by Kirsten Pendreigh
This is the first line of LUNA’s GREEN PET:
Luna longed for a pet, but her apartment building had a very strict NO PETS! policy: no dogs, no cats, no rodents, no reptiles, no birds.
I love a first line that sets up the “problem” right away. Don’t we want to know what Luna is going to do about this unfair situation? And doesn’t it make us wonder why the rules are so strict and weirdly specific? What the heck happened in that building?! I’m a big fan of specifics and here they establish a fun tone. I think (I hope) they invite readers in with the promise this won’t be your run-of-the-mill “I-want-a-pet” story.
Since the title has already clued us in that Luna DOES get or have a green pet, do we want to keep reading to find out what that means? I think so. But I’m clearly biased!
Probably cheating here, but the second line is:
Not even goldfish, after Mr. Cousteau’s aquarium spill. I do love hearing the adults giggle at that one.
Also, full disclosure, we ended up breaking that first sentence in two in a final pass. We were going to have the “No dogs etc.” on a sign following a colon, but the text felt too visually crowded on the sign space illustrator Carmen Mok had on the door. So now we have a bonus sign there: “No Pets! Don’t Ask!” which kind of ramps up the unfairness stakes! Poor Luna! On that first spread, she stands wistfully in front of it as a cute dog walks by.
The original (rough) first line was:
Lily knew everything about caring for a pet, but she wasn't allowed to have one.
Too wordy! What does it matter that she knew everything? That’s very passive and not a desire or need or emotional pull.
The plot in this early version was more complicated with Mom being allergic to cats and Dad afraid of rodents, in addition to the building policy.
And, in the earlier versions, Luna was named Lily and her plant was a Lily she named Lillium. Ugh! Too cute. Too precious. Also, lilies smell too strong and stain your clothes so I decided she could rescue a night-blooming jasmine instead and then it made sense to change her name to Luna. Luna decides her jasmine’s botanical name, stephanotis floribunda, is too long and complicated and she renames her Stephanie. Perfect!