A young beachcomber learns about ownership—and friendship.
Elena is a bright red tapir who loves collecting shells. Adorning a tall pile of sand on the beach, her collection resembles a colorful array of Christmas tree ornaments. One day, “right in the middle of her lunch,” one of her shells runs away. Thinking quickly, Elena yells, “SHARK!!” and the shell stops dead in its tracks, right on the edge of the water. When Elena picks up the shell, out plops an orange hermit crab with enormous eyes. Even after the crab explains that the shell is his home, Elena turns her back and walks away with it. But back home, she begins to worry about the crab, “all alone and with no shell to hide in.” Elena rushes back to the shore to find the crab, who’s been hiding inside a cluster of rocks, and gives him back his shell, along with a sincere apology. The crab squeaks out a “Thank you!” and returns to the safety of his shell. Elena still has a large collection of shells, and now she has friends—a whole slew of hermit crabs—to share her treasures with. Both Elena’s selfishness and her later remorse are entirely believable. Robbins’ bright, childlike illustrations and minimal text match the sweet simplicity of her tale. Both tapir and hermit crab are adorable.
An important lesson deftly delivered. (Picture book. 3-5)