being sweet or kind or helpful (thank you very much – it’s always lovely to hear that other people think well of you) because it is part of my nature…part of my DNA. My older sister used to call me Pollyanna because the character in that book faced life with positivity and saw something to be glad about in every situation. And I think she was right on the money…I am just like that. Which, honestly, is probably annoying if you have to be with someone like that for 24 hours a day.


Vivian and her sister in 1950!

My mother was a very kind woman. And my grandmother, who we lived with from the time I was ten, was incredible–ever generous with her time and always ready to listen, EVEN to a young child.

Your husband was an author too, was he the one who inspired you to write your own books?

Stuart was very supportive of my writing and it was he who encouraged me to write the parenting book after I had retired and our kids were grown with children of their own. But my inspiration to become a picture book author came from the kid lit community itself. Although I’d always had a love affair with picture books, it wasn’t until I saw those writers dreaming of becoming published picture book authors that I realized I wanted that, too!

In 2019, you have THREE picture books coming out, CONGRATS! They are all very unique, from lyrical counting to hearty adventure to inspiring nonfiction. Is there a secret to being so varied in your writing?

I have to give thanks to several factors. First, as I mentioned, I’ve loved picture books…actually, all books, since I was old enough to turn pages. As a child, I loved nonfiction…would actually read the Encyclopedia Britannica – you are probably too young to remember when many families owned a set of those books. I also adored folk tales and fairy tales. And I wrote little poems when I was a kid. So, being exposed to lots of different genres probably is one factor. The second influence, more on the number of stories I’ve written as opposed to how varied they are, has been the 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. The stars were in alignment when I decided to start writing picture books in 2012 because that was the year that Julie Hedlund decided to start her challenge. I was determined to participate fully – and I have written twelve manuscript in twelve months every year so far…although many of the manuscripts never went past the VERY rough draft stage.

Your math oriented picture book, FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK comes out in April of this year. The title is so intriguing, can you tell us how it was chosen?

four otters cover amazon

Four Otters Toboggan

Titles are a funny thing. We stress out about them, right? And brainstorm and make lists of dozens of possibilities. I came up with VISITORS TO DEEP POOL…my critique buddies loved it. And my agent never had a problem with it. But when the editor at Pomegranate bought it, he asked for a different title! He felt it sounded a bit like a science fiction novel! And maybe he was right. Mirka Hokkanen, the illustrator, and I made lists and lists of possibilities. We felt An Animal Counting Book needed to be part of the title…and the editor agreed…and I think it was when Mirka drew what became the cover that the Four Otters Toboggan was added by the editor.

Why do you think the counting component was so important for this book?

otters spread
Originally, the book did not have a counting component. It was just a lyrical piece about endangered animals that came to visit this pristine mountain river where the character of the water changed as quickly as a child’s moods. But several years ago, I won a critique from Mira Reisberg, founder of the Children’s Book Academy. She felt the story needed another layer and she suggested making it a counting book might work. It was an easy fix…and I think the counting aspect gives the story a bit of page -turning drama. It will be fun for kids to count the animals on each page…plus, Mirka has hidden animals on several of the pages and in the back of the book, she has icons and we invite kids to go back to the beginning of the book and search for them on each page.

What’s your goal for FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN? How do you hope it changes the world?

turtle spread.jpg
It might be odd to hope that a simple counting book will change the world…but yes, I hope that this story encourages young people to cherish the planet, practice conservation, embrace environment protection, and help preserve animal habitats. There is a fine balance in nature, but modern civilization often forgets that protecting the environment for wildlife will benefit all of us. That’s why we included a rich STEM back matter with fun facts about the animals and serious information about conservation.

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

The inspiration for OTTERS came while I was taking a break from fly-fishing with my husband in a remote wilderness area in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Sitting still on a boulder in the middle of a quiet pool at the edge of a rippling stream (I was wearing chest-high waders so I was nice and dry), I watched the water…dragonflies danced, fish leaped, otters paddled by, and overhead, Peregrine falcons circled. It was so beautiful, like poetry in real life, and I wanted to capture it with my words.

I’m so excited to participate in your #50PreciousWords contest this year, can you explain what it is and where you got your inspiration?

The #50PreciousWords Writing Contest was born on a whim. I’d just read an article about Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and how his editor challenged him to write a story for kids with only 50 words. Green Eggs with Ham has over 700 words, but only 50 unique words. And I thought, what a great writing exercise that would be…to try to write a story…but with ONLY 50 words…50 words total. So, I put up the challenge in a blog post on March 2, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. And I assumed that maybe a few of my good writer friends would take pity on me and send in a story. Five days later, there were 120 stories on my blog and over 2000 comments. WOW! The winner of the first year–she signed with her dream agent as a direct result of the contest and she now has a bunch of books debuting THIS YEAR…and one of them is the story that won the contest. I couldn’t be happier and I’ll be getting to hug her in person this spring when I am travelling abroad.
I’ve always been a fan of writing challenges because I think they encourage writers to get their work out there and interact with the kid-lit community. This is such a difficult business with so much rejection and disappointment. It’s really important to stay connected with others who are in the same boat because they can understand what you are going through. And every year the contest grows…in 2018 we had 298 amazing stories! This year, I’ll be in Auckland during the contest, but that won’t stop me – I can’t wait to read everyone’s precious words. And I’ll have the wonderful assistance of Maria Marshall, Julie Abery, and Diane Tulloch.

Finally, if you got the chance 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?

Although I’ve enjoyed many kite-flying experiences, I have to say that hands down, I’d be sitting by the fire and having tea with my favorite author and any of you and any of your readers, Kaitlyn. Hopefully, there will be some delicious pastry that contains chocolate or raspberry.

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above gray floral textile

Photo by Thought Catalog on

Oh, yes! At my tea parties, chocolate is always on the list!
Thank you so much for sharing, for writing such beautiful, educational books, and for being so helpful to writers, especially new writers like me!

Kaitlyn, it has been my pleasure to spend this time with you. I love sharing my experiences and whatever expertise I may have. If I can help even one person to follow their dream and built it into a reality,…to paraphrase the great Robert Frost: that will make all the difference.

Remember if you want to connect with Vivian: You can connect with her on her website,Facebook,Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram,Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

pippa cover

Sweet Dreams Cover Template Revised.jpg

Here’s Vivian’s other picture books. Pippa comes out TODAY! and Sweet Dreams in May!
If you want to be entered into the drawing, comment and retweet! (If you want to share on Facebook, simply add to your comment with the link to your facebook post for another chance to win).

Quick-write story

Hey all,

I’m participating in a reflective writing program called 12 Days of Christmas for Writers by the generous Julie Foster Hedlund. Yesterday’s prompt was to write a story based on some very cool ideas. I chose the random sentence generator (which I had no idea existed, did you?!)

Before you read the story, if you haven’t read my previous post—Interview with Ruth Spiro—make sure to comment on it to get into the drawing for a signed copy of Baby Loves Quarks! The winner will be selected tomorrow 😊

Without further ado. Here is the story inspired by the randomly generated sentence: “She was too short to see over the fence.”


She was too short to see over the fence. But that never stopped Wendy.

Erg! Ugh!

Huff! Puff!

Her makeshift steps were complete.

She smiled as she rubbed her hands together and began to climb.

Oh! Uh!


What now? she thought. The show is starting. I have to see it!

A Firefly buzzed over Wendy’s head. Then another. And another.

Oh no! I’m going to miss it!

She ran up and down the fence, Maybe there’s a peek hole!

Eee! Whoa!

Thud! Clunk!

She tripped over a shovel and began tearing at the earth.

Scrape! Scratch!

Plop! Plunk!

Finally, light glowed through Wendy’s tunnel under the fence. It was exactly her size. As she bent down…

the light faded and disappeared. The hole was engulfed in darkness.



She missed the show.


“Wendy, it’s darker than yer granddaddy’s coffee,” her mom called. “Come inside darlin'”

Wendy wiped her tears and trudged to the door.

In her room, she pulled out her paints and brushes.

Glop! Gloop!

Swish! Swoop!

She stepped away from her wall just as her mom walked in and gasped. “Darlin’, what IS that?”

“The most beautiful thing that I didn’t get to see.”

If ya didn’t see it, darlin’, how in the world didya paint it?”

“It’s what I imagined it would be.”

The end.

As always, we wonder, where is the math? Well, I wasn’t actually thinking about math here, just went where the story took me, but using a little analysis and reflection we can always connect with math.

There are many countable things here. Wendy’s attempts at achieving her goal, the number of fireflies that flew over, the amount of onomatopoeia used in the story. But the biggest thing I like about this is the reminder that there is so much math in art.

Some people have a natural ability to paint or draw where the angles and lines just come without thought, but that just means their math ability to understand proportion and calculate angles is also natural because math is inextricably a part of art.

Here’s a few links if you’re interested in art and math:

American Mathematical Society

Teaching Math through comics

The Mathematics of Art

Author Interview with Ruth Spiro and GIVEAWAY!

Bio: Ruth Spiro is a freelance writer and author of the Baby Loves Science collection, which now includes 8 powerful board books that take complex STEM ideas and makes them baby-friendly.

For the giveaway, make sure to comment below and follow this blog for your chance to win a signed copy of QUARKS! the first in the Baby Loves series!

Hi Ruth, thank you so much for coming by the MathisEverywhere blog today!

You work so diligently to research subjects that are important for kids. How do you think you got so hardworking?

When you enjoy what you do, it doesn’t feel like work! I’ve always liked to do research and learn new things, so writing each book feels like a mini-challenge to me. I want to make sure each book is informative and accurate, but the most important goal is that they’re fun to read too.

How do you go about researching your books? Can you give an example of how you researched for BABY LOVES CODING?

I always start with a visit to the library to see if there are any other children’s books on the topic, then I move into the adult section. I also do a lot of research online to find the most current information, and I prefer to use websites or articles written by well-respected, reputable sources. If I need more detail or further explanation I may contact a scientist or other expert and ask questions directly.

For BABY LOVES CODING I considered the aspects of coding that are developmentally appropriate, and because these books are for very little ones I wanted to focus on the concept being screen-free. Interestingly, I learned that the foundational skills required to begin coding are also essential pre-reading skills—reading left-to-right, sequencing, recognizing patterns, etc.

You have such a powerful following of people who love your books, especially your BABY LOVES books. As a writer, how did you build up a following?

I’ve been on social media for a long time, and have built up my networks by sharing in genuine interaction. I try not to self-promote too much and connect with people who seem interesting to me. I like to participate in Twitter chats and other opportunities to share ideas and resources. I can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ruthspiro and would love to hear from your readers!

In your latest book MADE BY MAXINE, the main character wants her pet fish to march in the pet parade. I have to know, what inspired this comical premise!

It’s actually a very long story that evolved as my story did, but I wanted Maxine’s “making” to be purposeful–there had to be a reason why she was motivated to make her ultimate contraption. I came up with the idea that she was driven by love for a pet, and I really liked the idea of the contrast between the simplicity of a goldfish and the complexity of her final creation.

When you’re writing a series, does it get tough to keep the originality as well as consisentcy for your audience? If so, how do you overcome this?

This is an interesting question, because I have two very different series. Baby Loves Science is a series, but each book is different—the topic, the main character, and the story. So for this series the challenge is to come up with topics that fall under the STEM umbrella, that can also be related to familiar real-world experience. For each book, I begin with a new Baby and unique storyline.

Made by Maxine is also a series, but jn a very different way. The first story is an introduction to the character, so readers can get to know her and fall in love with her. The second boo will continue with Maxine and Milton (her goldfish), but we also introduce a new character and a new story problem to solve. So, the books in this series are more closely related in terms of the characters and the type of story. The second book is written and is currently being illustrated, and I know there will be at least one more book in Maxine’s series, but I haven’t written that one yet.

As you know, BABY LOVES QUARKS! has been one of my daughter’s favorite books since before she was one (she’s now two-and-a-half), how did you figure out that kids would adore the blocks analogy you use in the book?

This analogy was actually very simple! Atoms and molecules are frequently describee as “the building block of nature” so this seemed like a natural comparison that would help illustrate the concept. I’m happy to hear it’s your daughter’s favorite. Interestingly, there’s something about that book that seems to make it appealing to even the very littlest scientists!

Looking back on your writing career, can you comoare and/or contrast to now (ie. your approach to writing, the ease or lack thereof, etc.)?

Wow, this could make for a very long answer! I think the most important takeaway here is that I never imagined I’d be a writer, let alone a children’s book author. My entire career evolved out of a willingness to try new things and stretch my creativity. I’ve always believed that it’s important to be open to new experiences and continue learning every day. Things have a way of connecting in very surprising ways, and can even become the “building blocks” of your next great opportunity.

Just for fun, can share two random things about yourself?

I “thing” for flamingos and wriggle my ears! (How’s that for random?!)

In BABY LOVES STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING, I love how you include arch as one of the shapes. This is not a typical shape taught to young kids, how did you decide this should be included?

This decision was based on my research of structural engineering. The arch was one of the basic shapes mentioned in everything I read, so I thought it was important to include. I know it’s a visually familiar shape, though not often discussed, so it made sense to include it.

You must get tons of fan mail from parents teachers, other writers, etc. because your books are so amazing and inspiring, but every time I have written to you, you have always replied back quickly. How do you find the time?

Honestly, I feel this is the one area in which I often fall short. If someone sends me a quick email I try to respond within a day or so; otherwise the email gets pushed further down in my inbox and I may forget about it. Same with social media—if someone tags me in a post I try to comment that same day. But when a more substantive reply is required, such as for an interview or speaking request, it can take me longer to respond than I’d like. This has a lot to do with the publication process for my books and their deadlines. There’s a lot of back-and-forth between me, my agent, editors, and expert reviewers, and we’re often on a very tight schedule. I’m sure it goes without saying that I have to prioritize, and these tasks must come first. Then, if I’m out of my office at a school visit, bookstore signing or other event, I’m not available to respond to correspondence at all. I just try to do the best I can and hope everyone understands!

Finally, if you got the chance to spend the afternoon with your favorite author, would you rather: go outside and fly a kite or sit by the fire and have tea?

Lucky me, I’ve already had the opportunity to to sit in a cozy farmhouse during a snowstorm, drinking tea and chatting with Jane Yolen… Perhaps next time I’ll suggest we try flying a kite!

Ruth, thank you so much for these fun answers and wonderful insights. I had blast this interview and learning so much!

If you haven’t connected with Ruth on social media yet, make sure to do so, and if you haven’t checked out her amazing books, you should definitely do that too! Here is her website, and of course, don’t forget to follow this blog and comment for a chance to win a signed copy of QUARKS!

No Ice, A Holiday Tale

Hey all, it’s time for another awesome writing contest by the inspiring Susanna Hill: The 8th Annual Holiday Contest!

This time, writers are to tell a story of a holiday hero in 250 words or less. The target audience is children ages 12 and under, but I hope this tale will be enjoyable for all!


by Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

Every winter, the pond was the place to be. People came from all over to ice skate.

But this winter, the pond didn’t freeze, so no one came.

Annie stood on her tippy toes and peered out the kitchen window: still, no ice. She sighed and reached to turn off the TV, but what she heard stopped her.

Could it be?

She remembered the town hall meeting when the mayor said, “Global warming isn’t true. I won’t believe it, neither should you.”

Annie looked at her pond. I have to show them!

The newscaster explained a machine that can undo air pollution.

She asked her dad to help. Soon, their machine was filtering air and condensing the pollution into a solid, coal-like substance.

Annie fashioned a fake snowman, put on the pollution buttons, and carried it to the town hall meeting.

“Our pond didn’t freeze because pollution like this is warming the earth.”

The townspeople said, “Global warming is true? Oh no, Annie, what can we do?”

They made plans to recycle, plant trees, carpool, and more.

That night, Annie wrote a letter.

“Dear Santa,
Can you cool the earth so our pond will freeze? That’s the only present I really need.”

On Christmas Eve, Santa appeared and magically froze the pond!

“Annie, you’ve been good this year.
Enjoy this little Christmas cheer!”

The townspeople quickly strapped on their skates, knowing it would not last.

But Annie and her Christmas miracle showed them they were on the right track.

I hope you enjoyed this little tale. If you’re curious about Annie’s machine, it was inspired by a TED Talk I saw last year. Here are some links about the machine:

Smog jewelry and the TED Talk

Into the ground

And of course, math is definitely everywhere here: the amount of pollution we can eliminate from the air, the number of lives that cleaning up our air can save, the number of jewelry pieces that can be produced, not to mention, the math calculations that go into creating the machines. Even if you can’t create an air purifying tower, small steps like carpooling and recycling can really make an impact in our world.

Happy holidays and if you want to read more holiday hero stories, hop over to Susanna Hill’s contest page.


I love the way my ponytail swishes across my back,

the place between my shoulder blades tingling and itching for more.

My breathing intensifies as my smile widens.

I take another step.

The movement exerts my muscles but frees my mind:

I’m running.

This was me on Saturday, when I finally got on my elliptical for the first time in a while. Not that I hadn’t done any running since, but it was the first time in a while I was running, well, “ellipticallying” on my own. Exercise is one of those amazing things that just makes me happy, whether it’s the profound all-on-my-own freedom of the elliptical, or the exciting and intense teamwork of playing soccer (our team won the championship last season in our adult coed rec league) or the loving play and romping about my husband and I do with our daughter.

Soccer champs
Soccer champs 2018! (I’m number 2😊)

Especially this time of year, it’s important to remember to take care of your body and soul. Enjoy the comfort food, but make sure to get in some exercise and lots of laughter, too.

I know, I know, you’re thinking where’s the math? Well…it’s everywhere, of course: the number of endorphins produced that give that wonderful feeling of happiness when you work out, the calculations of work, force, effort, and calories burned, and of course, the pattern of increased smiles as your body gets what it needs😊

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:
And to purchase 100 Bugs! go here

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!

THE DIAMOND & THE BOY: Thirteen Different Openings

For my writing friends, inspiration. For my friends who have supported my writing for the past year and a half, here’s some insight on why publishing picture books is such a long undertaking

Writer and Dreamer at work

I’m so proud to introduce the author of The Diamond and The Boy, Hannah Holt. A dear friend and critique buddy for the past seven years I have come to know Hannah never does things by halves. Many of you in the children’s writing world will know how dedicated she is to her writing, her resilience and perseverance, and attention to detail, much like the character in her debut picture book. But then I guess that should come as no surprise when THE BOY is her Grandfather – H Tracy Hall. Her first draft for this story was written in 2012 and the story is only just published this year. Hannah endured the parting of ways with two different agents before this book sold. During that time Hannah worked on about six picture books at a time. She wrote a dozen stories before starting this one and has worked on…

View original post 1,226 more words