Mysterious first lines – try your luck!

I don’t post a lot of memes and quizzes. Every couple months, on various blogs and journals I read, the one pops up about guess the lyrics from random songs on your Ipod, or post the first line of page 35 from the five books closest to you. It’s always neat to get a little glimpse into what everyone is listening to or reading, but I am inevitably very bad at guessing song lyrics. (I’m also very tone deaf… I wonder if the two are connected?)

However, there’s recently been a guess the first lines of kids and YA books meme circulating. Aha, I said. I can do this one! So, here are fifty first lines from kids’ and YA books.

They’re mostly juvenile and YA fiction, with a few picture books in the mix. If the line included the name of a character (or in one case, object) that was also in the title, I’ve taken it out. There are new books, old books, some of my perennial favourites, and one book I just finished last night. There are only a couple of really obscure books. The authors are Canadian, American, from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Germany. (I think I’ve just got the one book translated from another language.) For a few books, I’ve given the first two or three sentences just to give enough context for guessing. And for one book, due to a proliferation of semi-colons, the first full sentence was actually half a page long. I stopped at the first semi-colon.

Alas, I have no phenomenal prizes to give out, so you will have to settle for the UNDYING FAME of being immortalized right here in this very blog, and possibly an advanced reviewer’s copy of something-or-other, though most of my ARCs are destined for the prize basket for various kids’ and YA programs at the library.

For the time being, I’ve got comments set to moderated-only, so you won’t see your answers right away. I’ll approve all the comments and post the answers in a week. Happy guessing!

1. Gwyn’s grandmother gave him five gifts for his birthday, his ninth birthday. They were very unusual gifts, and if Gwyn had not been the sort of boy he was, he would have been disappointed.

2. Claudia knew she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.


4. When Portia Blake and her brother set out for Creston, it was different from all the other summers.

5. **** was trying to explain to Sport how to play Town.

6. I saw him for the first time at the funeral. He was standing next to my elder brother John, and they both had closed, clenched jaws and angry eyes.

7. “Great scott!” cried Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut. “Your mother just lost her hand in the rotating band saw!”

8. The summer between fifth and sixth grades, something happens to your mind. With me, the box of Crayolas did it–thirty-two colors including copper and burgundy.

9. **** was ten. She had hair the color of Hubbard squash, fourteen freckles across her nose (and seven others she preferred people not to know about), and glasses with large owl-eyed rims, which she had chosen herself at the optician’s.

10. When Saffron was eight, and had learned to read, she hunted slowly through the colour chart pinned up on the kitchen wall.

11. Zoom was knitting something warm.

12. Linderwall was a large kingdom, just east of the Mountains of Morning, where philosophers were highly respected and the number five was fashionable.

13. “Too many!” shouted James, and slammed the door behind him.

14. Mrs Lynde lives just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place.

15. David often wondered about how he happened to be sitting there on the stair landing, within arm’s reach of the **** ***, at the very moment his stepmother left Westerly House to bring Amanda home.

16. That morning, the old witch Abagtha had set out to gather mushrooms, the silvery, fragile kind that spring up in the night and are gone by the time the sun is very high.

17. It was a cold wet afternoon in October when Rose Larkin came to live in the house at Hawthorn Bay.

18. “Hi. I’m the bus driver. Listen, I’ve got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back?”

19. The big hand of the clock is at 12. The little hand is at 7. It is seven o’clock. It is bedtime for ***.

20. When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen.

21. The year Janet started at Blackstock College, the Office of Residential Life had spent the summer removing from all the dormitories the old wooden bookcases that, once filled with books, fell over unless wedged.

22. Farris Nallaneen arrived at the gates of Greenlaw on the same day winter did.

23. Me and my friends Myrtle and Annie went to the bulletin board
Where the office puts up notes
if they’re approved by the school:
So-and-so wants a housecleaner or a painter
or somebody wants to babysit or be a janitor’s assistant.

24. I am a Dangerous Woman in a Dangerous Dress.

25. So here I am, not a half-hour old as a tie salesman and trying to look like I know what I’m doing, which have got to be two of the biggest jokes of all time, when who should walk into Awkworth & Ames Department store but Skeezie Tooks.

26. He saw the first tree shudder and fall, far off in the distance. Then he heard his mother call out the kitchen window: “Luke! Inside. Now.”

27. The doll’s name was Jessie. Not Jessica which was elegant, or Jessmine which was splendid, or even Jess which had a certain dignity, but Jessie.

28. I tell you, the world is so full of ghosts, a person wonders if there’s a soul to be found on the Other Side.

29. “Koly, you are thirteen and growing every day,” Maa said to me. “It’s time for you to have a husband.”

30. When I was young, if there was one thing I wanted in the world, it was to be invisible.

31. The twin moons cast shadows like blood scores across the sand.

32. **** stared at Tess in amazement. “You’re a what?”

33. The little town of Yellowtooth in the frozen north celebrates the New Year with a Blueberry Muffin Festival.

34. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.

35. “Where’s Pa going with that ax?”

36. I didn’t know how long I had been in the king’s prison.

37. Although the label on the hair shampoo said Paris and had a picture of a beautiful girl with the Eiffel Tower behind her bare shoulder, it was forced to tell the truth in tiny print above the picture.

38. When Elizabeth was a beautiful princess, she lived in a castle and had expensive princess clothes.

39. A little boy was sitting in the corner of a railway carriage looking out of the rain, which was flashing against the windows and watching downward in an ugly, dirty way.

40. Lewis Barnavelt fidgeted and wiped his sweaty palms on the seat of the bus that was roaring toward New Zebedee.

41. Part of the problem, Nita thought to herself as she tore desperately down Rose Avenue, is that I can’t keep my mouth shut.

42. It was a dark and stormy night.

43. Blue eyes wide, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren watched her near-empty oil lamp.

44. Min Randall sat on the bench next to the Royal Bank parking lot and wondered how much longer Enid Bangs, her foster mother, would spend in the bank.

45. The King killed my canary today.

46. She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.

47. Amos was old.

48. Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain. Many years later, Meggie only had to close her eyes and she could still hear it, like tiny fingers tapping on the windowpane.

49. Dear Ms Clarry, it has come to our attention that you are incredibly bad at being a teenager.

50. It starts with this faint sound that pulls me out of sleep: a sort of calliope music played on an ensemble of toy instruments.


10 responses to “Mysterious first lines – try your luck!

  1. Hooray! Yay fun!

    2. From the Mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

    3. Witch Week.

    5. Hmm. Interesting. If it were Sport I’d assume you’d have taken the name out of the sentence but I don’t remember whether Sport appears as a character in HtS, and in that case I’d have figured you’d have taken *her* name out. But I don’t remember either book well enough so I’ll say Sport.

    9, Anastasia Krupnik?

    14. Anne of Green Gables, I think. I’m pretty sure that’s how that one starts, with her being nosy and seeing Matthew on his way off to the train station.

    15. I am convinced that this is the Headless Cupid even though I’m pretty sure it’s *not*.

    19. Bedtime for Frances

    20. Secret Garden

    21. Tam Lin. I guess this is YA, isn’t it?

    23. True Believer. No! Make Lemonade, because it’s the babysitting ad she’s about to see.

    34. Holes –classic first line

    35. Charlotte’s Web –best first line ever

    36. The Thief

    37. Changeover — some of these i did, too, so i feel like i’m cheating. But I love these books so much!

    38. Paper bag princess

    39. Children of Green Knowe

    40. House with the clock in its walls

    41. So you want to be a wizard?

    42. Wrinkle in Time

    43. The first Circle book. Called.. mmm… Sandry’s Book?

    44. Man, that rings a bell. But what?

  2. My powers of recall suck mightily. I recognise so many of these lines, but to actually remember what they’re from? Pfffft. Not a chance!

  3. I’m the same way–I know ’em if either the context or names give away which book it is, or in the rare case it’s a book I know inside and out.

  4. The Last Good Name

    4. When Portia Blake and her brother set out for Creston, it was different from all the other summers. — This might be Gone-Away Lake (and I can’t find any of her other books in my local library, which makes me very sad, because I think I might like to read them).

    14. Mrs Lynde lives just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place. — This is probably by LM Montgomery, but I couldn’t tell you which book.

    18. “Hi. I’m the bus driver. Listen, I’ve got to leave for a little while, so can you watch things for me until I get back?” — Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

    20. When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. — The Secret Garden.

    42. It was a dark and stormy night. — This is the first line of A Wrinkle in Time, but that might not be the book you were thinking of.

  5. #47: Amos’ Sweater, by Janet Lunn
    #34: Holes, by Louis Sachar
    #21: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

    Those are about the only ones I recognised right away. I googled a few of them that I thought I might know, and did, but I’m not giving those up. 😉

  6. Hmm…lots of favourites in there. 🙂

    3 – Witch Week, Diana Wynne Jones
    12 – Dealing with Dragons, Patricia C. Wrede
    14 – Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
    20 – The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
    22 – A College of Magics, Caroline Stevermer
    26 – One of the Dark is Rising books?
    32 – Wren to the Rescue, Sherwood Smith
    35 – One of the Little House on the Prairie books
    36 – Umm…not Poison Study?
    41 – So You Want to Be A Wizard, Diane Duane
    42 – The next bit is “Must you even *think* in cliches?” and it’s one of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, but I can’t call which one to mind just now.
    43 – Sandry’s Book, Tamora Pierce
    46 – The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale

  7. I vaguely recognized a bunch of those, and am (mostly) sure of the following:

    2. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (sp?)

    9. Harriet the Spy

    14. Anne of Avonlea

    21. Tam Lin

    given the number of books I’ve read overall, I’m not sure if I should be shamed I can’t remember more, or just write it off to overcrowded brain cells

  8. 3. Witch Week
    11 Zoom Away?
    12. Dealing with Dragons
    14. Anne of Green Gables
    18 Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!
    20. The secret garden
    38. the paper bag princess
    43. Sandry’s book

  9. 5. Harriet the Spy

    14. Anne of Green Gables

    15. The Headless Cupid

    27. The Doll

    31. Dragon’s Blood

    35. Charlotte’s Web

  10. You are all awesome, and the answers are now posted!

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