We bought our first home just months shy of expecting our first child. I walked through our newly-purchased fixer-upper with a round belly and stars in my eyes: I could just see the potential of the home, the beauty of its bones. With the help of a powerful nesting instinct and some adrenalin, my husband and I worked feverishly to remove old baseboard and casing, scrape yellowed popcorn ceilings, rip out the pet-clawed parquet floor, install new fixtures and update paint. It was a particular joy to remodel the room that was to be the nursery. The walls featured a paint color that can only be compared to painter’s tape blue and a dingy yellow, separated by brown faux-oak chair rail. The baseboard was also the fake oak, a hideous and unwelcome homage to the 70’s. Due to the all of the repairs being done in the master bedroom, we slept on an air mattress in the spare room, staring at the popcorn ceiling while envisioning the final product.
Countless hours, dollars — and hundreds of unexpected trips to Home Depot — later, our house had come together. But our proudest achievement — and biggest improvement — was the nursery. The walls were newly painted a fresh green, with high-gloss white chair rail and baseboard, and a vintage hanging shelf that we had refinished. Our daughter spent three years in that happy room before a job change necessitated a move to a new home in a new city.
Our then three-year old daughter seemed to handle the move marvelously well, but I’ll never forget her wistful question as we introduced her to her new room. Perched atop her tiny toddler bed, an island we’d set up in a sea of moving chaos, she looked around and asked, “But where’s my green room?”
This experience came to me vividly as I read the opening page of our August Book of the Month, Eric Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab: “He had felt safe and snug in his shell…But it was frightening out in the open sea without a shell to hide in.” This beautiful book, illustrated in Carle’s vivid hand-painted tissue paper collages, not only teaches about the habits of hermit crabs, but also addresses a concern familiar to many young readers. Any kind of change, particularly change that involves leaving familiar or comfortable surroundings, can be scary for kids. The hermit crab acknowledges this, but moves on to the advantages of moving; he talks about the need for a bigger shell house that will keep him safe. And in his search to beautify his new shell home, he meets a whole crew of new friends.
Just as our new house become our home (despite the lack of a green room), hermit crab finds that it’s the people — ahem, the sea creatures — you know, not the place you live or the stuff you have, that make life great.
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