Monday, November 5, 2012

First lines

by Susan Berger

I haven’t done a first line post in a while. This time I’m taking lines from books I read within the last two months. Some of them are prize winners. A couple I bought at the SCBWI Summer Conference. Two were urged on me by friends. See if these first paragraphs, or, in the case of picture books, first pages, make you want to read on.  Answers in two weeks.

1.      Frannie James often dreamed about her missing mother. Nothing warm or fuzzy, of course, more like reruns of a half forgotten TV series. It was happening again. Her hands clenched as she slept. Would Mom smile?  Just one loving smile….Please

2.      “Hurry Zachary, bring me a diaper,” cried Mom.
“In a minute Mom. I’m feeding the bird,” said Zachary.
“I need it right now,” Mom yelled.

3.      You need something?
I can get it for you.
You have a problem?
I can solve it.
That’s why they come to me. By “they” I mean every kid in the school. First Graders up to eighth graders. Everyone comes to me for help and most of the time I’m happy to provide it. For a small fee of course.

4.      I am lucky my sister is my best friend.
We do everything together.
         Tengo suerte de que me Hermana sea mi major amiga.
         Hacemos todas las cosas juntas.
                J’ai de la chance parce que ma sœur est ma meilleure amie.
                On fait tout ensemble.

5.      The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I knew only from stories. The one just outside of town with the big blue letters: MANIFEST: A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE.

6.      Logan
       Logan didn’t have to open his eyes to know that morning had arrived. The sweet smell of cotton candy wafting into his room worked better than any alarm clock. He rolled over so his nose nearly touched the air vent.
7.      Natalie Isabelle Cailean Edwards bounded up the steps of Carver Middle School with a spring in her step and a welcoming smile on her face. She walked down the hall greeting her fellow eighth grade students. “Good morning, Cecil. How’s your dog recovering from his surgery?”

8.      Jessica sat at the breakfast table of the grandparents’ beach house. She missed Mommy and Daddy. A tear dribbled down her cheek and fell into her cereal. “How long is a week, Grandma?”

9.      “Isn’t it cool living by the beach?” Bella asked her best friend, Britt.
“Yeah,” agreed Britt. “There’s always a surprise.”
“Britt, look!” exclaimed Bella. “Here is a surprise. A sea turtle. They’re not usually on the beach in daylight.”
But there she was. A beautiful Loggerhead.

10.   In the bright buzzing room
There was an iPad
And a kid playing Doom
And a screensaver of-
A bird launching over the moon


  1. Number three I've already read and enjoyed it. Number 6 screams read me! I'm sure it has nothing to do with my cotton cany obession

  2. Hi Susan, what a great post idea! I've read #1, 4, 8, and 9. I can recommend them as great books for their intended audience -- some award winners. And #5, 6, and 7 sound interesting! Thanks for this.

  3. Thanks Susan, I enjoyed reading first lines. I loved #6 also, but #2 brought back memories,LOL.

  4. Intriguing idea, Susan. I had no idea what you meant when you told me about "first lines." #6 really drew mein, and #3 I must read.

    BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques

  5. Hi Susan,
    What a wonderful surprise to find one of my first lines on Pen and Ink Blog!

    When I saw Nicole Weaves's first lines at No. 4, I thought I had identified what you meant by "I'm using one of your first lines this week." (I thought the email had been forwarded from Guardian Angel). Then I kept reading and there it was!

    Can't than you enough, Sue. I have been saving a lot of your first lines. This is an inspiring blog.

  6. Thanks for your comments. You know we love them.

  7. Thanks so much for including Sea Turtle Summer in your august group of books for this post! I am honored and have sent the post on its way into the social world...

  8. Thanks for using my book, "Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep." #2 Zachary becomes a superhero when he puts on his thick black glasses and saves his new baby sister from all kinds of peril.
    #6, #8, #9 are fascinating to me.

    Great post!! Thanks

  9. #5 is one of my favorite new children's books. What a treasure.

  10. Although I don't know the books, most of those beginnings made me want to read on. A valuable lesson!


We love hearing from you.