August 2021

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.

Pillow Places

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.

Josie Dances

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.

Bear Outside

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.


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.

Lemon Butterfly

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?

The Whatifs

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".