October 2021

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)

Five Fave Titles This Month

The Panda Problem

The Someone New

The Music of Life

Your Name Is a Song

Vote for Our Future


And the best story to read aloud

Friday Night Wrestle Fest

Black and White

by Debora Vogrig, art by Pia Valentinis

2021

First line (over two spreads): White wakes up...and spreads through the sky.

why it works: introduces the main character, makes the reader wonder something,and starts in the middle of the action. What is White, and what does it mean that it's spreading through the sky?


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My Voice Is a Trumpet

by Jimmie Allen, art by Cathy Ann Johnson

2021

First line: Some have a voice as tall as a tree--loud and proud and sways in the breeze.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and sets the tone for the story. If *some* have a voice like a tree, what do others have a voice like? And these lines are poetic, which hints at a lyrical description of the different voices we have.


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One, Two, Grandma Loves You

by Shelly Becker, art by Dan Yaccarino

2021

First line: One, two, Grandma loves you.

why it works: sets the tone of the story, introduces the main character, hints at a universal theme, and hints at the end. We assume this will be a counting story involving Grandma and the reader. It hints at the love between grandmother and grandchild, and since it's a counting story, we assume it's going to end with 10 or 100.


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Where Three Oceans Meet

by Rajani LaRocca, art by ARchana Screenivasan

2021

First line: We decide to travel to the very tip of India, where three oceans meet.

why it works: Sets the scene of the story, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at the end. We know we'll be seeing new places in this story, we wonder what's going to happen on our journey, and we know we're going to end up at the tip of India, where three oceans meet, which sounds pretty exciting.


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Madam Hortensia

by Carmen Gil, art by Miguel Cerro

2020

First line: Madam Hortensia loved straight lines.

why it works: introduces the main character, who sounds a bit unusual, and it hints at the conflict. The main character is an adult, and she has strong preferences, and those strong preferences are likely going to be challenged.


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Friday Night Wrestle Fest

by J.F. Fox, art by Micah Player

2020

First line: Ladies and Gentleman, it's Friday night!

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and sets the tone of the story. What happens Friday nights? And this first line sounds like a commentator, so the whole story will likely sound that way.


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Vote for Our Future

by Margaret McNamara, art by Micah Player

2020

First line (over first spread): Every two years, on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November ... Stanton Elementary closes for the day.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at the end. Why does the school close? What will we learn about that happens every two years?


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A Way With Wild Things

by Larissa Theule, art by Sara Palacios

2020

First line: Poppy Ann Fields liked bugs.

why it works: Introduces the main character, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. Many kids are fascinated with bugs. Why does Poppy Ann Fields like bugs so much?


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A Stone Sat Still

by Brendan Wenzel

2019

First line: A stone sat still with the water, grass, and dirt and it was as it was where it was in the world.

why it works: introduces a unique main character and hints at a universal theme. We don't often read stories from the POV of a rock; and yet the setting is what we'd expect for a rock.


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Dear Ballerina

by Monica Wellington

2019

First line: Dear Ballerina, I dream of being a ballerina like you.

why it works: introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something. First person pulls the reader into the story. And we wonder, who is this young dancer writing to?


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Bearnard's Book

by Deborah Underwood, art by Misa Saburi

2019

First line: One day, Bearnard received an important letter.

why it works: introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something. What did the letter say?


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The Someone New

by Jill Twiss, art by Eg Keller

2019

First line: When Jitterbug woke up, she could already tell: Something was New.

why it works: introduces the main character, hints at a universal theme, and makes the reader wonder something. Most kids can relate to this feeling of sensing something being different, and now we want to know what it is!


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Once Upon a Timely

by Lynn Parrish Sutton, art by Faith Pray

2019

First line: I love you flowingly like Rapunzel's hair.

why it works: hints at a universal theme and sets the tone for the story. This is a story about a caregiver's love for a child, and it will likely follow the pattern of this first line.


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Fast Enough

by Joel Christian Gill

2019

First line: Have you ever been told you are not enough?

why it works: Hints at a universal theme. Many kids can relate to this sentiment, and most adult readers certainly can.


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From Tree to Sea

by Shelley Moore Thomas, art by Christopher Silas Neal

2019

First line: Earth shows me many things.

why it works : hints at a universal theme and makes the reader wonder something. We known we can learn a lot from the earth. Will this story show us something new?

A Day for Rememberin'

by Leah Henderson, art by Floyd Cooper

2021

First line: Nine days in a row.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. A fragment always captures curiosity. What does happen nine days in a row?


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A Boy Named Isamu

by James Yang

2021

First line (over second and third pages): If you are a boy named Isamu...at the market with your mother, it can be a crowded and noisy place.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, sets the tone of the story, and introduces the main character. The reader is not, in fact, a boy named Isamu, so the reader is immediately engaged to find out who this boy is and why he's at the market.


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As Babies Dream

by Leslea Newman, art by Taia Morley

2021

First phrase over first spread (entire story is actually one sentence): As the crows fly, and the rivers flow,

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, sets the tone of the story, and hints at a universal theme. We're not really sure where this story is going, but we know it'll be lyrical and poetic and it will be about universal truths.


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If You Are The Dreamer

by Kristen Baloich

2021

First line: If you are the egg, I am the hen.

why it works: sets the tone of the story, it introduces the main character, and it hints at a universal theme. We know the story will follow the same pattern set in this first line, we know it will be a caregiver speaking to a child, and it hints at the love between that caregiver and child.

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Fatima's Great Outdoors

by Ambreen Tariq, art by Stevie Lewis

2021

First line: Fatima and her aapa stood at the curb and waited for their parents to pick them up from school.

why it works: introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something. Will Fatima and her aapa go somewhere special with their parents?


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The Music of Life

by Louis Thomas

2020

First line: At night when everyone else is asleep, you can be sure that an artist--someone, somewhere--is awake.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. What do artists do when everyone else is sleeping?


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Second Banana

by Blair Thornburgh, art by Kate Berube

2020

First line: Every year, the fifteen kids in Mrs. Millet's class put on the famous Food Is Fun Healthy Eating Good Nutrition Pageant.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. What is this pageant and will this year be the same?


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Your Name Is A Song

by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, art by Luisa Uribe

2020

First line: "I'm not coming back ever again!" The girl stomped.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and introduces the main character. What happened to make this girl so upset?


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The Slave Who Went to Congress

by Marti Rosner and Frye Gaillard, art by Jordana Haggard

2020

First line: Forty long years, I lived as a slave.

why it works: Introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something. We're interested in getting a first-person account of a slave's experience. Also forty years is a LIFETIME, and yet, we know it's not this slave's only experience. What happened after his time as a slave?


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When Charley met Emma

by Amy Webb, art by Merrilee Liddiard

2019

First line: Charley liked to do lots of different things.

why it works: introduces the main character, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. Most kids like to do lots of different things. Will this story be about all those different things? Will Charley learn something new?


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No Room For A Pup!

by Elizabeth Suneby, art by Laurel Molk

2019

First line: Mia lived with her mom in a very small apartment in a very big city.

why it works: introduces the main character and makes the reader wonder something. Why is it important to know the size of Maria's apartment and city?


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Quinn's Promise Rock

by Christie Thomas, art by Sydney Hanson

2019

First line: Quinn was a thoughtful owl who always had a lot of questions.

why it works: introduces the main character, makes the reader wonder something, and hints at a universal theme. Most kids have lots of questions. What questions does Quinn have?


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Lottie & Walter

by Anna Walker

2019

First line: Lottie had a secret.

why it works: introduces the main character, hints at a universal theme, and makes the reader wonder something. Kids love secrets! What is Lottie's?


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Things That Go Away

by Beatrice Alemagna

2019

First line: In life, many things go away.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. We all have experience with things that are temporary. What temporary things will this story be about?


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The Panda Problem

by Deborah Underwood, art by Hannah Marks

2019

First line: Once upon a time, there was a panda who lived in a beautiful bamboo grove.

why it works: introduces the main character, and makes the reader wonder something. What will happen to the panda?


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Mother Goth Rhymes

by Kaz Windness

2019

First line: Young Mother Goth, when she wanted to go, would ride through the air on a gigantic crow.

why it works: Sets the tone of the story. We know this is going to be a twist on Mother Goose rhymes, and this first line tells us that twist will likely be dark and spooky.