May 28, 2021

48 Grasshopper Estates

Written by Sara de Waal
Illustrated by Erika Medina
Annick Press
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
April 2021
Like walking through a new neighbourhood, checking out the houses and apartments, shops and services, heading to 48 Grasshopper Estates is an eye-opener of community, seeing the people who live there and make a home with their neighbours. But it's also about the children of 48 Grasshopper Estates, separate in their apartments, but united in common tasks, even if they don't know it.
From 48 Grasshopper Estates by Sara de Waal, illus. by Erika Medina
Sicily Bridges, who lives at 48 Grasshopper Estates, is a maker. She is a maker of cookies, music, crafts and imaginative play. In the care of Mrs. Rubenstein, after Sicily's mother has gone off to work with a "skirt swish, forehead kiss," Sicily begins writing down her ideas for the day's creations: a lake submarine, a unicorn castle, a spaceship with a built-in supersonic sandwich maker. But all her ideas tell her to add one more thing she'll need to make today: a friend.
From 48 Grasshopper Estates by Sara de Waal, illus. by Erika Medina
Focused on her making, Sicily is oblivious to a little boy and his family who have just moved into 48 Grasshopper Estates. As she gathers materials on the street, in the garbage and recycling area and elsewhere, he too scours his new home for bits and bobs.
Since one of her tasks today is to make a friend, Sicily creates them, including a fuzzy one, a freckle-speckled friend, one with four toes, one with big ears, and another with too-big pants. She makes even more friends, imaging them all to be lovers of soup, unlike Sicily who prefers a peanut butter and cheese sandwich for lunch. Meanwhile, the little boy works tirelessly on his own creation, solo.

Sadly Sicily's friends will be unable to accompany her in her spaceship to Mars as they are all afraid of heights. So she decides to give her friends to her neighbours, matching them with the attributes she has observed in each.
From 48 Grasshopper Estates by Sara de Waal, illus. by Erika Medina
Now devoid of her created-friends, Sicily sees a box of materials outside one apartment door. With a knock on a door and an introductory question, a collaboration is made and Sicily ticks more than one item off her maker list.

BC author Sara de Waal also ticks all the right boxes with her story of imaginative play and friendship. There are so many positives of a young girl who loves to make stuff and dream stuff up and who uses her community as fodder for her creations, whether it be the materials she can uncover or the inspiration for them. With the right bits, Sicily can create just about anything because her imagination tells her she can. She thinks outside the box and is encouraged by Mrs. Rubinstein to do so. Still when she decides that none of her newly-made friends will be able to accompany her to Mars because of their acrophobia, those creations are the means by which she truly does make friends, creating a positive impact on others and for herself.

This self-confidence of childhood exploits is affirmed by Erika Medina's illustrations of diverse and engaged characters who collect, construct, observe and interact. Her gouache artwork boldly invites the reader to peek into the worlds of a painter or a dog-walker, of the elderly and the children who turn visions into tangible projects. There is life in this neighbourhood of 48 Grasshopper Estates which feeds itself and creates more community.

The story of 48 Grasshopper Estates may be about a little girl who imagines and engineers and meets a friend and collaborator because of those enthusiasms but it's important to see beyond the obvious that opening oneself up to possibilities, including people, is what is truly creative.

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