I chose Pagoo by Holling C. Holling as one of our Circle Time read-alouds way back when I first knew we were going to Dauphin Island for an autumn vacation. It’s on the Ambleside Online year 3 booklist for science, plus we read Holling’s The Book of Indians last year, so I knew it would be good. However, as is my usual M.O., I didn’t start reading this one aloud in time to finish it before our trip, so we just finished it today. I mostly just read a chapter a day because I had my girls write narrations at the end of each chapter (or occasionally, at the end of two chapters if we really got carried away). This slowed us down, of course. It’s the perfect book to treat in this way because each chapter is exactly four pages–three pages of text with one full-page illustration, plus lots of drawings in all the margins.
The story itself is of a little hermit crab–Pagurus–nicknamed Pagoo. The story follows his life cycle from larval stage to when he mates, thus completing the cycle. He is guided by his Old Pal Instinct to do what hermit crabs do–look for a shell to call his own. This search takes him into various places in and around Tide Pool Town, and through all his wanderings he encounters many other sea creatures. Holling‘s style is folksy at times, almost conversational, but it’s chock-full of details and descriptions:
Could Pagoo scare a Barnacle out of its red tepee and take over? Old Pal said, “No,” but Pagoo was already climbing the shell like a farm boy on the ladder of a concrete silo. At the jagged top he peeked inside, and–well, Old Pal was right. Though it could twist a little bit inside its tepee, that Barnacle was stuck by the back of its neck to the tepee’s concrete floor. How sensitive it was! It hauled down its fuzzy legs, right past Pagoo’s face, snapped its double-action doors shut, and was not open to visitors. (29)
This book was first published in 1957, so I do not doubt (and in fact confirmed this with my own resident scientist, Steady Eddie) that our present knowledge of the oceanic world has changed a bit since then. Still, this is a highly enjoyable and informative story, and it was definitely enhanced for us by our visit to the beach. I can’t fail to mention Holling‘s illustrations, either. The large, full-color illustrations that accompany each chapter are nice, but the real prizes are the black and white pencil sketches that play along the margins. Wow! I could sit and just look at the sketches for a long time. They remind me of a highly detailed nature journal. I loved this story, and again, our beach trip just made it that much better to me. My girls moaned and groaned a bit when I got it out, but I’m fairly certain this had more to do with the narration requirement than the story. 😉 This is a great example of a living book that furnishes the mind with not just beautiful pictures, but also good information. Highly Recommended. (Houghton Mifflin, 1985)
I thought I’d share Louise’s last narration for Pagoo. She asked if she could write a poem instead of the usual, and of course I said yes.
And last I’m sharing a few pictures of the many, many hermit crabs we saw (and captured!) on Dauphin Island. Wading through the water on the Mobile Bay side of the Island, we saw several dozen of them, I guess. I don’t think we’ll ever forget Pagoo!