August 31, 2021 By Julie Turner

Author and Illustrator Shares Joys of Neighborhood in Book

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country in 2020, the self-isolation turned into an unexpected creative outlet for Paradise Valley Estates resident Renee McKnight. The 90-year-old, who originally hails from Brooklyn, New York, wrote, illustrated and self-published a children’s book: “Whoooo Lives in the Neighborhood.”

“I was outside walking my dog every day and one day I just felt I had to write down something about all the little animals that live here,” she says. “My dog and I would observe so many. The little animals — squirrels, rabbits and frogs — around us left such an impression on me. One day I just started writing.”

With her spark of inspiration, Renee spent about two months writing, editing and illustrating her book. Her daughter-in-law helped her arrange the stories and illustrations that Renee painted into an organized layout for printing. It took them about three to four months to finish it.

Renee, who is not a professional writer and only began painting in her 80s, says the point of her book was to share something happy — a message she believes can resonate with both children and adults. “We look at these small creatures day in and day out and don’t always appreciate that they are living here with us and through the pandemic, too,” she says. “It gave me inspiration to share that we can appreciate nature more.”

Renee printed 100 copies of her book, donated them to Paradise Valley Estates, and hosted a book signing fundraiser at the Life Plan Community in July. For a donation to one of the community’s charities, she inscribed the book and shared her joyful message with another happy reader.


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