childhood urbanism: remembering Neighbor Flap Foot

Yes, I know that the authors of the Planetizen-based children’s book, Where Things are From Near to Far found my childhood idol lacking, noting how my favorite frog was outdated and “really trumpeted zoning as the ‘be all and end all’ of the development of cities”.

After all, the perceived shortcomings of the 1952 Neighbor Flap Foot, The City Planning Frog helped motivate Steins and Halbur to produce their own book on urban planning for children in 2008.

But those of us who grew up as children of urban planning professors, the words of of an obscure frog from long ago resonate anew in the age of compact development.

Consider the closing exercise in the book, after Flap Foot says goodbye for the winter:

Perhaps you and a group of your friends could plan ways to improve your neighborhood. You might want to build a model neighborhood, using boxes for houses , stores and other buildings. Draw BEFORE and AFTER pictures. Take BEFORE and AFTER snapshots of places in the neighborhood that you could work together to improve.

Do neighbors meet in your school in the evening? For fun and social affairs? Make a list of the places in your neighborhood where people can meet. Do you have playgrounds within a five-minute walk from your house? Are they safe enough for a little four-year old to reach by himself?

See if your COULD BE neighborhood has all that Flap Foot told Mickey a good neighborhood should have.

–Ewald and Henrickson, Neighbor Flap Foot, the City Planning Frog

Indeed, it could be that Neighbor Flap Foot will stage a comeback in the New Year.

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