January 2022

Every month, I check out 31 recently published picture books and share their first lines.

Five Fave Titles This Month: Room for Everyone, Usha and the Big Digger, Over, Bear! Under, Where?, Let It Grow, Amara's Farm

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 *engages the reader

*hints at a universal theme *engages multiple senses

*establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader into the story *references a beloved classic

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

Room for Everyone

by Naaz Khan, art by Merce Lopez

2021

First line: The daladala rumbled and roared, and Musa and Dada were off to the shore to feast on fish at the Friday bazaar by the blue crystal waters of Zanzibar.

elements used: establishes a rhythm that immediately pulls the reader into the story, introduces the main characters, establishes setting, sets the tone for the story, gives a hint of the ending, starts in the middle of the action, and engages all the senses

Moose's Book Bus

by Inga Moore

2021

First line: Moose lived with his family in a house in the woods.

elements used: establishes the main character, establishes setting, and hints at the universal themes of home and family

This Magical,
Musical Night

by Rhonda Gowler Greene, art by James Rey Sanchez

2021

First line: While notes are dreaming on the page, musicians whisk onto the stage.

elements used: establishes an unusual main character, sets the tone of the story, and establishes a rhythm that immediately brings the reader into the story

Calvin

by JR and Vanessa Ford, art by Kayla Harren

2021

First line: For as long as I could remember, I knew I was a boy.

elements used: introduces the main character and their problem and makes the reader wonder something. The main character pictured presents as a girl, so we know we're going on a journey of self-discovery with this child.

Tabitha and Fritz
Trade Places

by Katie Frawley, art by Laurie Stansfield

2021

First line: ATTENTION: Pampered suburban cat seeks wild world traveler for exciting exchange.

elements used: introduces the main character and their problem, sets the tone of the story, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. A cat wants an adventure and is seeking another animal to switch places.

Raindrops to
RAINBOW

by John Micklos Jr, art by Charlene Chua

2021

First line: Plip-plop, plip-plop, plip-plip-plop Will these raindrops ever stop?

elements used: engages multiple senses, introduces the problem, hints at a universal theme, and makes the reader wonder something. It's raining, and the main character wants it to stop. What will they do in the meantime?

Benji's Doll

by Alicia Acosta and Luis Amavisca, art by Amelie Graux

2021

First line: Benji wanted a doll.

elements used: introduces the main character and their problem, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. Every kid wants something. Will Benji get what he wants?

The Lost Little Bird

by David McPhail

2021

First line: A little bird flew into a tree and bumped his head.

elements used: introduces the main character, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. Will the bird be ok?

Lost Things

by Carey Sookocheff

2021

First line: Sometimes things are lost.

elements used: introduces the problem and hints at a universal theme. We've all lost something.

The Worm Family Has
Its Picture Taken

by Jennifer Frank & David Ezra Stein

2021

First line: Mrs. Worm lay at the top of a giant dirt pile watching her children play.

elements used: introduces an unusual main character and hints at the universal theme of family

Supernana

by Eva Byrne

2021

First line: Sharper than a pair of knitting needles...stronger than sticky tape...it's SUPERNANA.

elements used: references a beloved classic, and hints at the universal theme of doing anything for your family

THANKFUL

by Elaine Vickers, art by Samantha Cotterill

2021

First line: Every year when the first snow falls, we make thankful chains to last us through December.

elements used: hints at the universal theme of gratitude and makes the reader wonder something. What will the main character do with these chains?

An Earth-Bot's Solution to Plastic Pollution

by Russell Ayto

2021

First line: Neo lives next to the ocean.

elements used: introduces the main character.

I Am Odd
I Am New

by Benjamin Giroux, art by Roz MacLean

2021

First line: I am odd, I am new.

elements used: introduces the main character and their problem and makes the reader wonder something. How is this main character odd?

Little Narwhal,
Not Alone

by Tiffany Stone, art by Ashlyn Anstee

2021

First line: Narwhal loves his frozen home.

elements used: introduces the main character.

Chill, CHOMP, Chill!

by Chris Ayala-Kronos, art by Paco Sordo

2021

First line: Chomp loves playtime at school--especially when he gets to build with colorful blocks.

elements used: introduces an unusual main character and hints at a universal theme. Kids love playtime!

Let It GROW

by Mary Ann Fraser, art by Riley Samels

2021

First line: What do you have in your hand?

elements used: engages the reader with a question

A Bear for Bimi

by Jane Breskin Zalben, art by Yevgenia Nayberg

2021

First line: One golden, brisk autumn day, Mama told Evie, "A family from far away is moving in next door."

elements used: introduces the main characters and makes the reader wonder something: Who will this new family be?

The Bedtime Book

by Todd Parr

2021

First line: It's time for bed!

elements used: hits at the universal theme of getting ready for bed

Amara's Farm

by JaNay Brown-Wood, art by Samara Hardy

2021

First line: Amara has many plants on her farm.

elements used: introduces the main character and sets the scene

The Welcome Chair

by Rosemary Wells, art by Jerry Pinkney

2021

First line: In the year 1807, Sam Seigbert is born in the kingdom of Bavaria.

elements used: introduces the main character and setting. We know we're going back in time.

is was

by deborah freedman

2021

First line (over two pages): This sky is the same sky that was blue, but now is spilling down.

elements used: hints at the universal theme of weather.

Something Good

by Marcy Campbell, art by Corinna Luyken

2021

First line: The day the custodian found the bad-something on the bathroom wall, all the girls from Mr. Gilbert's class were called into the principal's office.

elements used: makes the reader wonder something: what did the custodian find?

Goodbye, Old House

by Margaret Will, art by Ann James

2021

First line: This is the last time I'll fish in this river.

elements used: introduces the main character, hints at the universal theme of change, and makes the reader wonder something: Where is the main character going?

Mr. Watson's Chickens

by Jarrett Dapier, art by Andrea Tsurumi

2021

First line: Mr. Watson lived with Mr. Nelson in a big, honking house with a teeny-tiny yard in a big, honking city.

elements used: introduces the main characters and setting.

Bisa's Carnaval

by Joana Pastro, art by Carolina Coroa

2021

First two lines: Under a rainbow-bannered sky, trumpets, trombones, tubas, and saxophones sing Louder, Faster, Faster, Louder! It's CARNAVAL!

elements used: sets the scene, engages multiple senses, and sets the tone for the story

Change Sings

by Amanda Gorman, art by Loren Long

2021

First line: I can hear change humming in its loudest, proudest song.

elements used: introduces the main character, engages multiple senses, and hints at the universal theme of change

T. Rexes Can't Tie
Their Shoes

by Anna Lazowski, art by Steph Laberis

2021

First line: If you're still a bit small, it is no fun at all when you can't reach a shelf or get dressed by yourself.

elements used: engages the reader and hints at the universal theme of being too small to do what you want

Over, Bear!
Under, Where?

by Julie Hedlund, art by Michael Slack

2021

First two lines: Hi, Over. Hi, Under.

elements used: introduces unusual characters and hints at the universal theme of friendship

Sammy, the
Seasick Pirate

by Janelle Springer-Willms, art by Damien Jones

2021

First line: Sammy wanted nothing more in the world than to be a pirate captain when he grew up.

elements used: introduces the main character and hints at the universal theme of knowing what you want to be when you grow up

Usha and the
Big Digger

by Amitha Jagannath Knight, art by Sandhya Prabhat

2021

First line: Usha loved trucks.

elements used: Introduces the main character

A Girl's Bill of Rights

by Amy B. Mucha, art by Addy Rivera Sonda

2021

First line: I have the right to like what I like and love what I love.

elements used: introduces the main character, sets the tone for the story, and hints at the universal theme of personal agency

Mel Fell

by Corey R. Tabor

2021

First line: One day, when Mama was away, Mel decided it was time to learn to fly.

elements used: introduces the main character and their problem and hints at a universal theme. The bird needs to learn something new: how to fly.