"Time to move," said Hermit Crab one day in January. "I've grown too big for this little shell."
He had felt safe and snug in his shell. But now it was too snug. Hermit Crab stepped out of the shell and onto the floor of the ocean. But it was frightening out in the open sea without a shell to hide in.
"What if a big fish comes along and attacks me?" he thought. "I must find a new house soon."
Early in February, Hermit Crab found just the house he was looking for. It was a big shell, and strong. He moved right in, wriggling and waggling about inside it to see how it felt.
It felt just right.
"But it looks so - well, so plain," thought Hermit Crab.
In March, Hermit Crab met some sea anemones. They swayed gently back and forth in the water.
"How beautiful you are!" said Hermit Crab. "Would one of you be willing to come and live on my house? It is so plain, it needs you."
"I'll come," whispered a small sea anemone.
Gently, Hermit Crab picked it up with his claw and put it on his shell.
In April, Hermit Crab passed a flock of starfish moving slowly along the sea floor.
"How handsome you are!" said Hermit Crab.
"Would one of you be willing to decorate my house?"
"I would," signalled a little sea star.
Carefully, Hermit Crab picked it up with his claw and put it on his house.
In May, Hermit Crab discovered some coral. They were hard and didn't move.
"How pretty you are!" said Hermit Crab.
"Would one of you be willing to help make my house more beautiful?"
"I would," creaked a crusty coral.
Gingerly, Hermit Crab picked it up with his claw and placed it on his shell.
In June, Hermit Crab came to a group of snails crawling over a rock on the ocean floor. They grazed as they went, picking up algae and bits of debris, and leaving a neat path behind them.
"How tidy and hard-working you are!" said Hermit Crab. "Would one of you be willing to come and help clean my house?"
"I would," offered one of the snails.
Happily, Hermit Crab picked it up with his claw and placed it on his shell.
In July, Hermit Crab came upon several sea urchins.
They had sharp, prickly needles.
"How fierce you look!" said Hermit Crab. "Would one of you be willing to protect my house?"
"I would," answered a spiky sea urchin.
Gratefully, Hermit Crab picked it up with his claw and placed it near his shell.
In August, Hermit Crab and his friends wandered into a forest of seaweed. "It's so dark here," thought Hermit Crab.
"How dim it is," murmured the sea anemone.
"How gloomy it is," whispered the starfish.
"How murky it is," complained the coral.
"I can't see!" said the snail.
"It's like nighttime!" cried the sea urchin.
In September, Hermit Crab spotted a school of lanternfish darting through the dark water.
"How bright you are!" said Hermit Crab.
"Would one of you be willing to light up our house?"
"I would," replied one lanternfish. And it swam over near the shell.
In October, Hermit Crab approached a pile of smooth pebbles.
"How sturdy you are!" said Hermit Crab. "Would you mind if I rearranged you?"
"Not at all," answered the pebbles.
Hermit Crab picked them up one by one with his claw and built a wall around his shell.
"Now my house is perfect!" cheered Hermit Crab.
But in November, Hermit Crab felt that his shell seemed a bit too small. Little by little, over the year, Hermit Crab had grown. Soon he would have to find another, bigger home.
But he had come to love his friends, the sea anemone, the starfish, the coral, the sea urchin, the snail, the lanternfish, and even the smooth pebbles.
"They have been so good to me," thought Hermit Crab. "They are like a family. How can I ever leave them?"
In December, a smaller hermit crab passed by.
"I have outgrown my shell," she said. "Would you know of a place for me?"
"I have outgrown my house, too," answered Hermit Crab. "I must move on. You are welcome to live here - but you must promise to be good to my friends."
"I promise," said the little crab.
The following January, Hermit Crab stepped out and the little crab moved in.
"Couldn't stay in that little shell forever," said Hermit Crab as he waved goodbye.
The ocean floor looked wider than he had remembered, but Hermit Crab wasn't afraid. Soon he spied the perfect house - a big, empty shell. It looked, well, plain, but...
"Sponges!" he thought.
"Barnacles! Clown fish! Sand dollars! Electric eels. Oh, there are so many possibilities! I can't wait to get started!"
Excerpted from the book A HOUSE FOR HERMIT CRAB, by Eric Carle. Copyright 1987, by Eric Carle Corp. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.
Pub Date: 5/17/98