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Smithfield Public School: 1. In the Beginning

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 , Posted by Sandy Fussell at 10:26 AM

First – a wave across cyberspace - hi Smithfield! I was sitting at my desk wondering what to write – when I thought why not start at the very beginning? Because that’s my most favourite part of a book – the very first line, then followed by the first paragraph and then the first page.

How far do you read before you decide to give up on a book? I always read at least the first page. If I get to the end of the first page and I don’t like it I force myself to read to the end of the chapter. But if I don’t like it then – I usually stop reading. Sometimes I might keep going if a friend has recommended it. Last week I was talking with Manor Lakes Specialist College about different genres and the kids were very keen on supernatural and horror stories. I don’t read a lot of horror because I get too scared but I am going to check out the first paragraphs of the recommended books and see if I might like to read them. We decided to start a page for recommended books so if you have any titles to add just let me know. And feel free to join in and comment on our genres discussion.

Recently I read a book called The Undrowned Child. And it was very slow to start. I picked it because: I liked the cover (I hadn’t read a book about mermaids for ages) and I was hooked by the word ‘undrowned’. We often hear about drowned people but never ‘undrowned’ – because that’s what we all are! So I kept wondering how close to drowned you had to become to be undrowned but not drowned. The book got better quickly when the mermaids started to talk like ship captains – with lots of salty language – because that was the only English they had heard. If you visit the website and click on the Eat button you'll hear a mermaid burp!

Here is a selection of my favourite first lines:
Valkyrie Cain hit the parapet and tumbled, unable to stop herself, and with a panicked gasp she disappeared off the edge. - Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire, Derek Landy

Morgoroth, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked out over his bleak rainswept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed. Rangers Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan – John Flanagan

Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. It made things much harder than they needed to be. – Laws of Magic: Blaze of GloryMichael Pryor
Here are some of the first few lines I wrote:
Why isn’t that boy dead yet? – Jaguar Warrior
‘Aye-eee-yah!’ –
White Crane
Yoshi’s voice booms across the deck, through the thick gloom and above the waves pounding against the hull. “Man overboard.” –
Shaolin Tiger

My all time favourite first page is from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, this book has won heaps of awards. I liked it so much that for a long time after I read it I could recite the whole page. It’s very suspenseful and guaranteed to make you want to read on. There’s a man in the house with a knife and the only person still alive is the baby… You can see the book trailer here.

Do you have a favourite first line? Let’s see if we can find some really good first lines – maybe in the library or a book you are reading? Some people collect stamps or Pokemon cards but I collect first lines. I have a book I write them down in. Here’s your challenge - find five random books on the library shelf or somewhere else and write down the first lines from each. Post a comment with at least one of the lines in it and if I like it, I’ll add it to my collection. If it’s really good I’ll be adding the book to my To Read List.

Currently have 51 comments:

  1. Anonymous says:

    I Am Jack

    Mum's talking to Nanna. She said she'd only be a minute. That's is such a lie. A minute means an hour in Mum's time.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Title: The Bell of Germelshayusen.
    First sentence: Friedrich was walking through the countryside with his precious pack on his back when he heard the church bell ring out from the nearby village of Marisfeld.

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Snog Log

    Whenever he thought about it-and he did, regularly-Robbie came to the same conclusion.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Tiltle: The Wombat King.
    First sentence: It was morning again.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Tiana & Veronica
    This book is called Fairy School:drop out and the first sentence in the book is: If you happened to look through the kitchen window of 27 raspberry dive at 7:50 last friday morning you would have seen something so totally normal you wouldn't have thought twice about it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy it's Kelsie and Kiara from Smithfield public school our 3 books we have choosen are Skin,Ocean Girl and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.The begging of Skin: That year in 1946 winter was a long time going.Ocean Girl:The little island passing below sat in the glittering sea of the great barrier reef.Diary of a Wimpy Kid:You know how your supposed to come up with a list of resolutions at the bigging of the year to try to make your self a better person.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Title: The Lie
    First sentence: Everyone knew the bridge over the river.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Veronica & Tiana
    This book is called High school musical:crunch time and the first sentance of the book is: It was only 8:30 in the morning, but an air of nervousness already filled the homeroom.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Title: TOTEM
    First sentence: Year nine rally sucks!I dumped my school bag noisily on the floor for emphasis.

  1. Anonymous says:

    hi i'm ike i read 5 different books i read the first page of one book and the the title was deadly! the final thrilling episode first sentence was ,i stoped dead.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Title: Crocodile Dreaming
    First sentence: Silently, the huge crocodile inched back wards, deeper into the shelter of the mangroves.

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Crocodile In The Tree

    Bertha the duck and Johnny the rabbit were sitting under the old oak when Jhonny suddenly,
    "Bertha, I just saw a crocodile's tail sticking out of that hole up there in the trunk.

  1. Anonymous says:

    ross 'n' zak
    title:diary of a wimpy kid last straw
    sentance:on new years day
    title:elfangors secret
    sentance:my name is tobias
    title:the valley of the lost
    sentance:it was dark and still
    title:true detective stories
    sentance:sherlock holmes never solved a mystery
    title:fantasy stories
    sentance:there was once apon a time a peasentwho had been working

    i hope you like them

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Giant Balloon

    Once there were two shopkeepers.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sonali & Linda say:
    DREAD MOUNTAIN:The day had been fine and clear and there was a slight chill in the air.

    THE ISLE OF ILLUSION:Lief and Barda was silent as they paddled the frail boat through the world below the world.

    Mrs and Mr Dursley, of number four,Privet Drive were proud to say that were perfectly normal,thank you very much.

    HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS:Not for the first time,an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four,privet drive.

    THE WITCHES:In fairy tales ,witches always wear silly black hats and black clothes ,and they ride on broom sticks.

  1. Anonymous says:



    when did mrs say when she would be back?

  1. Anonymous says:

    james elias
    zac power tomb of doom
    - somthing thought zac power , being a spy isn't as cool as it sounds.

    zac power poison island
    - if there were up to zac , the power family would have stayed right where they were.

    zac power under cover
    - zac power watched as the vollyball flew over the net towards him.

    zac power frozen fear
    - firts rule of surfing ? never, ever drop in.

    zac power deep water
    -zac couldn't help it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    jerry: book 1 animorphs the proposal: first sentence: my name is Marco. Book 2 animorphs the suspicion: first sentence: Go forth,mighty warriors! book 3 animorphs the warning: first sentence:I typed "Ball 24".book 4 animorphs the weakness first sentence:My name is 5 animorphs the androids first sentence:My name is marco.

  1. Anonymous says:

    hey Sandy this is my first book:
    GHOST HUNTERS AND THE GRUSIM INVICIBLE LIGHTING GHOST my first line is:its always the same with dangerous adventures they start of quite second book is GHOST HUNTERS AND THE BLOODTHIRSTY BARONESS!my first line is one feuary afternoon the fax machine of the famous ghost hunter hetty hyssop spat out the following third is THE MASK my first line is it happened in a second one momet he was behind his fourth is OLIVER NOCTURNE the first line is at the centre stood a fifth book is RANGERS APPRENTICE there was a raw wind blowing off the small harbour.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Desert Dog

    The female dingo lay crouched near the crest of the sandhill, behind a screen of wattle bushes.

  1. Anonymous says:


    the vampire's photograph

    at the centre of the everything, stood a gate. that had never been opened.

  1. Anonymous says:

    hi i'm fili

    i read a book it's by morris glietzman and paul jennings
    you could die laughing, the first sentence was ,there were three things for sure ,i was naked, i didn't know who i was,and i needed to go to the loo.

  1. Anonymous says:


    looking for X
    mum used to be a stripper

  1. Anonymous says:



    a man parvana didn't know gave one final pat to dirt mounded p over her father's grave.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Erico and Dylan (Sar)
    (We're from S.P.S)

    Animorphs (#1) My name is Tobias.

    The Stray cat: Zane tried to kill the cat when it arrived.

    Diary of a wimpy kid (last straw):You know how you're supposed to come up with "resolutions" at the beginning of the year to try to make yourself a better person.

    Visitors:There are things under the earth that want to eat our brains.

    Freak Street (Aliensons on holidays) The Aliensons were haveing a really really bad clothes day.

  1. Jamez 0 says:

    James O:

    This is a 3in1 book this book is called The blabber mouth collection by Morris glietzman a very famous author.These are the first lines of the 3 books
    Blabber Mouth:
    1.Im so dumb i never thought i'd say that about myself....
    Sticky Beak:
    2.I rekon there's something wrong with me.
    Gift Of The Gab
    3.It's not fair I dont rekon the police should lock people up without hearing their side of the story.

    Now moving on to 4 and 5
    My next book is UNCOLLECTED VOLUME TWO by Paul Jennings another famous author.

    4.It's on the bottom;says Dad.

    A fine mess by Norman Jorgensen
    5.Bang!At prescily 10.02 on the morning of 1 april magistrate caroline strait slammed her gravel onto her bench.

    Thank you sandy Hope you read my comment : )

  1. Anonymous says:

    High above the city, on a tall column,stood the statue of the happy prince. that is from the happy prince by Oscar Wilde.
    charlotte amanda

  1. There were so many great first lines I put them all in a spreadsheet with a column for deciding whether I would read on and why. And sometimes I said I wouldn't read on. I'll put a link to the spreadsheet in a new post so you can download it and fill in the column about whether you would read on! A couple of times I didn't know the name that went with the lines. I forgot to tell you to put your names in the posts.

    One thing I noticed was my reasons for reading on were exactly the sames as the ones I teach when I am showing kids how to write great first paragraphs that hook the reader. If the first sentence made we want to know something I always wanted to read on. Sometimes it let me know it was a story about something I like - I like animal stories. And sometimes it did the opposite. I don't like spy stories much although I have enjoyed some Zac Power stories and Alex Rider.

  1. DAVID, the name of the book you found your first line in was enough to amke me want to read it. Great title

  1. SECRET STUDENT #1!!!! - I am Jack is a book I really like and a friend of mine wrote it. there was a play based on it as well but I didn't get to see that.

  1. DENNIS, Excellent first line and title! I'd read on.

  1. CHARLOTTE AMANDA, I loved the image your first line drew inside my head. I'd read on.

  1. JAMES O, All really funny first lines. Exactly what I would expect from Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings. I've read nearly all the books both of them have written.

  1. ERICO & DYLAN. I wouldn't read the Animoprhs book. I don't like lines that begin My name is... Doesn't grab my interest. The others I would and two of them were my absolute favourites. Have a look at the spreadsheet to see which ones or can you guess? They are the ones I wrote DEFINITELY against!

  1. AMITY, that first line sounded just a bit scary and I wanted to know what happened next. I would definitely read on.

  1. FILI (how cool to have a DELTORA QUEST name!) - That's one of the best Morris Gleitzman and Paul Jennings first lines ever!

  1. JAMES ELIAS, I'm not a huge Zac Power fan but I've read some I have enjoyed. A couple of the first lines hooked me and a couple didn't. Are you a Zac Power fan? I've done some work with Chris Morphew who wrote some of the books (he is one of the poeple who make up H I Larry)

  1. NICOLE, that is a GREAT suspenseful first line. I would keep reading on straight away!

  1. DENNIS, I like animal stories heaps and would read on just because the first line tells me that is what it is going to be~!

  1. SECRET STUDENT #2 - Oh I love a good RANGERS APPRENTICE first line. I am a big fan of that series and have all the books - I got them for my birthday last year. Have you read any of them?

  1. JERRY, I don't get hooked in as a reader by My name is... first lines. Do you? But I loved that one about the warriors. I not only read about warriors I write about them!

  1. SONALI & LINDA It surprised me when I read the DELTORA QUEST first lines that they didn't grab me becuase I love all the books. I guess that just goes to prove you shouldn't give up on a story just because of the first line!

  1. DENNIS AGAIN - are there two Dennises?! I decided I wouldn't read the GIANT BALLOON based on it's first sentence. But I would read a bit more just in case. Especially as SONALI and LINDA just reminded me I couldn't judge DELTORA QUEST based on it's first lines.

  1. ROSS & ZAK - I loved that line 'It was dark and still' although I suspect there might have been some more. I think I confused you when I said first line and meant first sentence. Still even that much was enough to make me feel nervous. A simple line can have great suspense.

  1. DENNIS AGAIN - Now there can't be three Dennises!!! But this line is a winner with me. I love animal stories.

  1. DAVID - Your lines just proved to me I wouldn't read every animal story after all. Have a guess which one got a yes I'd rea don and whcih one got a no!

  1. IKE, Too funny to stop at the first line. I would definitely read on!

  1. TIANE & VERONICA, I don't usually read fairy stories but this first line definitely hooked me to keep reading on to see, I suspect I might not last past the first page though...

  1. Oops TIANA - sorry, spelled your name wrong!

  1. KELSIE & KIARA I like it when the character talks to me in the first line!

  1. DAVID - That's one 'no I wouldn't read that' and one 'yes I'd read one' Can you guess which one I would read?