History at Home: Urban Animals


Recently at Little New-Yorkers, we read a book called Urban Animals by Isabel Hill. “Urban animals,” you may think. Like rats on subway tracks? Squirrels in Central Park? Polar bears at the Bronx Zoo? None of the above. The book is about animals on buildings, of course!

Urban Animals features photographs of buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn with animals built into the architecture. It also introduces young readers to architectural vocabulary words. We meet bunnies peering down at passersby from the cornice of an old theater, dogs perching atop columns, and boars guarding stoops. Best yet, Hill includes the addresses of all the featured buildings at the back of the book, so after reading, readers can go visit the “urban animals” themselves.  I’ve now found myself looking up at buildings’ facades as I walk around the Museum’s Upper West Side neighborhood. So far I’ve spotted dragons and snakes. What urban animals can you find in your neighborhood?

After reading the book, we made our own buildings with architectural animals. You can make a building too by following these simple steps.


-1 recycled box. Tissue boxes work great.

-Multi-colored construction paper: enough to cover at least 5 sides of your box

Urban Animals photographs (download here)

-Child safety scissors

-Glue stick


-Crayons or colored pencils

1) Download and print the Urban Animals template.


2) Align one sheet of construction paper with one side of your box. Is there overlap, like in the picture below? If so, you will have to cut it down to fit your box perfectly. Make a small mark with your pencil on the paper so you know where you will have to cut.












3) Find the mark you just made, and cut the paper so it will fit the side of your box.


4) Now, spread your glue stick onto the side of your box, and place the paper on the glue. Glide your fingers along the whole paper to ensure it sticks.











5) Repeat steps 2 through 4 for all the other sides of your box you would like decorated.










Your box should now have paper covering all the visible sides, like this.

6) Cut out the animal pictures from your Urban Animals template.


7) Decide which side of your building is the front, and which way your building should stand.  If your building is a rectangle like mine, decide if you’d like your building to be tall and skinny, or short and wide.











8) Draw a door and windows, if you’d like.

9) Decide where on your building you would like to glue your animals. Do you want them all next to each other on one side of the building? Do you want them spread out so they are on all sides? Do you want your animals towards the roof or near the ground? These are very important decisions to make.

10) Once you have made your decisions, glue your animals onto the building. Congratulations, artist! Your building is complete.

Here’s my finished product:











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