Trying to find a new a new home, a hermit crab encounters too much trash in this understated story of environmental activism by debut author/illustrator Johnston.
One morning, Sid the hermit crab wakes up to discover he has outgrown his shell. Eager to find a new home, he makes his way down the shallow water to look for shells. What he discovers instead are “some very strange looking shells”—a shoe, cans, a milk carton, a calculator, and all sorts of human garbage. In a series of humorous illustrations, accompanied by Sid’s commentary, he discovers that while these strange shells look appealing, they don’t work very well for a hermit crab. When he explores a human foot, wondering how he might find a way inside for his new home, the foot moves and Sid scrambles for safety. Luckily for Sid, the human is a beachcomber collecting garbage from the shallow waters, and as the garbage vanishes, the natural shells of the beach are uncovered. While Johnston’s message about littering and keeping the beach and waterways clean is clear, there’s no mandate for readers because the story is offered from Sid’s detached perspective. Instead, young readers are given the chance to discover the message on their own: if they take good care of the water, then creatures like Sid will have better homes. Johnston’s illustrations are simple but delightful. Hermit crabs aren’t the most appealing of creatures, but Sid, with his lively eyes, is easy to embrace, and Johnston manages to give plenty of expression to a creature without a recognizable face. Some of the writing and punctuation can come across as a little strange—“ ‘What are these?’ Sid exclaimed!”—but those moments are easy enough for adults to ignore as they read aloud. Newly independent readers may find the choices more troubling, though they’ll be able to handle the vocabulary without too much trouble.
Young readers will root for Sid to find his new home while cheering for the human environmentalist who helps his mission by picking up garbage.