I never thought I’d be smitten by a counting book. And I’m still not smitten by a counting book, because FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN is so much more than that.
It’s an ode to nature, a prayer, a salute, a love letter, a bedtime lullaby—all in the guise of a counting book.
First the love letter signed by the author, Vivian Kirkfield, and the illustrator, Mirka Hokkanen.
Every line in this book is a love letter to the natural world. Through specificity of language and image, the interplay of poet and artist.
in a chorus of bird song.
ONE willow flycatcher whistles
as the night slips silently away.”
Let those words flow over and around you like water. And let the wood-engraved images shimmer. The colors are so delicate, photos don’t do them justice.
Further along, two dragonflies dance, a school of bonytail chub feed in a frenzy, three kit foxes tiptoe, four otters toboggan….and so on throughout the day until we reach ten. Each image, each stanza filled with reverence for the natural world. But then—
A silver sliver hangs
in the night sky.
Dreaming of the promise
of tomorrow’s sunrise,
See what happened there? We’ve come full circle through a day, and realize that this glorious world will be here for us when we awaken. But even more than that, our world will continue on long past the time we are here to witness its magnificence.
The cool colors selected for the images are delicate and soothing. Even the end papers with their insects climbing blades of grass are finely wrought. I’ve never read a more exquisite counting book.
Vivian also includes a glossary describing each species in much more detail, a “Did You Also Spot” grid of animal images for kids to go back through the pages to find, and an age-appropriate description of endangered species classifications. So many reasons to love this book! It can be used in the classroom or at home to foster an appreciation for nature, serve as a mentor text for writing poetry, and to calm those bedtime/naptime heebie-jeebies. Oh, and it can also be used as a counting book.
Cut out pictures from old magazines to make a collage of animals. Older children can group them by ecosystem/habitat.
For older children, use this book as a mentor text for writing poetry. Find places in the text where alliteration, metaphor, or other poetic language is used. Write poems about water or animals that create different kinds of emotions.
Play animal trivia games at this World WIldlife Fund website.
Find more teaching resources at the World Wildlife Fund.
TITLE: Four Otters Toboggan
AUTHOR: Vivian Kirkfield
Illustrator: Mirka Hokkanen
Publisher: Pomegranate Kids, 2019
Ages: Preschool-1st grade
Themes: nature, counting, poetry
For more perfect picture books, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.