Are Crabs Crabby? And Other Egregious Misconceptions

Why are Crabs Crabby? And Picture Books on Crabs

Does this crab not look like it should be in an animated carton?

I found this crab on vacation on Florida. He,  or it could have easily been a she-crab, RULED the beach that day. The crab seemed completely nonplussed that humans were around and, as I stared it down, I actually thought it was dead. Not so, just winning the staring contest apparently.

The crab’s hole in the ground was not even near it. There were birds everywhere too. This crab, I tell you, was completely fearless. I finally got it to move, thus proving that it was alive, by practically poking it with a stick.

image from The Disney Wiki

My first impression (besides dead crab) of the crab was that it looked EXACTLY like Sebastian the Crab from the Disney movie Ariel. What do you think? Do you see the likeness? Perhaps it’s not a dead ringer, per se, but there is a charisma that is similar. No?

And that got me thinking. Crabs are never the starring player in children’s books. They have a bad rap too. Crabby. And their astrological sign is associated with cancer?  Not a happy one!

So I started researching crabs in children’s literature. Are they all portrayed in a negative light? Is there anti-crab-ism going on? Is there justification for these crimes against crabs?

 A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

This classic from beloved children’s author Eric Carle portrays Hermit Crab as a sad creature losing his first buddies due to a normal growth patterns.

Poor Hermit Crab! He’s outgrown his snug little shell, so he finds himself a larger one — and many new friends to decorate and protect his new house. But what will happen when he outgrows this shell, and has to say good-bye to all the sea creatures who have made Hermit Crab’s house a home?


Kermit the Hermit by Bill Peet

Bill Peet is a beloved and prolific children’s book author from my youth. Could he be the culprit spreading the anti-crab-ism message that crabs are cranky? His PR machine was so effective that it is exactly what we think of ALL crabs.

A little boy saves Kermit from disaster, and the once cranky crab works hard to repay him.

When a little boy saves Kermit the crab’s life he rewards the boy’s family with gold pieces he found in the sea.


I’m Just a Crab by Charles E. Reasoner

Now we are adding googly eyes to the crab to make it look deranged. Will the insults ever cease?

Children will laugh along with this story about a crab’s daily life in his shell shack. 3-D goggle eyes make the crab come to life and will delight children as they read.


 Clumsy Crab by Ruth Galloway

Now crabs are clumsy too! Is this even true? I defer to my friend Sebastian the Crab who seems to have it together enough to hang out in a royal court.

Nipper, a loveable crab, has huge, clumsy claws. No matter what games he plays with his friends Nipper’s claws always get in his way. So the friends decide to play hide-and-seek—something they can all do together, but Nipper’s claws ruin his hiding place! So instead, Nipper looks for his friends while they hide. He finds Turtle and Jellyfish, but there’s no sign of Octopus. Until Nipper sees that Octopus is tangled tight in the weeds. Now it’s up to Nipper to rescue Octopus with his big claws! This companion title to Fidgety Fish and Smiley Shark features the same bold, delightful illustrations, humorous text and is peppered with onomatopoeia kids really love.


 B is for Blue Crab by Shirley Menendez

I think Shirley means D is for Dinner and that means you Blue Crab!

Located just below the Mason-Dixon line, Maryland is flavored with both northern and southern culture and tradition. Defined by the largest estuary in the United States (The Chesapeake Bay), Maryland’s historic sites/sights include capital city Annapolis and the U.S Naval Academy, Muddy Creek Falls, and the running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. Noteworthy residents include Harriet Tubman and Francis Scott Key.

Now that I’ve alerted you to the egregious crimes against crabs, I hope you will join me in promoting a new message of happy, well-educated, spunky crabs such as Sebastian the Crab. They are not just dinner folks. If you see a crab, don’t poke it with a stick (like I almost did). If you do, you are provoking the crab into a cranky state of mind!

Perhaps we need to stick with non fiction when it comes to crabs. It’s the only genre not full of deeply rooted prejudice.

To view any of the sadly portrayed crab books at Amazon, please click on image of book.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. vanita

    girl, i would have been scared to be that close to it! you are one brave woman! i definitely won’t be eating crap (allergic to shellfish – haha) I’m just a crab seems perfect for my boy. we were at the fish market yesterday and they have live crabs and he thought they were turtles. eh, he’s 3.
    vanita recently posted…Why Darren’s Blogging Method Doesn’t Work For MeMy Profile

    • To Vanita,
      I should have been more cautious but I thought the crab was dead at first. It was eerie how it stared me down. Your little boy sounds adorable! He must love the pet store! My kids treat it like it’s their own personal zoo.

  2. Dee

    I love the picture! She does look like one tough cookie, er, crab! I love this post. A great way to start my day!
    Dee recently posted…Spring BreakMy Profile

  3. Ann

    This post made me smile! Great photo – she is so cute! We love A House For Hermit Crab and I want to check out the Horseshoe crab book!
    Ann recently posted…Eat better while saving time and money!My Profile

  4. I love the idea of pausing to consider the attributes we wrongly assign to many animals because of all sorts of old stories…
    Mama C/Catherine recently posted…Loving all of that BROWN and then someMy Profile

    • To Mama C,
      I know. I was kind of posting in jest, but truly, the way animals are portrayed in children’s lit affected the wolves who faced near extinction after also getting a bad rap.

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