Favourite First Lines
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.
Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot... but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville, did NOT!
It was a dark and stormy night.
A great first line in a book is an invitation. It takes your hand and leads you a step out of your reality. Draw closer, pull up a seat, settle in, stay a while. Some first lines are less subtle about it – they hook you, hitting hard and leaving you no choice but to tumble headfirst into the story. You turn the first page and before you know it you're off on an adventure!
Reading to children is a fun way to build literacy skills and for families to bond through the magic of storytelling. The right read-aloud can also engage and encourage reluctant readers. Our children's librarians picked some of their favourite first lines. Try reading these books with your school-aged kids. Ignite their imagination and make them clamour for more!
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."
Meet the resourceful Baudelaire siblings, three young orphans who must outwit the villainous Count Olaf. The first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, 13 books filled with Gothic mayhem.
The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson
"A girl in an orange-coloured shawl stood at the window of Pedlar's store and looked, through the falling snow, at the deserted road. Though she watched there without moving, her attitude, in its stillness, gave an impression of arrested flight, as if she were running toward life."
Eli and Morgan discover a doorway to another world in the attic of their foster home. A 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award nominee.
A Boy is Not a Bird by Edeet Ravel
"My best friend Max and I are playing a game called Life and Death on the High Seas. Max came up with both the game and the name. He gets all the good ideas. I am more of a go-along type of guy."
Based on true events, this is the story of Natt, whose family is uprooted and exiled to Siberia during the Nazi occupation of the Soviet Ukraine. A 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award nominee.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
"Dribbling. At the top of the key, I'm MOVING & GROOVING, POPping and ROCKING - Why you BUMPING? Why you LOCKING? Man, take this THUMPING. Be careful though, 'cause now I'm CRUNKing CrissCROSSING FLOSSING flipping and my dipping will leave you. S L I P P I N G on the floor, while I SWOOP in to the finish with a fierce fingerroll... Straight in the hole: Swoooooooooooosh. Josh Bell is my name. But Filthy McNasty is my claim to fame."
Josh and Jordan are twins, united by blood and by their love for basketball. But the brothers' relationship is tested by their father's health problems and the arrival of a new girl at school. A Newbery Medal-winning novel in verse.
Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson
"Whoever's behind me is coming fast! I peek over my shoulder and see a blurry line of shapes bearing down."
McKenna and her team of sled dogs are competing in a three-day race through the Canadian wilderness. She will have to deal with dangerous lake ice, owl attacks, snow squalls... and her own worsening eyesight. A 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award nominee.
Holes by Louis Sachar
"There is no lake at Camp Green Lake."
Stanley has been sent to a juvenile detention centre, where digging holes is supposed to build character. It doesn't take long for him to realize there's something strange going on. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what?
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
"In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three."
A witch casts a terrible spell on Sophie, transforming her into an old crone. Desperate to undo the curse, Sophie seeks out the wizard who dwells in the moving castle on the hills above town.
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
"I'd seent plenty of animals by the time I was old 'nough to start talking, but only one kind worked me up so much that it pult the first real word I said out of my mouth.
And 'cording to the only folks who was there to witness the whole fuss, the word kept tumbling outta me o'er and o'er for more'n half a day."
1858, South Carolina. Trapped by his father's debt, Charlie makes a deal with Cap'n Buck to track down some people accused of stealing. When he discovers that the fugitives are runaway slaves, Charlie must come to terms with his own complicity and find the courage to do what's right.
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman
"The first sound I hear from the forest at the bottom of the world is Vivaldi's Spring from the Four Seasons."
Louisa's great-grandmother founded a sanctuary for Tasmanian tigers deep in the rainforest. Now it's up to Louisa to save the day when the sanctuary is threatened by a mining company. A 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award nominee.
Savvy by Ingrid Law
"When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it."
Everyone in Mibs' family has a "savvy," a special supernatural power that manifests when they turn 13 years old. Her grandfather can move mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity... and now it's the eve of Mibs' birthday! What will her savvy be?
Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
"Skimming over the banks of the stream, Shade heard the beetle warming up its wings. He flapped harder, picking up speed as he homed in on the musical whine. He was almost invisible against the night sky, the streaks of silver in his thick black fur flashing in the moon's glow."
A storm separates a young silverwing bat from his family during winter migration. He embarks on an epic journey to reunite with his colony, encountering new friends and foes along the way.
The Sky is Falling by Kit Pearson
"Norah, armed to the teeth, slithered on her stomach through the underbrush. She gripped her bow in her right hand and bit on a kitchen knife."
Norah and her little brother try to adjust to life in Toronto after they are evacuated from England during World War II.
What are your favourite first lines from children's literature? Do you have a bedtime or classroom read-aloud that enthralled your audience from the opening scene? Share in the comments!