If I began with “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” you would know the book I was about to read. What about…”you don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.” (I’ll bet you’d get that one, too.)
Writers know that first sentences are all-important, sometimes elusive, and occasionally don’t even pop up until the story is half written. The lead is difficult to write. I find that when an awesome first sentence does drop out of the sky it often fails to bring a story with it.
In this list of leads, first sentences from ten novels for young people, see if you can guess the book. I’ve included the list of books at the end — in no particular order. (See how many you can get BEFORE using Google.)
1) “I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island.”
2) “Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.”
3) “Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity — Good.”
4) “Around 5:00 on a warm Sunday morning in October 1953, my Aunt Belle left her bed and vanished from the face of the earth.”
5) “As summer wheat came ripe,/so did I,/born at home, on the kitchen floor.”
6) “The Mammoth Mountains were not really mountains at all.”
7) “This June morning is hot and humid with a haze so dense I can barely see the huge hemlock tree in which I live.”
8) “When I was little, my uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.”
9) “I don’t want to/because boys/don’t write poetry.”
10) “This picture has a dollop of peanut butter on one edge, a smear of grape jelly on the other, and an X across the whole thing.”
A peek at the books (not in order):
Love That Dog, On the Far Side of the Mountain, Out of the Dust, Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Pictures of Hollis Woods, Stargirl, Kneeknock Rise, Belle Prater’s Boy, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The answers tomorrow for those folks who’d rather wait than google.
What are your favorite novels for young people? Great first sentences?