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Welcome to the Neighborwood

Welcome to the Neighborwood
Written and Illustrated by Shawn Sheehy
Published by Candlewick Press in 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6594-4
Book Review
“Animal builders are born with their own tools. “ And they use these tools, such as their teeth, beaks, or claws for various purposes: to catch food, to create shelter, to provide a safe place for their young. Shawn Sheehy’s breathtaking pop-up book illustrates a range of animal craftsmanship in full three- dimensional glory. Merging the art forms of paper making, collage, and paper engineering, Sheehy’s constructions pay homage to the ingenuity they reveal. Each double page spread features a single animal with a primary text describing the animal’s building techniques and the functions of the structure it creates. Since the animal representations are not proportional to one another across the book, a brief secondary text includes a helpful size reference, for example “At the length of a baseball bat (not counting his tail, the beaver is world’s second-largest rodent.” The last sentence of each expository section inspires the page turn by linking the animal to a neighbor in this ecosystem. The page that depicts a hummingbird perched in her woven nest concludes with,  “The sticky silk fiber that Hummingbird uses is provided by her eight legged neighbor…”  The next page then showcases that neighbor, in this case, a garden spider.  A final spread brings all these neighbors together in a single glorious upright image and provides a reminder that we, too, can serve as neighbors to and stewards of the natural world.
All Ages
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for Your Classroom
Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? This book can be used to prompt consideration of the relationships among people and animals in your local community. Invite your students to consider the connections they have locally with people beyond their family members. A concrete way to begin this conversation with younger students would be to ask them to keep a list of the people they encounter in their community over the course of a week.
More About Animal Builders. During a second reading of Welcome to the Neighborwood, keep a running list on chart paper of the animals and their construction techniques. Use survey texts, online resources, and additional books that explore animal building techniques to learn more about the construction processes of these animals. Expand your study to include animals found in different ecosystems. Older students can explore how animal builders have adapted to their environment, maximizing their chances of survival.
Building Materials and Methods. Welcome to the Neighborwood could also be used as a resource in a unit of study of construction methods. Used in a text sets that explores construction materials and methods, this title invites students to compare animal and human architecture. You might begin the comparison with a conversation about function: For what reasons do animals build structures? For what reasons do humans build structures? Expand your exploration with books and online resources, for example,  a picture book biography of Gaudi, Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi, or the wonderful poetry collection celebrating child and adult builders, Dreaming Up, or the detailed look at house construction in  Building Our House. As a culmination to this look at the methods and materials on animal and human builders, invite students to design and build a prototype for a home / shelter.
Learning About Ecosystems. Welcome to the Neighborhood is ideal for use in a Solar System model (see out Teaching with Text Sets entry) comprised of texts that focus on the interdependent relationships in an ecosystem. Suggested books that feature animal, plant, and environment relationships include: Trout Are Made of Trees, Meadowlands: AWetlands Survival Story, Planting the Wild Garden, and No Monkeys No Chocolate. Create a note maker or graphic organizer to help students map out the connections in these habitats / ecosystems.
Study of the Pop-Up Book. Gather together a collection of Pop-Up Books for a study of the form of the Pop-Up Book. Invite students to discuss the variations in genre, medium, text design and text structures, paper engineering techniques that they discover through and examination of a range of books. If you have more time, conduct author/illustrator studies, asking students to work in small groups to look more closely a the work of studies of author/illustrators who use this art form, including Robert Sabuda, David A. Carter, Robert Crowther, and Matthew Reinhart (see Further Resources for links to their websites). Guide students to develop evaluation criteria for Pop Up books – What makes a good Pop Up book? This activity will likely inspire your students to create their own!
Paper Engineering. Bring in a collection of Pop Up books and invite students to examine the paper engineering, making a list of what they notice about the physical construction of the books. What techniques do paper engineers use to make two dimensional paper into a three dimensional structure? What shapes can be made? How many layers are possible? How is movement created? Engage the students in hands on explorations of these techniques, fostering conversations about the physics, geometry, and measurement involved. Guidance for this activity is available through YouTube videos on the construction of Pop-Up books and the How To Guides listed in the Further Explorations section.
Paper Artists. Explore the work of picture book illustrators who use paper as the primary media for the art – creating images through techniques such as collage, paper pulp painting, paper cutting, and paper engineering. Along with a selection of PopUp book illustrators, include artists such as Steve Jenkins, Laura Vacarro Seeger, Petr Horacek, Denise Fleming, Giles LaRoche, and David Wisniewski. Invite your students to try these different techniques enhancing a written text with paper art.
Using 3-D to Teach. Engage students in a conversation of how the images in Welcome to the Neighborwood help us to visualize these animals and to understand them as builders in their environment. Watch the TED Ed Talk in which a pop-up book combined with animation is used to discuss the movement of tectonic plates. Consider other examples of how 3D representations may failitate understanding, for example, an animated image of the earth’s rotation and orbit or more simply, a globe as compared to a map. Work collaboratively with art and technology specialists to guide students through a project in wich they create a teaching tool that is a 3D representation of some kind.
An Artist’s Book. Welcome to the Neighborwood was initially created as an “Artist’s Book” before being published by Candlewick as a trade book. Unpack the definition provided by Johanna Drucker: “A book which integrates the formal means of its realization and production with its thematic or aesthetic issues.” Explore examples of Artist’s Books on Shawn Sheehy’s website and that of The Center for Book Arts. Along with a teacher at a grade level different than your own (to create cross-age collaboration), plan a book-making workshop in which younger and older students will work collaboratively to create an Artist’s Book that has been fully planned, drafted, revised, and co-constructed. Invite families and community members to view the final products.
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Candlewick Press: Welcome to the Neighborwood: Resources for Teachers
You Tube Video of Book Interior
Carroll University: Book Art with Shawn Sheehy
The Center for Book Arts
ABC3D Pop-Up Book You Tube Video
TED Ed: The Pangaea Pop-up – Michael Molina
Bringing a Pop-Up Book to Life
The Artist’s Book as Idea and Form
Pop-Up Books Artists:
Robert Sabuda
David A. Carter
Kelli Anderson: A Video Profile
Robert Crowther
Matthew Reinhart
Children’s Book Illustrators Who Use Paper as Their Medium:
Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Petr Horacek
David Wisniewski (presented by Kay Vandergrift)
Steve Jenkins
Denise Fleming
Giles LaRoche
Barton, C. (2005). The pocket paper engineer: How to make pop-ups step-by-step. Popular Kinetics Press.
Bean, J. (2013). Building our house. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.
Galbraith, K.O. (2011). Planting the wild garden. Ill. by W.A. Halperin. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers.
Hale, C. (2012). Dreaming up: A celebration of building. New York: Lee & Low.
Irvine, J. (1992) How to make super pop-ups. Dover Publications.
Jackson, P. (2011). Folding techniques for designers: From sheet to form. London: Laurence King Publishers.
Kalman, B. (2015). How and why animals build homes. New York: Crabtree Publishing.
Rodriguez, R. (2009). Building on nature: The life of Antoni Gaudi. Ill. by J. Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.
Sayre, A.P. (2008) Trout are made of trees. Ill. by. K. Endle. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
Stewart, M. (2013). No monkeys no chocolate. Ill. by N. Wong. Cambridge, MA: Charlesbridge.
Yezerski, T.F. (2011). Meadowlands: A wetlands survival story. New York: Farrar Straus, Giroux.

Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.


  1. We used this book (and a guest appearance by the author) to inspire a writing project with our students. The students made paper, wrote a cinquain poem about an animal, and then used the paper to create the animals habitat in popup format (during Art class). The students were very motivated in each stage of this process and the results are fabulous!

  2. Our third graders used this book (and a visit from the author) to inspire a creative writing project. The students visited with the author, made paper, wrote an animal cinquain, and then used the paper to create the animal and its habitat in pop-up format (during Art Class). The students were super motivated throughout the process and the results were fabulous!

  3. Jocelyn, this sounds like a wonderful experience. Thank you for reading The Classroom Bookshelf and for adding to our teaching ideas!