Thursday, January 3, 2008

It's a Start, Part VI

It's a Start is an occasional feature that takes a look at the first sentence (or so) of books picked randomly from the Acorn bookshelves. You can find Parts I-V here.

We have a great crop today, some real winners! As always, if you feel differently, let your voice be heard in the comments section! Note: Maximum number of stars = 5.

You are not going to believe me, nobody in their right minds could possibly believe me, but it's true, really it is! When I woke up this morning, I found I'd turned into my mother. Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers

Well, they say you should start the story at the point where something unusual happens to your protagonist. This'll do! We have voice and we have conflict. Oh, do we have conflict. A teenager's worst nightmare. Stars: ****

You'd think I could spend the night at a friend's house without finding myself knee-deep in pig poop. Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary, by Wendelin Van Draanen

Knee-deep in pig poop? Hold my calls, honey, I have some reading to do! Stars: *****

From his perch behind the clock, Hugo could see everything. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

This is the first written sentence of Chapter One of "Hugo Cabret," but as anyone familiar with the book knows, it is hardly the beginning. We have already followed Hugo through a Paris train station and up the steps to the clock through Selznick's illustrations. Still, it's a great first sentence. Why is Hugo perched behind a clock? And what is meant by "everything"? I have a feeling we're about to find out. Stars: ****

RULES FOR DAVID. Chew with your mouth closed. Say "thank you" when someone gives you a present (even if you don't like it). When someone says "hi," you say "hi" back. Rules, by Cynthia Lord

If you haven't read "Rules," these first sentences appear as part of a handwritten list placed before the first chapter, as a sort of prologue. (And there are five additional rules on the list, for a total of eight.) It's a perfect beginning for this book, for a number of reasons. First, it grabs the reader's attention. A handwritten note is unusual and has a very personal feel to it. Second, though the first two rules are ordinary enough and might be applicable to any child (heck, I have to be reminded sometimes, and I'm, er, older than a child), when you get to the third rule, you start to wonder about David. Who is he, and why does he need to be told such a thing? And third, this list sets the stage for the book as a whole, in which David's rules play a major thematic role. Stars: *****

I'll be a millionaire by the time I turn thirty-five. Successful. Independent. Abbey Garner -- Self-made financial genius. Beauty Shop for Rent, by Laura Bowers

Again, this is the start of a brief prologue to the book. I like this because it tells us a lot about the character, and it makes us want to learn more about her. And even though technically it is "telling" and not "showing," it sort of "shows" us that this is one determined, self-confident girl, by virtue of the fact that she would make these predictions so matter-of-factly. Stars: ***

Bonus Start: Hypothetical Question of the Week: If you were forced to have an extra body part implanted on your back, which would you choose? A finger, ear, breast or nose? Beauty Shop for Rent, by Laura Bowers

I just had to add the first sentence of Chapter One of Laura's book as a bonus. While the first sentence of her prologue draws us in and makes us want to learn more about her character, the first sentence of the body of the book is just plain funny. And intriguing. And it's one of those probing first sentences that really makes the reader stop and think. (For the record, I'd go for a finger ... that way I could scratch my own back!) Stars: ****

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