Sigsbee Road residents Nella Khanis and Linda Mulé are serious beachgoers.
“Other people dabble at the beach,” Ms. Mulé, an attorney, said. “We go morning till night every day that we can go.”
That includes days in October. It was around then that the pair struck up a conversation with a Laurel woman collecting shells. They had “a nice chat” and waved good-bye. But then, about an hour later, she was back again. She strode down to the water, placed a shell along the shoreline, and walked away again.
Upon closer inspection, the friends discovered the shell was, in fact, a hermit crab. They thought it was hysterical. “There’s a beach in Laurel,” Ms. Khanis, an artist, pointed out.
That encounter established the premise for “Boris the Crab,” a children’s book the pair published in early April. Ms. Khanis painted watercolor illustrations while Ms. Mulé wrote the story, with Ms. Khanis’s input, of course.
“We worked on it all through the pandemic. It was wonderful,” Ms. Mulé said. “Because it kept us both going. And it was something fun and there was no pressure.”
She tried it out on her grandchildren, aged nine, five and three at the time. “I kept taking out words because … if I’m losing the three-year-old, it’s not a good kid’s book,” she said. They love the final product though, she added.
The lady from Laurel became the Lady in the Red Rubber Boots, a reference to the Man with the Yellow Hat from “Curious George.” Boris the Crab had just found a new shell when she placed him in her pocket and accidentally took him home — “the most dramatic part of the book,” Ms. Khanis said.
“Boris the Crab” is the first children’s book from Ms. Khanis and Ms. Mulé, although Ms. Khanis has previously published two poetry collections in English, her second language.
Her work has been exhibited on both the North and South Forks, and the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton. She didn’t try her hand at watercolors until the pandemic, though.
“I think if not for COVID, I would have gone home. She would have gone home. We wouldn’t even be here in October,” Ms. Mulé said. “We never would have met the Lady in the Red Rubber Boots.”
The friends live seasonally on Sigsbee Road, alternating with their apartments in Queens. During the pandemic, they stayed in Mattituck until Thanksgiving — an unusually long summer season.
The book is available online, via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. A copy has also been gifted to Mattituck-Laurel Library.
They’re planning a book-signing on July 3, at Ms. Khanis’s home at 575 Sigsbee Road in Mattituck.
“Nella said we should have a book signing for people on the street, because a lot of people … bought the book and they wanted us to sign it, so we said okay, we’ll just have one book signing,” Ms. Mulé said.
Ms. Khanis is already brainstorming ideas for their next children’s book. But not a sequel to “Boris the Crab” — she’s tired of painting him.