April 2023

Elements of a great first line

*makes the reader wonder something                      

*sets the tone for the story                                             

*starts in the middle of the action                               

*hints at a universal theme                                             

*establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader into the story

*introduces the main character and their problem
(bonus points if the character is particularly unusual)

*subverts the reader's expectations

*makes the reader laugh

*sets the scene of the story

*hints at how the story will end

*engages the reader

*engages multiple senses

*references a beloved classic

*hints at an unusual premise

*introduces the concept

*references something with universal appeal

*uses a play on words

*makes the reader feel something

The Three Canadian Pigs

By Jocelyn Watkinson, art by Marcus Cutler

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

First line: After their scrimmage, all smelly with sweat,

three pigs met a wolf as they packed up their net.

Elements used: establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in, uses poetic devices, sets the tone for the story, references a beloved classic, starts in the middle of the action, and subverts the reader's expectations

Read Jocelyn's revision process for this first line.

The Library Fish Learns to Read 

By Alysa Satin Capucilli, art by Gladys Jose

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

First line: Library Fish loved her home on the desk of Mr. Hughes, the librarian.

Elements used: establishes the setting of the story and introduces a unique main character

How Many Squirrels Are in the World?

By Ben “Mister G” Gundersheimer, art by Marcos Almada Rivero

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

First line: How many squirrels are in the world?

Elements used: engages the reader and subverts the reader's expectations

Find Your Brave: A Coco and Bear Story

By Apryl Stott

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

First line: Coco and Bear were friends from almost the first time they met.

Elements used:  introduces the main characters and referencest the universal theme of friendship

Milo's Monster

By Tom Percival

Published by Bloomsbury

First line: Milo lived in a neat little house on a neat little street.

Elements used: introduces the main character and establishes the setting

When PB Met J

By Katelyn Aronson, art by Sarah Rebar

Published by Viking

First line: Once upon a kitchen, the fridges chilled on one side.

Elements used: establishes the setting and uses word play

A Gift of Feathers

By Ken Schept, art by Romina Galotta

Published by Feiwel and Friends

First line: Grandma Dot kept a small vase filled with feathers on a table by the front door.

Elements used:  makes the reader wonder something

Good Morning, Good Night

By Anita Lobel

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

First line: Good Morning!

Elements used: engages the reader

Platanos Go With Everything

By Lissette Norman, art by Sara Palacios

Published by Harper

First line: Platanos are like golden slices of this afternoon’s sun on our dinner plates.

Elements used: uses poetic devices and engages multiple senses

Gray Fox in the Moonlight

By Isaac Peterson

First line (over two spreads): Gray fox walks so lightly through the woods.

Elements used: introduces the main character, establishes the setting of the story, and engages multiple senses

Very Good Hats

By Emma Straub, art by Blanca Gomez

Published by Rocky Pond Books

First line: Do you know what a hat is?

Elements used: engages the reader and makes the reader wonder something

Song in the City

By Daniel Bernstrom, art by Jenin Mohammed

Published by Harper

First line: Sunday morning, Emmalene heard a sing-along song, a busy city symphony that followed her along!

Elements used: introduces the main character and establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in 

The Bears Shared

By Kim Norman, art by David Walker

Publisehd by Farrar Straus Giroux

First line: This is the lair the bears shared.

Elements used: makes the reader wonder something and establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in

THAT Flag

By Tameka Fryer Brown, art by Nikkolas Smith

Published by Harper

First line: Bianca and I are almost twins.

Elements used: subverts the reader's expectations and references something with universal appeal

Bunnies in a Boat

By Philip Ardagh, art by Ben Mantle

Published by Candlewick Press

First line: The penguins dive and paddle.

Elements used: incorporates poetic devices and engages multiple senses

I Can't Draw

By Stephen W. Martin, art by Brian Biggs

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books 

First line: My name is Max and I can’t draw!

Elements used: introduces the main character and his problem

Izmelda, the Fairest Dragon of Them All

By Joan Marr, art by Lala Watkins

Published by Union Square Kids

First line: Izmelda had never seen a real princess.

Elements used: introduces the main character and hints at her problem, and subverts the reader's expectations 

A Boy and His Mirror

By Marchant Davis, art by Keturah A. Bobo

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

First line: Once upon a time, there was a boy named Chris—who had this hair no one could miss.

Elements used: introduces the main character and establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in

All the Beating Hearts

By julie fogliano, art by catia chien

Published by Neal Porter Books

First line: each day starts with the sun and hopefully something to eat

Elements used: makes the reader wonder something

Oona in the Arctic

By Kelly DiPucchio, art by Raissa Figueroa

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

First line: Oona loved surprises

Elements used: introduces the main character

We Are ALLIES!

By Taimani Emerald

Published by Feiwel and Friends

First line: Even when we don’t realize it, news is spreading everywhere.

Elements used: makes the reader wonder something

Abuela's Super Capa

By Ana Siqueira, art by Elisa Chavarri

Published by Harper

First line: Saturdays are superheroe days for Abuela and me.

Elements used: makes the reader wonder something

You Come from GREATNESS

By Sara Chinakwe, art by Ken Daley

Published by Waterbrook

First line: You came bustling into the world, a mighty bundle of energy, ready to do great things.

Elements used: engages the reader

A Flag for Juneteenth

By Kim Taylor

Published by Neal Porter Books

First line: The scent of nutmeg and vanilla floated through our cabin…and landed as a smile on my face.

Elements used: engages multiple senses

Leprechaun vs, Easter Bunny

By Todd Tarpley, art by Stephanie Laberis

Published by Little, Brown and Company

First line: High on the hill where the clover is green, and rainbows are brighter than you’ve ever seen…a wee little leprechaun popped up his head.

Elements used: establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in and introduces the main character

Sleepy Sheepy

By Lucy Ruth Cummins, art by Pete Oswald

Published by Flamingo Books

First line: Sleepy Sheepy…was NOT SLEEPY!

Elements used: hints at the universal theme of bedtime

Nell Plants a Tree

By Anne Wynter, art by Daniel Miyares

Published by Balzer + Bray

First line (over three spreads): Before a grip on a branch and a fall to the ground and a scrape and a leap and a reach for the top, before anyone finds out how high they can climb, Nell picks up a seed.

Elements used: establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in, introduces the main character, and subverts the reader's expectations

This Little Kitty

By Karen Obuhanych

Published by Alfred A Knopf

First line: This little kitty starts the day and meows “Wake up! It’s time to play!”

Elements used: establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in

Something Wild

By Molly Ruttan

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

First line: Ever since she was small, Hannah loved to play her violin.

Elements used: introduces the main character

Pirate Passover

By Judy Press, art by AManda Gulliver

Published by Kar-Ben 

First line: This is the story of a pirate named Drew who sailed the high seas with a jolly good crew.

Elements used: estalishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in and establishes the setting of the story

Wallflowers

By Mackenzie Joy

Published by Clarion Books

First line: People call you a wallflower.

Elements used: engages the reader

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