Duck Duck Book

8 – bottle houses
01.19.2005, 12:02 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

Bottle houses : the creative world of Grandma Prisbrey / Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker ; illustrated by Julie Paschkis.
New York : Henry Holt, 2004.
[MCL call number: Juvenile Easy Fact Books j745.092 P959s 2004 Beginning Facts; 16 copies, no holds]

When I was a little girl, six or seven years old, my stepfather Geoffrey and his friend Robert took me with them to visit a very weird lady who lived in the middle of nowhere between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. This lady, Grandma Prisbrey (her first name is Tressa, but I was introduced to her as "Grandma") spent about 20 years building a home for herself out of things she got at the dump. She built planters and walls and walkways, but the most memorable of her creations are more than a dozen little houses, mostly made out of bottles. She laid the bottles in mortar like bricks or stones, and then filled her houses with different things she'd collected, many of them things she found at the dump. One house is filled with pencils, another with dolls, and so on. Obviously this was a very memorable outing for me.

A few weeks ago I was at work and helping a patron find a book they were looking for. I have no idea what that book was, but I do know that I did a very sloppy keyword search (bad librarian!), and among the results was this book. Wow, I thought, here's something out of my childhood being reproduced for other children.

The book itself is kind of mediocre, though still worth a look-see. It has somewhat evocative but fairly dorky illustrations, and the story is uninspired. But it does present a nice narrative of Prisbrey's life, and at the back there are photographs of Grandma Prisbrey's place, a picture of her, and a terse biography, along with information about the preservation of her work (which was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1994) presently being undertaken by the Preserve Bottle Village Committee.

I think it might be more worthwhile to go and actually visit the place, but perhaps it's a bit out of your range? I don't know.


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