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Local author helps children learn the magic of insects through new book
‘Queen Iween’s Bug Buddies’

By: Karen Billing
Photo: Karen Billing

A chance encounter with a fly helped change the course of Irene Hunt’s life. Before a fly landed on the petal of a rose she was photographing, Hunt had thought of it as most do, a pesky insect just begging to be swatted. But Hunt was fascinated by her resulting photo, showing what a fly really looks like up close.

Irene Hunt

The fly, now named Spike, is pictured on the first page of her new children’s book, “Queen Iween’s Bug Buddies.” The book is the first in a series printed by the publishing company she and her husband, Tim, started last year, called Hunt for Nature. The books use photography to teach children about their surroundings.

“As real nature lovers, we realize how much nature is in jeopardy,” said Hunt, a local resident. “If we can develop kids’ interest in nature, they will start early in valuing nature so when they grow up they will understand what we need to preserve.”

Hunt, a human resources consultant, and Tim, a financial consultant, both share a love of photography. It was on one of their many photography trips that she took a snapshot of the fateful fly. Then came the black dot on a leaf that was really a baby grasshopper. Hunt thought the up-close photos were really incredible, showing details the naked eye could never see.

“I thought it was just beyond belief and that kids would love to see these pictures,” Hunt said. As they researched possible publishers they found most children’s books favored illustrations rather than photos, so the couple started their own publishing company to produce the kind of books they want to share with children.

The pair took all the photos of the insects in the book, as well as all of the shots in their next book “Queen Iween’s Beautiful Butterflies.” They have traveled to a variety of destinations on photographic journeys, such as Joshua Tree and Palm Springs in California, as well as Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, DC and Hawaii.

“We used to get these really healthy hikes in but now we spend a half an hour at one bush,” Hunt said. The books’ title character, Queen Iween, is an animated “Queen Bee,” the host of the book series who introduces children to different kinds of insects. The name Iween comes from Hunt’s nephew who couldn’t quite get the “r’s” in her name.

Each insect’s photo is accompanied by facts about the insect, such as “Wes the Paper Wasp.” The book says the insect is named a paper wasp as its nest is made of wood fibers and spit, which dries to look like paper.

“It’s not polite to spit unless you are Wes and you need to build your home,” Queen Iween says in the book.

Hunt said she tries to include messages to the children about not only respecting the environment and its many creatures but also about respecting differences. Queen Iween tells readers to “bee gentle, bee kind and bee wise.”

Hunt credits working with Carmel Creek first grade teacher Sue Walker to generate ideas about how to make the books interactive for children. The books end with quizzes and memory-based activities where children can put what they’ve learned to work.

“It’s just been really fun,” Hunt said. “It’s like being a kid again myself.”

“Queen Iween’s Bug Buddies” is available now on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and HuntForNature.com. The Hunts also have a growing partnership with the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. The books will be sold there and the Hunts will participate in the garden’s Lady Bug Day on April 24 doing readings from Queen Iween books.

Irene Hunt recently released the children’s book “Queen Iween’s Bug Buddies.”