September 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)

Have You Ever Seen A Flower

by Shawn Harris

2021

First line: Have you ever seen a flower?

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. Everyone has seen a flower, so the reader immediately wonders where the story is going.

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The Blue House

by Pheobe Wahl

2020

First line: Leo lived with his dad in an old blue house next to a tall fir tree.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. Readers relate to the description of a house and wonder what's special about this one.

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Laxmi's Mooch

by Shelly Anand, art by Nabi H. Ali

2021

First lines: Hi! I'm Laxmi. Come here. Closer. You see that? That's my mooch.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. The reader wants to know what a mooch is.

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Hold Hands

by Sara Varon

2019

First line (over first three pages): Hold hands when the day is new, when you need a pal, or when one needs you.

why it works: hints at a universal theme. Everyone knows the comfort of holding hands.

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I Am One: A Book of Action

by Susan Verde, art by Peter H. Reynolds

2020

First line: How do I make a difference?

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. Everyone wants to make a difference, and this story might help us figure out how we can.

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Croc & Turtle! The Bestest Friends Ever!

by Mike Wohnoutka

2019

First lines: Hey, Turtle. Do you want to see me lift this heavy rock?

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. Why is this crocodile trying to impress turtle?

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Ruby's Birds

by Mya Thompson, art by Claudia Davila

2019

First line: School's out.

why it works: sets the scene, makes the reader wonder at something, and hints at a universal theme. We know it's summer, which all kids are excited about, and now we wonder what the MC will do with her time.

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You Are Enough: A Book About Inclusion

by Margaret O'Hair, art by Sofia Cardoso

2021

First line: No two people are exactly the same.

why it works: it hints at a universal theme. We all know we're different, and we want to know how this story will reinforce and affirm that.

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IDIA of the Benin Kingdom

by Ekiuwa Aire, art by Alina Shabelnk

2020

First line: In the African kingdom of Benin, a young girl named Idia was sleeping.

why it works: sets the scene. Benin is an unusual setting, and if the MC is sleeping, dreams might follow.

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Waiting for a Warbler

by Sneed B. Collard III, art by Thomas Brooks

2021

First line: "Do you think any birds will nest here this year?" Nora asks, her breath misting in the crisp spring air.

why it works: sets the scene and makes the reader wonder something. We know it's springtime and we wonder why Nora is interested in birds nesting.

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BECAUSE

by Mo Willems, art by Amber Ren

2019

First line (over first spread): Because a man named Ludwig wrote beautiful music--a man named Franz was inspired to create his own.

why it works: sets the scene, sets the tone for the story, makes the reader wonder something, hints at the end, starts in the middle of action, and hints at a universal theme. We know this is about creating music, the unique sentence structure is continued throughout, we wonder about the ultimate result all the causes will lead to, we know there will be an ultimate result, we begin with the act of creating, and this story is about music, something everyone has a connection to.

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Hugo and the Impossible Thing

by Renee Felice Smith and Chris Gabriel, art by Sydney Hanson

2021

First line: At the edge of the forest stood the Impossible Thing. It was a jumbled mess of giant boulders, thorny mazes, raging rivers and towering cliffs.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at the end. Why is the Impossible Thing considered so and will it not be considered so by the end?

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Paletero Man

by Lucky Diaz, art by Micah Player

2021

First line (spread over two pages): In the hottest month, on the hottest day, in the city of Dreamers, California--LA, I grab my dinero and make my way to find my friend Paletero Jose!

why it works: It the reader doesn't speak Spanish, it makes them wonder something, it sets the scene of the story, it sets the tone for the story, it hints at how the story will end, and it starts in the middle of the action. We immediately want to know what the MC wants to buy, we know it's a hot day, this will be a fun, rhyming story, the MC will end up with what he's setting out to buy, and we start with him embarking on his quest.

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Dumplings for Lili

by Melissa Iwai

2021

First line: It's a special day when Nai Nai says, "Lili, do you want to help me make baos?"

why it works: It sets the scene of the story and it hints at a universal theme. We know the MC will be in the kitchen, and all kids can relate to the joy of spending time with an elder.

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The Perfect Shelter

by Clare Helen Welsh, art by Asa Gilland

2020

First line: At first nobody knew.

why it works: it makes the reader wonder something and it hints at the end. We wonder what it is that nobody knew and we figure we'll find out by the end of the story.

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Be a Tree

by Maria Gianferrari, art by Felicita Sala

2021

First line: Be a tree!

why it works: it makes the reader wonder something. How can the reader do such a thing?

The Night Library

by David Zeltser, art by Raul Colon

2019

First line: It was the night before my eighth birthday, and I was having trouble falling asleep.

why it works: Makes the reader wonder something, hints at the end, hints at a universal theme, and introduces the main character and their problem. We wonder how the MC will fall asleep, we figure we'll end on the birthday, all kids can relate to the excitement of the night before your birthday, and we know the MC is trying to fall asleep.

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Stroller Coaster

by Matt Ringler, art by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay

2021

First line: There's a time each and every day when the inside feels too small for Sam...Blocks block every path!

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, hints at a universal theme, and introduces the MC and their problem. We wonder what the solution is, all kids can relate to feeling stir crazy, and we know the MC needs to get outside.

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Gwendolyn's Pet Garden

by Anne Renaud, art by Rashin Kheiriyeh

2021

First line: Gwendolyn Newberry-Fretz wanted a pet.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, hints at how the story will end, hints at a universal theme, and introduces the character and their problem. We wonder why she doesn't have a pet, we figure she'll end up with something new, even if it's not a pet, most kids want a pet at some stage, and this MC doesn't have one but wants one.

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Sun Flower Lion

by Kevin Henkes

2020

First line: This is the sun.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. The first picture is actually ambiguous, so the reader wonders what's going on here.

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America My Love America My Heart

by Daria Peoples-Riley

2021

First line: America, the Brave.

why it works: hints at a universal theme. We love our country.

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The Little Library

by Margaret McNamara, art by G. Brian Karas

2021

First line: One breezy spring afternoon, Mr. Tiffin told his class, "Our new library is finally open! Time to meet our new librarian."

why it works: sets the scene and hints at a universal theme. We're going to spend our time in the library and something new at school is generally cause for excitement.

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Give It!

by Cinders McLeod

2020

First lines: This is Chummy. This is Chummy's gran. Chummy and his gran ADORE each other.

why it works: hints at a universal theme. Kids love their grandparents!

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Night Walk to the Sea

a story about Rachel Carson, Earth's Protector

by Deborah Wiles, art by Daniel Miyares

2020

First line: It was bedtime in Rachel's cabin in the woods, when thunder BOOMED and the storm roared in.

why it works: sets the scene, begins with action, and hints at a universal theme. We know we're in the woods, during a storm, which sparks both excitement and fright.

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I Am Not A Penguin

a pangolin's lament

by Liz Wong

2021

First lines: "Hi there! You may not have met someone like me before."

why it works: makes the reader wonder something. Who is this unfamiliar creature?

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Saturdays Are For Stella

by Candy Wellins, art by Charlie Eve Ryan

2020

First line: George loved Saturdays.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. Every kid loves Saturdays by why does George in particular love Saturdays?

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Peanut Goes for the Gold

by Jonathan Van Ness, art by Gillian Reid

2020

First line: Peanut has their own way of doing things.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, sets the tone of the story, hints at a universal theme, introduces an unusual MC and possibly hints at the their problem. We wonder what is the MC's way of doing things, we figure we'll find out and that this is an inclusive and welcoming story, we all want to be unique, and we suspect Peanut might run into some trouble because of their desire to do things their own way.

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Teddy Bear of the Year

by Vikki VanSickle, art by Sydney Hanson

2020

First line: Ollie thought being a teddy bear was the best job in the world.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and hints at a universal theme. The reader wonders why this teddy bear thinks his job is the best, and teddy bears are universally loved. What kid wouldn't be excited to find out what they do all day?

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This Book Is Upside Down

by Erin Rose Wage, art by Simona Ceccarelli

2020

First lines: You know something? I think this book is upside down.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something and sets the scene. Is the book upside down? Why does the MC think it is? Are we about to find out?

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with a little help from my friends

by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, art by Henry Cole

2019

First line: What would you think if I sang out of tune?

why it works: hints at a universal theme. Adult readers know this song! And we all immediately want to sing along.

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I Want A Boat!

by Liz Garton Scanlon, art by Kevan Atteberry

2021

First lines: I have a box. I want a boat.

why it works: hints at a universal theme and introduces the MC and their problem. What kid hasn't faced a box and determined to change it into what he wants it to be. This kid has one thing and wants another. We're along for the imaginary ride.

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Unicorns Are The Worst!

by Alex Willan

2020

First line: For hundreds of years I have gone about completing my important goblin business in peace.

why it works: makes the reader wonder something, and introduces the MC and hints at his problem. Something is about to change and we want to know what. This goblin is about to experience conflict for the first time.