Show Me How! with Vivian Kirkfield and Four Otters Toboggan

Yay! Kidlit author and friend Vivian Kirkfield is back for part two in her three-part series of Show Me How! posts right here on Frog on a Blog. Last week, she featured her picture book Pippa’s Passover Plate. Vivian shared a summary of the book, followed by a Positive Parental Participation Note, then a craft, and finally, a recipe, just like she does in her book Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. (For more information about Show Me How! and to read my review, click HERE.) 

Today, we continue the fun and learning with Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book. Read on!

Thank you so much, Lauri, for giving me space on Frog on a Blog again. …I wanted to speak for a moment about the writing journey that many of us are on. It’s not an easy trail to follow…there are twists and turns and boulders that sometimes block the way. Your critique buddies weigh in on your manuscript and you wonder which advice to take…which suggestions to implement. If you send your stories out to agents and/or editors, many may be rejected. Sometimes you don’t even find out because they don’t send a response. But I want everyone to know that I truly believe if you are passionate about being a picture book/children’s book writer, then please, don’t give up. The Only Failure is the Failure to Keep Trying.

Let me share what happened with Four Otters Toboggan. I wrote it back in 2013…it was called ‘Visitors to Deep Pool’ then. I revised it dozens of times with the help of my critique buddies. I sent it out…an agent responded: this is pure poetry…so beautiful…but not for me. UGH! Then after I signed with my agent Essie, she sent it out…numerous times…and editors kept passing on it. One editor wrote: This is the most beautiful lyrical language I’ve ever read. I got lost in the musicality of the words. Every child should have a copy of this book. But sorry, it’s a bit too quiet for my list.


But we didn’t give up and, finally, an editor fell in love with it and thought it was perfect for his list. That’s the thing. This business is so subjective…and our stories have to find their way to the person who falls in love with them.

I was lucky because my agent sent some art samples from one of her illustrator clients along with the manuscript. The editor loved the pairing and signed Mirka Hokkanen to do the pictures. The publication process was lovely, and I got to see early sketches. Mirka and I and the Pomegranate team collaborated in an effort to create a book that is beautiful to the ear, and features STEM back matter that makes it a must have for early primary school classrooms.

four otters cover

SHOW ME HOW!: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book

SUMMARY: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, April 2019), illustrated by Mirka Hokkanen, is a counting book that introduces kids to ten endangered animals who visit a pristine river where the character of the water changes as quickly as a young child’s moods. Filled with lyrical text and modern woodcuts, we see dragonflies dancing, ballerinas on a liquid stage, river otters tobogganing down a mudslide, and mud turtles stretching their necks as day turns into dusk and the mountains swallow the sun.

*Positive Parental Participation Note: Encourage children to get involved with saving the planet. Small steps like not running the water while brushing teeth will save precious energy…and using canvas shopping bags will cut down on the plastic that pollutes the oceans and endangers sea creatures.

CRAFT ACTIVITY: Make Animal Finger Puppets

All you need is a piece of paper, a pair of scissors, glue, and markers or crayons. For detailed instructions:

For simpler instructions:

  1. Cut a small square of paper that fits around one finger when you roll it up and apply glue so that it stays rolled in a cylinder.
  2. Draw a separate small circle that will be the head of the animal (otter, fox, etc.) or the shape of a butterfly or a fish.
  3. Add features to the circle or shape…eyes, nose, whiskers, or markings on the butterfly or scales on the fish.
  4. Glue the circle or shape near the top of the cylinder.
  5. Make several so that you and your child can role play as endangered animals. 


Kids love to help in the kitchen…and there is so much learning that can go on there. Science, Math, Geography, History, Problem Solving…the list goes on and on. Why not make some healthful trail mix to take along on a woodland walk as you look for animals in the ‘wild’…even a day at the playground can yield birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and all types of insects and bugs to the observant child.

Combine your favorite nuts and seeds and dried fruits…almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.

Mix well and store in airtight containers or zip-lock bags.

Easy-peasy for kids to help make!

Now I think I need to mix up a batch because I’m hungry for something healthy! And I just might take a bag of this along with me when I go to my upcoming book events. I’ll be at Paul Reynolds’ Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA on Saturday, June 1 at 1pm for a story-time, reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK and also SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. And then I’ll be flying to Chicago the next day and will be at Andersons Bookstore in La Grange, IL on June 8 at 11am for their story hour, sharing OTTERS and SARAH. I hope if any of your readers are in either of those areas, they will COME ON DOWN to say hello and spread the word to friends who have children.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Lauri!

So glad you were able to stop in again, Vivian!


Writer for children – reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. She’s got a bucket list that contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she is not looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books that she hopes will encourage young kids to become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New Hampshire town of Amherst where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. You can visit Vivian on her website, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge every March. Or connect with her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest, InstagramLinkedin, and just about anywhere people are playing with picture books.

Coming up next week: Post number three in Vivian’s Show Me How! three-part series. She’ll be sharing a fun craft and delicious cooking activity for her book Sweet Dreams, Sarah. Stay tuned!