48 Grasshopper Estates
48 Grasshopper Estates
Sicily Bridges lived at 48 Grasshopper Estates.
In all her years there, she had never seen one grasshopper, or, come to think of it, any grass.
That was alright with Sicily. She could make them herself.
Sicily Bridges is a little girl who is adept at finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Ever resourceful and industrious, she can “make almost anything”. While others merely see a discarded coconut milk carton, in Sicily’s crafty hands it becomes “a getaway boat that could sail right across the ocean.” She finds inspiration everywhere and enthusiastically jots down all of her new ideas. Taking a second look at her brainstorming notes, the only child reckons that a submarine requires a crew; a fancy unicorn castle would be hard to defend all by herself; and a supersonic-sandwich maker might whip up more snacks than she could consume alone. Realizing something is missing from her to-do list, she adds another key project: “a friend.”
In her apartment, Sicily gets busy fashioning little friends out of odds and ends, like a blue glove, cotton balls, and a garden hose. These charmingly homemade dolls have plenty of personality, including “a friend with ears so big he could hear snails talking at the bottom of the ocean” and “a friend with four very fine toes.” After hosting a tea party with her new friends, Sicily looks out her balcony window. Seeing her elderly neighbour eating alone sparks an idea. With the help of her babysitter, Mrs. Rubenstein, Sicily plays matchmaker and delivers acts of kindness to her diverse neighbours.
Erika Medina’s inviting, detailed illustrations warmly capture everyday life in an urban apartment building and convey a sense of community. Wordless spreads show Sicily collecting castoff treasures from a free box in the lobby and in the recycling room. Her path frequently crosses that of a little boy who is new to the building, but they are engrossed in their individual maker-space activities and don’t notice each other at first. Clever split panel illustrations show the two children in different apartments but having parallel creative adventures – they are both separate and together. Kindred spirits with simpatico interests have a way of finding each other, and when the boy’s spaceship project is grounded, Sicily knocks on his door with the offer of a spare “blaster-offer”, and they embark on a companionable joy ride to Mars.
The power of uninterrupted play is celebrated in this dynamic picture book. The adults in Sicily’s life give her the freedom to follow her interests and experiment with projects at her own pace. There’s an understanding that play is serious learning: “‘An excellent choice,’ said Mrs. Rubenstein, and she left Sicily Bridges to do her work.” This reassuring, supportive guidance, without a whiff of micromanaging, allows the child to develop her self-confidence. The strong storyline also realistically shows how failure is a part of the creative process.
48 Grasshopper Estates is a welcoming invitation to build, to imagine, to wonder, to create, to be alone and to enjoy the company of others.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.