Here are the first lines from 10 books featured recently on the podcast or ones that I simply cannot stop thinking about. Read each opening line in turn and then pause for reflection. Consider what, if anything, moves you after reading each line. I’ve included a note about what comes to my mind after reading the line.
And as you continue onward on your ReFoReMo journey, may your coming days be storied, and may the good stories keep on coming!
1. “WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW IS THAT LIFE WAS GREAT BEFORE KINDERGARTEN.”
What You Don't Know: A Story of Liberated Childhood by Anastasia Higginbotham
THE PULL: Even if you have no context whatsoever for the story, that opening line implies that there’s a big problem with school as we know it, at least for how one child walks through the world. I immediately lean in!
2. “I HAVE NO SHADOW. MAMA SAYS NO ONE NOTICES. BUT I DO. AND SO DO OTHERS.”
Luci Soars by Lulu Delacre
THE PULL: I immediately ask the question, “why?”. And that’s the shortest and most compelling reason to ever read onward.
3. “I WAKE UP EACH MORNING WITH THE SOUNDS OF WORDS ALL AROUND ME.”
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott; illustrated by Sydney Smith
THE PULL: The absurd phrasing is immediately compelling. What does it mean to wake up with the sounds of words?
4. “THIS IS THE POI FOR OUR ‘OHANA’S LU’AU.”
Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis; illustrated by Kenard Pak
THE PULL: We start not by introducing a character or a setting, but by presenting a dish. I am full of questions immediately.
5. “YOUR MOTHER’S GARDEN IS BEAUTIFUL. MAY I HELP? OKAY.
MY MOM DIED. I KNOW.”
The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer; illustrated by Cindy Derby
THE PULL: Frank, straightforward language. We’re not holding anything back with this one and I have a strong sense of exactly what is in store ahead.
6. “WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME, ‘WHY IS YOUR HAIR SO BIG?” I ASK THEM, “WHY ISN’T YOURS?”
My Hair Is Magic! by M. L. Marroquin; illustrated by Tonya Engel
THE PULL: The character’s voice comes through powerfully from our very first moment of meeting her. That type of confidence is one I know will reach children immediately and I’m drawn strongly to it even more so for that reason.
7. “‘ARCHIE LOVES ZACK!’ ‘ZACK LOVES ARCHIE!’ EVERYONE SAID IT WAS SO.”
From Archie to Zack by Vincent X. Kirsch
THE PULL: This book is not afraid to say what it is upfront. I like that. A whole lot.
8. “SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENED ON AN UNREMARKABLE DAY JUST BEFORE THE SEASON CHANGED.”
Outside, Inside by Leuyen Pham
THE PULL: I know what that strange thing was on that unremarkable day just before the season changed. And so do you. So much so, we don’t even need to name it. We just know.
9. “I LOVED YOU BEFORE I MET YOU. BEFORE I HELD YOU IN MY ARMS, I SANG YOU DOWN FROM THE STARS.”
I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner; illustrated by Michaela Goade
THE PULL: The speaker did not just love the child, the reader. No. The speaker beckoned that child from the stars to her. You are not just a gift. You are a hope. I find that opening irresistible.
10. “I REMEMBER TYING MY SHOES. SUN ON MY SKIN. WIND ON MY FACE.”
I Am Darn Tough by Licia Morelli; illustrated by Maine Diaz
THE PULL: These lines put us, the readers, right beside the story’s protagonist. But it’s also more than that. Because of the pronouns, when we read the text it’s actually as if we are her. And so the affirmation that we, too, have that toughness within us.
Matthew Winner is the Head of Podcasts at A Kids Book About where he leads the company in creating a podcast network dedicated to helping kids and their grownups have honest conversations by making podcasts about challenging, empowering, and important topics hosted by individuals from diverse backgrounds who know the topic first-hand. Prior to this, Matthew worked in education for 15+ years, first as a classroom teacher in an elementary school and then as an elementary school librarian. Matthew is the host of The Children's Book Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators, and everyone involved in taking a book from drawing board to bookshelf. He also co hosts Kidlit These Days, a Book Riot podcast pairing the best of children’s literature with what’s going on in the world today. In 2013 Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. He wishes he was still on the Obama's Christmas card mailing list. Matthew and his family reside in Ellicott City, Maryland. https://www.matthewcwinner.com/