Illustrations by Vesna Borcic

Sam needed a shell.

Not long ago Sam had looked
like a flat bug with big eyes.
Now his eyes were small balls
on the end of two stems.
Long red feelers waved beside them.
Sam had two blue striped walking legs
on each side of two wide claws.
These were all on the front end of his body.
The back of Sam’s little body was like
a soft curved worm.

That was where he needed the shell.
But hermit crabs like Sam do not grow shells.
They have to find empty ones in which to live.

Sam poked his mother
with one of his claws.

But all she did was wave
her eyes back and forth.

She seemed to say,
"Go on and look.
All hermit crabs find
their own shells."

His brother had
a new black shell.
That is, it was new
for him.
Where had his brother
found it?

Sam wished he knew.

Sam looked around the
tide pool.
It was full of hermit crabs like himself.
They all had shells.
His mother had
an old snail shell.
It had been worn shiny by the moving sand.

Sam watched one hermit crab come out of a shell.

The crab brushed some grains of sand out of the shell, then got back into it.

He took hold
of the crab’s leg.
But the other crab
could fight.
He didn't want
to lose his shell.
He pinched Sam
and poked him
with all four legs.
Sam gave up.

This was not a good way to get a shell.

Now I have found
my shell,
thought Sam.

He gave the shell a poke.
He tried to tip it over.

The shell moved a little.
Something gray
came out of it.
Two feelers popped out.
There were two eyes
at the bottom of the feelers.

Oh! Oh! This was not
an empty shell.

Sam ran all around
the tide pool.
He climbed over
little rocks.
He looked under the water plants.
He saw worms and starfish but no empty snail shell.
It was like a little hat.
Sam tried to back into it but it did not fit.

It was not the right shape for a hermit crab.

Sam needed a rest.
He found a hole
between some rocks.
He backed into it.
He closed his wide claws in front of him to make
a door.

He had a good rest.

But something made
Sam wake up.
He was moving back
and forth.
The water was
pulling him.
Sam could feel it
moving very fast.
A storm was coming!
Sam was frightened.
The waves could throw him against the rocks.
That would hurt
his soft body.

Sam tried to push down farther between the rocks.
But it was no use.
The water was pulling too hard.
It washed him up out of his hole.
It carried him high up into the foaming waves.
Sam turned over and over.
He could see many things floating
with him in the water.
Wide ribbons of seaweed waved
and curled around him.
Other sea animals floated over him and under him.

A piece of wood bumped him.
A sharp piece of shell cut his soft back.
Once Sam saw a nice bit of fish floating near him.
But he was going too fast to catch it.
Besides, he was too frightened to be hungry!
At last the wave threw him against
the stones of the beach.

His strong legs and claws hit the ground.
They were like springs.
They did not break.
Sam lay on the beach.
He did not move.
He was tired
and his back hurt.

The next wave
was smaller.
It left Sam on the beach quite far from
his tide pool.

Sam found a place to rest between two large stones.
Food was everywhere.
The storm had brought in many good things to eat.
Worms and bits of fish were floating in the water.
Sam reached with his claw and caught
a piece of worm.
How good it tasted!

The storm had stirred up the water.
Many old snail shells had been washed
onto the beach.
Maybe now Sam could find his home.

Sam waved his eyes back and forth too.
He saw something on the other side of the tide pool.
It looked like a little hill.
It did not move.
Perhaps it was
an empty snail shell.
Sam's four legs helped him move fast across
the tide pool.
When he was half way there something dark passed over his head.

Sam was frightened.

This was not good.
He could not live long on land.
He needed to be in water.
Besides, a bird might see him and eat him.

The waves were
smaller now.
The water was not moving so fast.
Sam could see better.
He started out again toward the deeper water.

All at once he stopped.
He waved his feelers.
He turned his eyes
from side to side.
What did he see?
What did he smell?
Snail shells!

He poked his leg
into the nearest shell.
No, the snail was not there.
He poked his leg
farther in.
The shell felt
smooth and clean.
But what was this?
A hole!
The shell had been broken by the storm.

Sam did not want a broken shell.

He went on to the next one.
This one was empty and clean too.
Sam backed into it.
How good it felt on his soft body.
But it was a little tight.

Sam would soon grow out of it.

The third shell Sam tried was a black one.
It was empty. It had no holes.
It felt smooth inside.
Sam brushed out a few grains of sand.
Then he backed into it.
At last, a shell that fit!
A shell of his own.

Now Sam need not be afraid any more.

They were poking and teasing each other.
Now Sam could play too.
He would not be afraid.
If another crab pinched him it would not hurt.
But first he needed to rest.
He pulled his legs
into his shell.
He folded his claws in front to make a door.
Now it was safe to rest.

Sam, too,
had found his shell.


Illustrations by Vesna Borcic