Tantalizing First Lines from Science Fiction for Children

First Lines is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. 

Celebrating Hans Christian Andersen’s April 2nd birthday, which is also International Children’s Book day, these first lines are from science fiction and fantasy for children. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

About Hans Christian Andersen

Born April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark, Hans was a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems. A master of literary fairy tales, he wrote more than 160 of these. He broke literary traditions of the time and wrote his using idioms and the construction of spoken language. His stories appealed to both children and adults because he was not afraid of introducing ideas and feelings that were beyond a child’s immediate comprehension and did so from a child’s perspective. 

A quote often attributed to Hans is “When words fail, music speaks.” However, the original phrase was “When words fail, sounds can often speak.” It’s from What the Moon Saw: And Other Tales, written in 1840.

Fascinating facts about Hans:

1. Hans had dyslexia and struggled with spelling throughout his life.

2. After traveling to Copenhagen to work as an actor, Hans returned to school, supported by a patron named Jonas Collin. His teachers discouraged him from continuing his writing, but his patron urged him to continue.

3. He rarely destroyed anything he wrote. His diaries and thousands of letters he wrote are still in existence. 

First Lines

Cover of Phineas Bleak and the Shadows of Elkmont is an illustration of a young boy looking over his shoulder. Following him is a wraithlike shadow and beyond them is a spooky old house.

Chapter 1 – Fear

Phones Bleak only wanted to be free of fear. For three years, however, fear shadowed his every move. Not fears of the dark, or strangers, or ghosts. He knew vampires, witches, and monsters didn’t exist. And despite his grandfather’s assurance that magical things happened, he did not believe in magic. Magic was foolish, and Phones never acted the fool.

Phineas Bleak And The Shadows Of Elkmont,Matthew Broaddus (author), Alan O.W. Barnes (Illustrator)

Cover of Bridge to Terabithia is black silhouette of a girl stanidn ong a roap swing swinging out over a gorge. a dog is by the tree behind her. Across the gorge stands a young man. Beyond them, centered on the page is the faded image of a Cinderella-like castle in yellow against a blue night sky.

Ba-room,ba-room,ba-room,baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity—Good. His dad had the pickup going. He could get up now, Jess slid out of bed and into his overalls. He didn’t worry about a shirt because once he began running he would be hot as popping grease even if the morning air was chill, or shoes because the bottoms of his feet were by now as tough as his worn-out sneakers.

Bridge To TerabithiaKatherine Paterson (author), Donna Diamond (Illustrator), Newbery MedalWinner, 1978

Cover of Daxton Tanner and the Eleagons is an illustrated drawing of a giant pink and purple egg next to a tree. Curly q's decorate the egg with a teal colored triangular symbol in the center front and off the the right side of the egg, the shell is broken and a long, pale blue dragon-like tale is snaking out.


You must save the child!

The words hammered through Tabi’s mind as she fluttered over the crying newborn baby, who was swaddled in a tattered purple banner. Taking a deep breath, the dainty teapot-sized creature closed her violet eyes and clapped her hands together. As this  guardian pixie of Eldragor whispered the secret enchantment, her hands began to glow.”

Daxton Tanner and The Eleagons,A R Hoff 

The illustrated cover of Among the Hidden has a close-up of 3/4s of a child's face while he/she looks over her shoulder at a curtained window with two male shadows lurking behind it.

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.”

He had never disobeyed the order to hide. Even as a toddler, barely able to walk in the backyard’s tall grass, he had somehow understood the fear in his mother’s voice. But on this day, the day they began taking the woods away, he hesitated. He took one extra breath of the fresh air, scented with clover and honeysuckle and—coming from far away—pine smoke.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1), Margaret Peterson Haddix (Author), Cliff Nielsen (Illustrator)

The illustrated cover of a wrinkle in time shows a dark portal in the center with the author and title over it, around the edges going clockwise, and starting with 12 o'clock are three figures "flying through the sky", three strange old women, a hilly land, and a tall building with a very tall door that a child is knocking upon.

Mrs Whatsit

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. Behind the trees clouds scudded frantically across the sky. Every few moments the moon ripped through them, creating wraithlike shadows that raced along the ground. 

The house shook.

Wrapped in her quilt, Meg shook.

A Wrinkle in Time,Madeleine L’Engle,Newbery Medal Winner, 1963

The illustrated cover of 65 degrees north is an illustration of a blue closed chest sitting against a wall of paintings of various wild animals, on the chest a red cylinder shaped bag has a silver six on it, the top of the bag is open and from the bag is a golden yellow glow that spreads its light out

Saturday Afternoon

Josie’s pink beanbag chair looked like a mound of cotton candy in the corner of her room. She was nestled so deep into it that her legs were almost completely hidden. Joey’s legs were sprawled out on his sister’s bed, his bare feet hanging over the edge of the mattress. This scene would  not have been possible a day earlier. Neither Joey nor Josie had been inclined to want to spend time with one another.

65 DEGREES NORTH (THE MAILBOX ADVENTURES) GS McClellan (author), Julie Sneeden (Illustrator)

The illustrated cover of The Wild Robot shows a stylized drawing of a green sea at the bottom, behind it rises a pill of oblong rocks that stand on end, on top of the top most rock stands a stylized robot and behind him is a green forest, a greenish sky, and a red sun.

The Ocean

Our story begins on the ocean, with wind and ran and thunder and lightning and waves. A hurricane roared and raged through the night. And in the middle of the chaos, a cargo ship was sinking




To the ocean floor.

The ship left hundreds of crates floating on the surface. But as the hurricane thrashed and swirled and knocked them around, the crates also began winking to the depths. One after another, they were swallowed up by the waves, until only five crates remained.

The Wild Robot (Volume 1) (The Wild Robot, 1)  Peter Brown  


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

I do confess, if you don’t already know, A Wrinkle in Time is one of my all-time favorite books. YMMV.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? 

Check out A previous First Lines post

Please take a moment to share in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it?

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