Picture Book Hooks: First Lines by Stacy Couch

Happy Friday, everyone! Today we have another awesome guest contribution for our June Picture Book theme by author Stacy Couch. But first, be sure to mark your calendar for our next ABC Event with young adult author L.V. Pires!

Build Your World with Tips & Tricks, ABC with L.V. Pires

Where? Broadneck Library
1275 Green Holly Dr. – Annapolis, MD 

When? 06/13/2015 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm 

Please register by June 10th so they may plan refreshments and chairs. For more info, go to our regional website. Also, be on the lookout for an interview with L.V. Pires early next week!

And now, enjoy this article by Stacy Couch!

Picture Book Hooks: First Lines

When my nephew snuck into my office (read: basement) last weekend, looking for books, some caught his attention. Some did not.

The cover, of course, had to grab him. But so did the first lines—lines introducing him to an impertinent pig, a duck (no, a rabbit!), an OCD squirrel. Lines that not only fulfilled their function: introduce the story, the problem and the protagonist, but also had a hook, an attention-getter that kept him reading.

And made his eyes pop.

Great First Lines

First lines can be dramatic. But they can also make you laugh, love a pig, or see wildlife in a whole new way.


Scaredy Squirrel (in the front pages): WARNING! Scaredy Squirrel insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.


Olivia: This is Olivia. She is good at lots of things.
[Singing from book:] 40 VERY LOUD SONGS

Duck Rabbit

Duck! Rabbit!: [Image of duck—which could be a rabbit:]
“Hey, look! A duck!”
“That’s not a duck! That’s a rabbit!”

Impressive, right? You want to get to know that squirrel, pig, and duck/rabbit.

You also want to know how to write like that.

Read, Write, Learn

While researching books for this post—because reading is the first step in learning how to write—I found a new book with first lines VERY similar to an old favorite: Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.


So now we can see how one pro learned from another pro:

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs:

Everybody knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story, because nobody has ever heard my side of the story.

I’m the wolf. Alexander T. Wolf.

You can call me Al.

Now, compare that to the first lines from Julia Sarcone-Roach’s The Bear Ate Your Sandwich:


The Bear Ate Your Sandwich:

By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened. So let me tell you.
It all started with the Bear.

Different words, different stories. But see how well Sarcone-Roach used Scieszka’s techniques? They both introduce problems with narrators we probably shouldn’t trust. In first-person POV. While addressing the audience. In a crystal clear (slightly schmaltzy) voice.

And that’s what you as a writer want to do. Not the schmaltz–though it works beautifully for an unreliable character. But you can learn from the pros, see what techniques they used, and what effect those techniques had on the reader.

Then, like Sarcone-Roach, you can use your voice to make those lines your own.

And make some eyes pop.

Hat HomeAuthor Bio:

Stacy Couch writes quirky picture books and hosts a critique group in Delaware. She is also going to marry Jon Scieszka. He just doesn’t know it yet. You can find Stacy procrastinating on Twitter: @couchmine.

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
This entry was posted in Guest Contributors, Writing Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Picture Book Hooks: First Lines by Stacy Couch

  1. Great post, thanks! I will look up your books.

    • Stacy Couch says:

      Thanks, Carleen! But I’d keep reading Scieszka; my books are aren’t classics (or on shelves). Yet. 😊

  2. valeriebelievinginhorses says:

    Thank you, Stacy, for your great post. It’s good to remember our target audience (i.e. your nephew). I hope to see your book out soon!

    • Stacy Couch says:

      Thank you, Valerie! So true about target audience (i.e., my nephew). As my nephew always says, “Every story should be about me.”

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