I suspect the picture book market today can be likened to Grab-n-Go, a popular convenience store serving a fast paced generation.
Consumers are looking for fast service, fresh ingredients, and value pricing when choosing a foodservice solution and convenience stores are answering the call with innovative programs that meet the latest food trends.
Not in the sense of speedy delivery of sandwiches, but picture books must GRAB the reader on the first page, if not the cover, and GO on to provide high quality literature with a fresh twist at a value price.
What are your favorite children’s books? These are books you have Grabbed and Gone with over the years. These are your go-to books. These are the books we give as gifts and reread for our own pleasure.
We can recite the first lines of these books.
Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.
– A.A. Milne (1926)
Where’s Papa going with that ax?
-E.B. White (1952)
The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day. I sat there with Sally. We sat here we two and we said ‘How we wish we had something to do.
– Dr. Seuss (1957)
The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
– Maurice Sendak (1963)
One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry.
– Eric Carle (1969)
These books stayed with us for a reason… they hooked us into the stories we saved in our hearts. And so whenever we hear these lines we are immediately transported back to the time we sat in someone’s lap, or pushed our way to the front of the group, or felt the joy of reading and rereading our favorite books independently, or probably all three.
Now of course, a good opening is worthless without an equally great follow up. These are tied together in our memories. A few words can elicit a flood of emotions and trigger an avalanche of subsequent memories. The power of those opening lines is what keeps us opening those books over and over, rereading those pages, and reliving those adventures like it’s the first time.
Did you notice something about all the quotes above? Look at the publication dates. That’s right, for the most part they are 50+ years old. THAT is the staying power of a great hook, a powerful first line, an exceptional story. THAT is what we are striving for as writers!
But does that mean there haven’t been any brilliant first lines since 1969? Absolutely not. That’s just where my memory takes me. Where does you memory take you?
Let’s look at some of today’s first lines. The most recent books of 2016 are all of two months old. How many first lines do you already know? Which ones do you think will become classics? Will today’s children quote these books in 50 years? Let’s certainly hope so!
The books below are listed alphabetically by title so as not to show favorites.
Dennis was an ordinary boy…who expressed himself in EXTRAORDINARY ways.
-Salina Yoon (2016)
Lula Mae wanted a puppy, but Mama said, “Dog’s just another mouth to feed. These are hard times, Lula Mae. You’ve got to make do.
-Susan McElroy (2016)
When the crickets sing and the end of summer is near, Grandma and Granpa say COME.
-Marc Harshman (2016)
Peddles was just a pig.
-Elizabeth Rose Stanton (2016)
I’m running in place, listening to my feet pound the pavement.
-Pat Zietlow Miller (2016)
I never imagined, before you came along… that our house could get this messy and LOUD!
-Sherri Duskey Rinker (2016)
Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
-Julie Falatko (2016)