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Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey
     

Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey

by Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker, Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
 

Being inside one of Grandma Prisbrey's houses was like being inside a rainbow or a kaleidoscope or a jewel.

A vibrant portrait of American visionary artist Grandma Prisbrey

The walls of Grandma Prisbrey's houses glowed and glittered with color because she made them out of bottles. Large and small, fancy and plain, Grandma Prisbrey salvaged

Overview

Being inside one of Grandma Prisbrey's houses was like being inside a rainbow or a kaleidoscope or a jewel.

A vibrant portrait of American visionary artist Grandma Prisbrey

The walls of Grandma Prisbrey's houses glowed and glittered with color because she made them out of bottles. Large and small, fancy and plain, Grandma Prisbrey salvaged every bottle she could find.

Soon people started calling Grandma Prisbrey an artist. "I can't even draw a car that looks like one," she said. "But I guess there are different kinds of art." Lush and lyrical, this is an evocative introduction to the world of visionary, or untrained, art.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title character's Bottle Village is a real place, and this spirited biography-Slaymaker's debut-describes its creation and its resourceful creator. Readers observe Grandma Prisbrey as she covers her scant third of an acre with eccentric, captivating structures built of glass bottles (which made her an unwitting hero both to folk art enthusiasts and to environmentalists). "What some people throw away," says Grandma Prisbrey, "I could wear to church." In matter-of-fact prose, Slaymaker recalls Grandma Prisbrey's unconventional early life traveling with her family in a trailer-even then she was a collector. When the woman decides to settle down, she soon realizes that the city dump and its thousands of bottles could provide her with building material: "all she had to buy was cement to hold them together." Fun asides offer insight into the heroine's offbeat humor ("A dairy inspector told me it's against the law to use milk bottles for anything but milk, so I quit using those.... I've got plenty without them"). Taking a cue from the woman's kaleidoscopic architecture, Paschkis renders Grandma Prisbrey's village in a series of multi-textured patchwork planes studded with gem-like reds, greens and blues. The mosaic motif extends as far as the skirts of visitors and the wings of butterflies. The actual photographs of the village in the final two-page afterword almost pale beside Paschkis's versions. Young readers who, like Grandma Prisbrey, "can't draw a car that looks like one," will be cheered by her off-handed reaction to her reputation as an artist: "I guess there are different kinds of art." Ages 5-9. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The amazing creations of Tresa Prisbey (better known as Grandma Prisbey) are brought to life in this illustrated biography. The book opens with a picture of what it looks like inside one of her Grandma Prisbey's creations and explains how her colorful houses were made of glass bottles. Her pencil-collecting hobby is described first, and how her desire to have a place to display the collection inspired her to make a small village. By using materials from the local dump, mostly glass bottles, and cement, Grandma Prisbey created small houses, chapels, birdbaths, and wishing wells. Her fondness for colorful things inspired her to dye her cats various colors with vegetable dyes. The bottle village became so famous that Grandma Prisbey had to make colorful sidewalks for people to walk on. The book closes with some photographs and an update on bottle village. This enchanting story about a unique artist will inspire children to create their own works of art. Paschkis's lively illustrations convey the energy and color of Grandma Prisbey's creations and her life. 2004, Henry Holt, Ages 6 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5-From trash to treasure, this is the story of how visionary 20th-century artist Grandma (Tressa) Prisbrey built Bottle Village in Simi Valley, CA. Ostensibly begun to house her extensive pencil collection, the village grew to include a chapel, a pyramid of headlights, and a round house (with a round bed, dresser, and mirror inside). Prisbrey used bottles retrieved from a nearby dump, mixed with cement, to create her remarkable structures. On her trips there, she also amassed a huge doll collection, which she built a house for, and other materials that she used in her structures. As the number of visitors grew, she constructed a sidewalk from broken tiles and other found objects, including a license plate, bottle caps, and buttons. Appropriately, Paschkis's artwork glows with color, just as the bottles that formed the village are described as sparkling and glowing. The bright gouache illustrations float against white backgrounds, giving them a folk-art quality. Curving flowers and flying birds convey a sense of movement and energy that complements the lively text. Direct quotes from Prisbrey add immediacy to the narrative. Photographs of Bottle Village and a short biography are appended. The idea of making something beautiful and unique from what others see as worthless has innate child appeal. This lovely book introduces youngsters to an artist and type of art that may be completely unknown to them.-Robin L. Gibson, formerly at Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
California folk-, visionary-, outsider-, or just plain artist Tressa Prisbrey left behind a "village" of houses, walls, monuments, and pavements constructed from thousands of bottles and other castoffs. Here, she and her work get appreciative profiles from Paschkis, who portrays a spry elder in casual clothes and quirky bonnets surrounded by glorious, color-coordinated displays that glow like geometric ranks of gems, and Slaymaker's plain spoken insights: "But Grandma Prisbrey wasn't a regular sort of person who did things in a regular sort of way." Capped by Grandma's own cogent observation that her drawing skills might not be worth a hoot, but "there are different kinds of art," and closing with a spread of color photos and further information about her Bottle Village, this joins the likes of Patricia Zelver's Wonderful Towers of Watts (1994) and Jan Greenberg's and Sandra Jordan's Action Jackson (2002) in exploring some of the distinctively individual ways the urge to create has expressed itself. (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805071313
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
04/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.38(w) x 10.32(h) x 0.36(d)
Lexile:
AD850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker was inspired to write this book by a visit to Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village in California. Ms. Slaymaker lives with her husband and daughter in Knoxville, Tennessee. This is her first book for children.

Julie Paschkis visited Bottle Village before starting this book. A painter and illustrator of several highly acclaimed books, she lives and works in Seattle, Washington.

Visit Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker and Julie Paschkis at their websites:

http://www.meslaymaker.com and http://www.juliepaschkis.com

For more information on The Bottle Village visit theIR Web site at: http://echomatic.home.mindspring.com/bv

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