First Lines

I have many favorite children’s books. It’s easy to recognize them just by their first lines. I’ve collected 15 of them. See if you can match the beginning with the book.

BeginnigsAn interesting thing about these. In most cases I can tell the older books (published more than a dozen years ago) from the newer books. The reason is that picture books have become extremely condensed. For that reason newer books tend to follow three rules:

  1. The story should begin at an interesting place (usually where the action begins).
  2. The first sentence should get your attention.
  3. The main character will usually be introduced within the first few sentences.

Anyway, see how well you can do. These are all classics and/or best sellers. The first sentences are at the top. The authors and titles at the bottom.

1) Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do.

2) On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly on my bed
I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly. I was listening for a sound — a sound a friend had told me I’d never hear — the ringing of Santa’s Sleigh.

3)  The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him, “WILD THING!”

4) Many, many years ago in Sorrento there lived a small boy named Giovanni who had no mother and father. He dressed in rags and begged his bread and slept in doorways.
But he was happy, and he could do something wonderful.

5) In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

6) Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live. But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good.

7) A mother bird sat on her egg. The egg jumped. “I must get something for my baby bird to eat!” she said. So away she went.

8) “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”

9) In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of the cow jumping over the moon.

10) Lazlo was afraid of the dark

11) We were all sitting around the big kitchen table. it was Saturday morning, Pancake morning. Mom was squeezing oranges for juice. Henry and I were betting on how many pancakes we each could eat.

12) Not so long ago, before she could even speak words, Trixie went on an errand with her daddy….

13) Now remember, Mother said, “your father and I are bringing some guests by after the opera, so please keep the house neat.”
“Quite so,” added Father, tucking his scarf inside his coat.

14) A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

15) I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running….cover - Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Okay, match ‘em up

___ a) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Bill Martin Jr.
___b) Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
___c)The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
___d) The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
___e) Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
___f) The Dark, Lemony Snicket
___g) Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans
___h) Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown
___i) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
___j) Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems
___k) Are You My Mother?. P.D. Eastman
___l) Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey
___m) Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
___n) The Clown of God, Tomie dePaola) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judy Barret, Ronald Barret

Actually, not too difficult, right? The real question is: Which ones do you want to read most?

Just in case you’re not sure about one or two of your answers. Here’s the answer key.

1 = d; 2 = c; 3 = i; 4 = n; 5 = g; 6 = l; 7 = k; 8 = a; 9 = h; 10 = f; 11 = o; 12 = j; 13 = b; 14 = m; 15 = e


Enhanced by Zemanta

beginnings, Picture Books, writing


Quotation: Trenton Lee Stewart

Quotation: Trenton Lee StewartWe writers of literature for children like to think of children as good, kind and sweet. For the most part they are, or can be. That’s the way we tend to portray them. However, they often usually lack inhibitions. So they are known to do what they want to do, say what they want to say.

A number of years ago a woman who lived above me sent one of her children down to borrow my curry powder. I was boiling some cabbage at the time.

Before the boy asked about the spice he said, “Wow, it really stinks in here.” I think I’d like to write a story about him

childhood, rudeness, Trenton Lee Stewart, writing

Should a Picture Book Emphasize a Message?

Aesop-fables-rare-Book-bookcoverFor some reason many people who know very little about writing picture books think a picture book has to teach something, that it has to be educational, that it has to have a moral.

There is one common truth with all writing whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, news story, Romance, Science Fiction, Picture Book or almost anything that people are expected to buy: It tells a story. Underneath, there is usually something being taught, something educational, a moral. However, whatever that might be is immaterial. Often it’s the reader who finds it. Often the author didn’t know it was there, because it wasn’t something the author was concerned with.

A good Picture Book tells a story first and foremost. Today the better non-fiction Picture Books weave the facts, the details into a story. Even the Picture Books that are referred to as Concept Books (picture books that are often plot-less because their emphasis is on a concept), usually have a story to tell.

A good writer has stories to tell. Good readers want to hear stories. Good writing is as simple as that. There’s no reason to make it more difficult (and it is difficult) by trying to build a story around a moral or something the author feels needs to be taught.

I just finished reading Tara Lazar’s latest Goodreads blog, “What’s Wrong With Writing Message-Driven Picture Books?” It says much the same thing.