Friday, June 19, 2009

Hero Hermit: The Hermit Crab by Carter Goodrich

The hermit crab in this story didn't set out to be a hero. And he wasn't particularly brave.

He was actually very shy. Whenever all the neighbors would get together, the hermit crab was happy to linger just out of sight.

It's no surprise that the hermit crab is reticent. After all, hiding inside cast-off crustaceans' exoskeletons is his chief talent.

But even a cautious little crustacean has an eye for the extraordinary found object, and when a bizarre but strangely beautiful hollow object floats down from the surface, he has to close in for a look. The upper body of a purple toy action figure comes to rest on the ocean bottom, and the little crab is intrigued enough to crawl right inside the fancy new shell. "It's even got moving parts!" he says to himself.

But just as he is getting comfortable in his new plastic home, a mysterious wooden box, emitting a most appetizing essence, floats down to flatten a flounder on the sea bottom. The local crabs, shrimp, lobster, and bluefish are afraid to approach the odd object, but the little hermit crab, now incognito inside his new purple shell, is drawn by the delicious smell straight to the trap, just at the moment when the fishermen above decide to raise it to the surface. The flounder is freed, as if by the magical power of the mysterious purple object, and the denizens of the deep have a new idol.

"That," cried a lobster, "that is our brave champion, our HERO, come to save us!"

But the attention is too much for the self-effacing little crustacean, who slips away to find his old shell, leaving the heroic purple action figure for his neighbors to reverence, while he himself escapes to enjoy his return to anonymity.

In his newest, The Hermit Crab, noted artist Carter Goodrich illustrates his simple little tale with some of the most beautiful undersea illustrations since David Wiesner's Flotsam (Caldecott Medal Book). Executed in wonderful soft watercolors and muted colored pencil blues and greens, the backgrounds are entrancing, while the expressive faces of the sea creatures form a comic counterpoint to the elegance of the scene.



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