Every month, I check out 31 recently published picture books and share their first lines.
Elements of a great first line:
*makes the reader wonder something
*sets the scene of the story
*sets the tone for the story
*hints at the how the story will end
*starts in the middle of the action
*hints at a universal theme
*introduces the main character and their problem (bonus points if the character is particularly unusual)
Arlo The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep
by Catherine Rayner
First line: Arlo was a very tired lion.
by Muon Thi Van, art by Victo Ngai
First line: The night wished it was quieter.
by Jenny Devenny, LCSW
First four lines over two pages:
This is Chase. Chase is a black race car. This is Ace. Ace is a white race car.
by Joseph Kuefler
First line: Pillows.
The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth
by Bruce Handy and Hyewon Yum
First line: The slowness of two eyes opening.
by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul, art by Esteli Meza
First line: Peace is a hello, a smile, a hug.
Good Night, Earth
by Linda Bondestram
First line: Little chimp should be asleep by now.
by Denise Lajimodiere, art by Angela Erdrich
First line: Josie wanted to dance at her tribal powwow.
Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem
by Lauren Soloy
First line: Once there was a girl named Henrietta Darwin.
If You Were an Elephant
by Leslie Staub, art by Richard Jones
First line: IF you were an elephant, you'd be the biggest animal who lives on the land.
The Rescuer of Tiny Creatures
by Curtis Manley, art by Lucy Ruth Cummins
First line: I rescue tiny creatures.
Tyrone O'Saurus Dreams
by James Howe, art by Randy Cecil
First line: Tyrone O'Saurus had a dream.
I'll Meet You In Your Dreams
by Jessica Young, art by Rafael Lopez
First line: Each evening when the sun had set, as nighttime casts a starry net, I'll hitch a ride on moonbeams and meet you in your dreams.
The Rice in the Pot Goes Round and Round
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang, art by Lorian Tu
First line: When my family gets together we laugh and sing, laugh and sing, laugh and sing.
by Jane Yolen, art by Jen Corace
First line: Some folks have a lion inside, or a tiger.
The Cot in the Living Room
by Hilda Eunice Burgos, art by Gaby D'Alessandro
First line: I wish I could sleep on the cot in the living room.
Over and Under the Rainforest
by Kate Messner, art by Christopher Silas Neal
First line: Into the rainforest we hike, through the slivers of sunlight and dripping-wet leaves.
We All Play (kimetawanaw)
by Julie Flett
First line (over three spreads): Animals hide and hop and sniff and sneak and peek and peep.
every little letter
by Deborah Underwood, art by Joy Hwang Ruiz
First line: Once upon a time, there was a city of letters surrounded by walls.
A Garden to Save the Birds
by Wendy McClure, art by Beatriz Mayumi
First line: It started with a bird.
SLOTH WASN'T SLEEPY
by Kate Messner, art by Valentina Toro
First line: One night at bedtime, Sloth wasn't sleepy.
by Jan Brett
First line: Storms rolled over the tundra when Cozy the musk ox was separated from his herd.
My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World
by Malcolm Mitchell, art by Michael Robertson
First two lines: Hi! I'm Henley. And this is a story about finding my very favorite book int he whole wide world.
On the Day the Horse Got Out
by Audrey Helen Weber
First line (over four spreads): On the day the horse got out, the bells all rang, the birds flew south, the spider wove a giant web, and the roses cried out from their bed: "Watch out, Watch out, the horse is out!"
the Bear and the Moon
by Matthew Burgess, art by Catia Chien
First line: Opening his eyes after a long snooze, the bear saw a red dot in the blue sky.
by Cao Wenxuan, art by Roger Mello
First line: A lemon butterfly searches for a field of flowers.
The Old Truck
by Jarrett Pumphrey, art by Jerome Pumphrey
First line: On a small farm, an old truck worked hard.
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh/This Is How I Know
by Brittany Luby, art by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
First line: Aanissh ezhi-gkendmaanh niibing? How do I know summer is here?
by Emily Kilgore, art by Zoe Persico
First line: Cara was a nervous girl: always jumpy, always on edge, always wondering if something grim was going to happen.
Out Into the Big Wide Lake
by Paul Harbridge, art by Jose Bisaillon
First two lines: A stick with an arm and a leg. That was a "K".