Every month, I check out 30 recently published picture books and share their first lines (and hooks, for NF).
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)
*sets the scene of the story
*hints at the how the story will end
*engages the reader
*engages multiple senses
*references a beloved classic
*hints at an unusual premise
*introduces the concept
All books in this collection were published in 2022.
by Christopher Denise
First line: Since the day he hatched, Owl had one wish.
elements used: introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something
One Wish: Fatima al-Fihri and the World’s Oldest University
by M.O. Yuksel, art by Mariam Quraishi
Hook: life story of Fatima al-Fihri, focusing on her love of education and explaining how she achieved her dream of building a university where everyone was welcome
First line: Fatima craved knowledge like desert flowers crave rain.
elements used: introduces the main character and establishes a lyrical tone that pulls the reader in
The Legend of the
by Finoa Halliday
First line: Erin loved the stories Papa told of his adventures at sea.
elements used: introduces the main character and hints at the universal theme of family
Monster in the Bathhouse
by Sina Merabian
First line: The bathhouse is always busy the day before Nowruz.
elements used: hints at the universal excitement of a holiday
Seeking BEST Friend
by Alison Marcotte, art by Diane Ewen
First line: Seeking Best Friend: Must be Kind.
elements used: hints at the universal desire for friendship
Stella Keeps the Sun Up
by Clothilde Ewing, art by Lynn Gaines
First line: Hi, I’m Stella.
elements used: introduces the main character and engages the reader
THE CRAB BALLET
by Renee M LaTulippe, art by Cecile Metzger
First lines: Welcome. Enter. Sit right there upon our finest driftwood chair.
Elements used: engages the reader and establishes a rhythm that pulls the reader in
Counting to BANANAS
by Carrie Tillotson, art by Estrela Laurent
First line: 1 plum
elements used: establishes the concept
THIS IS A SCHOOL
by John Schu, art by Veronica Miller Jamison
First line: This is a kid.
elements used: employs the universal appeal of the obvious
Wild For Winnie
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, art by Jenny Lovlie
First line: The teacher said a new kid was joining our class.
elements used: hints at the universal appeal of the excitement of something new
BLACK: The Many Wonders of my World
by Nancy Johnson James, art by Constance Moore
First line: Black is a wonderful color.
elements used: introduces the concept
by Marilyn Singer, art by Sonia Sanchez
First line: It’s morning!
elements used: employs the universal appeal of a new day
Bear With Me
by David Michael Slater, art by Davilyn Lynch
First line: “You sure you need to take Mr. Kalamazoo with you?” Max’s mom asked.
elements used: hints at the main character’s problem
I'll Take Care of You
by Maria Loretta Giraldo, art by Nicoletta Bertelle
First line: Once there was a tiny seed.
Elements used: hints at the universal appeal of nature and the excitement of something new, and makes the reader wonder something
I Love You
by Shige Chen, art by Pia Valentinis and Mario Onnis
First line: Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl.
elements used: hints at a beloved classic and a universal theme
With Lots of LOVE
by Jenny Torres Sanches, art by Andre Ceolin
First line: Rocio had a new home.
elements used: introduces the main character and the universal idea of something new, and hints at a potential problem
The Garden We Share
By Zoe Tucker, art by Julianna Swaney
First line: On a bright spring morning as the sun peeps shyly through the trees we step out into the garden.
elements used: introduces the universal appeal of spring
A Gift for Nana
by Lane Smith
First line: It was not his Nana’s birthday.
elements used: makes the reader wonder something
by Laura K Zimmerman, art by Jamie Green
Hook: a deep dive into the sensory appeal of mushrooms and their impact on the water cycle
First line: Without warning, they appear. Mushrooms!
elements used: introduces an unusual premise
A Penny's Worth
by Kimberly Wilson, art by Mark Hoffman
First line: Hot off the minting press, Penny sparkled.
elements used: introduces an unusual main character and engages multiple senses
by Tara Lazar, art by Ross MacDonald
First line: After dozing in my chair, I had some time on my hands.
elements used: makes the reader wonder something and establishes the tone of the story
Being a Dog
A Tail of Mindfulness
A Tail of Mindfulness
by Maria Gianferrari, art by Pete Oswald
First line: Can you be like a dog?
elements used: engages the reader, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at an unusual premise
Tofu Takes Time
by Helen H Wu, art by Julie Jarema
First line: Today I’m making tofu with NaiNai!
elements used: introduces the main character, hints at the universal theme of family, and sets the scene for the story
Big and Small
by Carter Higgins, art by Daniel Mayares
First line: the sun and its shine when it asks you to rise
elements used: hints at a universal theme and has a rhythm that pulls the reader in
Earth Friend Forever
by Molly Bloom, Marc Sanchez, and Sanden Totten; art by Mike Orodan
First line: Dear little humans living on me: It’s your E.F.F.!*
elements used: introduces an unusual main character, engages the reader, and makes the reader wonder something
Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle
by Nina LaCour, art by Kaylani Juanita
First line: MONDAY The sun is still hiding and the moon is still bright when Mommy kisses my cheek and says, “Good morning.”
elements used: hints at the universal excitement of a change in routine and the universal theme of family
emile and the field
by Kevin Young, art by Chioma Ebinama
First line: There was a boy named Emile who fell in love with a field.
elements used: introduces the main character and an unusual premise, and makes the reader wonder something
I'm Terrified of Bath Time
by Simon Rich, art by Tom Toro
First line: Can I tell you a secret?
elements used: engages the reader, makes the reader wonder something, and uses the universal appeal of secrets
Bearnard Writes a Book
by Deborah Underwood, art by Misa Saburi
First line: Bernard and Gertie were reading about the brave bear in Bearnard’s Book.
elements used: introduces the main characters, starts in the middle of an action, and makes the reader wonder something
Oona and the Shark
by Kelly DiPucchio, art by Raissa Figueroa
First line: Like most mermaids, Oona was good at making friends.
elements used: hints at the universal themes of friendship and pride and introduces a popular main character and an unlikely duo
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