FF – Opening Lines of Classic Children’s Books

It is a well-known fact that the opening line of a book Is the most crucial part. It must grab the attention of the reader, maybe even transport them elsewhere, and give them reason to read on.

Opening lines are not always dynamic in content; some are short, some much longer, but if the book is to be successful, there must be something there to keep us engrossed in reading further.

Here I have listed some opening lines and passages from classic children’s stories.

Alice In Wonderland: Lewis Carroll

“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?”

Anne of Green Gables: L M Montgomery

“Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived 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; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.”

A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Black Beauty: Anna Sewell

“The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master’s house, which stood by the roadside;”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Roald Dahl

“These two very old people are the father and mother of Mr. Bucket.”

Charlotte’s Web: E B White

“’Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang: Ian Fleming

“Most motorcars are conglomerations (this is a long word for bundles) of steel and wire and rubber and plastic, and electricity and oil and gasoline and water, and the toffee papers you pushed down the crack in the back seat last Sunday.”

Great Expectations: Charles Dickens

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

Curious George: H A Rey

“This is George. He lived in Africa.”

Hansel and Gretel: Brothers Grimm

“Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children. The boy was called Hansel and the girl Gretel.”

Heidi: Johanna Spyri

“From the old and pleasantly situated village of Mayenfeld, a footpath, winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and lofty heights upon the valley below. The land grows gradually wilder as the path ascends, and the climber has not gone far before he begins to inhale the fragrance of the short grass and sturdy mountain-plants, for the way is steep and leads directly up to the summits above.”

King Solomon’s Mines: H Rider Haggard

“It is a curious thing that at my age–fifty-five last birthday–I should find myself taking up a pen to try to write a history. I wonder what sort of a history it will be when I have finished it, if ever I come to the end of the trip!”

Little Women: Louisa May Alcott

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”

Madeline: Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls, in two straight lines.”

Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens

“Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.”

Paddington Bear: Michael Bond

“Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.”

Peter Pan: J M Barrie

“All children, except one, grow up.”

Peter Rabbit: Beatrix Potter

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were-Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”

Robinson Crusoe: Daniel Defoe

“I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in that country, and from whom I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but, by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called – nay we call ourselves and write our name – Crusoe; and so my companions always called me.”

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Mark Twain

No answer.
No answer.
“What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!”
No answer.

The Cat in the Hat: Dr Seuss

“The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.”

The Gruffalo: Julia Donaldson

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
Where are you going to, little brown mouse?
Come and have lunch in my underground house.”

The Jungle Book: Rudyard Kipling

“Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free–
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.
This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call!–Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!”
— Night-Song in the Jungle

“It was seven o’clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills when Father Wolf woke up from his day’s rest, scratched himself, yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid of the sleepy feeling in their tips.”

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis

“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy.”

The Railway Children: Edith Nesbit

“They were not railway children to begin with. I don’t suppose they had ever thought about railways except as a means of getting to Maskelyne and Cook’s, the Pantomime, Zoological Gardens, and Madame Tussaud’s. They were just ordinary suburban children, and they lived with their Father and Mother in an ordinary red-brick-fronted villa, with coloured glass in the front door, a tiled passage that was called a hall, a bath-room with hot and cold water, electric bells, French windows, and a good deal of white paint, and ‘every modern convenience’, as the house-agents say.”

The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett

“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 Ugly Duckling: Hans Christian Anderson

“It was so glorious out in the country; it was summer; the cornfields were yellow, the oats were green, the hay had been put up in stacks in the green meadows, and the stork went about on his long red legs, and chattered Egyptian, for this was the language he had learned from his good mother.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: C S Lewis

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

The Wind in the Willows: Kenneth Grahame

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring- cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: L Frank Baum

“Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles.”

Treasure Island: Robert Louis Stevenson

“Squire Trelawney, Dr Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17-, and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn, and the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut, first took up his lodging under our roof.”

Watership Down: Richard Adams

“The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog’s mercury and oak-tree roots. On the other side of the fence, the upper part of the field was full of rabbit holes.”

Winnie-the-Poo: AA Milne

“Here is Edward Bear, coming down the stairs now, bump bump bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”

Quiz 4 – Greece

1  Which Ancient Greek author wrote the Iliad?

2  What were generally regarded as the two most important city-states in Ancient Greece?

3  Who was the first Woman Olympian?

4  Name the King and Queen of the Olympian gods?

5  What were slaves in Sparta called?

6  Which two battles took place simultaneously in 480BC?

7  Which campaign is responsible for the first Persian Invasion of Greece?

8  Which Greek philosopher became a Roman citizen?

9  Phidias designed which of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

10 The most important oracle in Ancient Greece was?

11 What was the traditional Greek military formation?

12 At which battle did the Spartan army get defeated by Theban forces?

13 Alexander the Great at age 13 – 16 was tutored by whom?

Quiz 4 – Answers

Quiz 5 – Opening Lines to Classic Children’s Books

Can you guess the children’s books to these classic opening lines?

1 “The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.”

  • Black Beauty
  • The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland
  • Watership Down

2 “Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

  • The Railway Children
  • Heidi
  • Charlotte’s Web

3 “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • King Solomon’s Mines
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

4 “The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.”

  • The Cat in the Hat
  • A Little Princess
  • Pinocchio

5 “Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity — Good.”

  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • The Gruffalo

6 Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes.

  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • Animal Farm
  • Where the Wild Things Are

7 “Marley was dead: to begin with.”

  • The Hobbit
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • A Christmas Carol

8 “In the year 1775, there stood upon the borders of Epping Forest, at a distance of about twelve miles from London–measuring from the Standard in Cornhill,’ or rather from the spot on or near to which the Standard used to be in days of yore–a house of public entertainment called the Maypole; which fact was demonstrated to all such travellers as could neither read nor write (and at that time a vast number both of travellers and stay-at-homes were in this condition) by the emblem reared on the roadside over against the house, which, if not of those goodly proportions that Maypoles were wont to present in olden times, was a fair young ash, thirty feet in height, and straight as any arrow that ever English yeoman drew.”

  • The Worst Witch
  • Barnaby Rudge
  • The Borrowers

9 “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

  • Just William
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • David Copperfield

10 “I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house.”

  • Kidnapped
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Peter Pan

11 “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely–having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”

  • Mr Popper’s Penguins
  • Moby Dick
  • Swallows and Amazons

12 “Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the town ringing a full peal.”

  • Madeline
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Peter Rabbit

13 “On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ‘Romance of The Rose’ was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it.”

  • The Three Musketeers
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Gulliver’s Travels

14 “One thing was certain, that the WHITE kitten had had nothing to do with it: it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.

  • The Twits
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Through the Looking Glass

15 “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”

  • Oliver Twist
  • Curious George
  • Little Women

16 “Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children.”

  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Bambi

17 “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

18 “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

  • Great Expectations
  • Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang
  • The Golden Compass

19 “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.“

  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Treasure Island

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
  • Thumbelina
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Q – Socrates

Socrates was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Western philosophy.


‘I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think’

‘Wonder is the beginning of wisdom’

‘Be slow to fall into friendship, but when thou art in, continue firm and constant’

‘Let him who would move the world, first move himself’

‘Death may be the greatest of all human blessings’

‘By all means marry: If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy, if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher’

‘An honest man is always a child’

‘The unexamined life is not worth living’

‘The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing’

‘He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have’

‘Some people put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down’

‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’

‘There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance’

‘He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature’

‘Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior’

‘Worthless people live only to eat and drink: people of worth eat and drink only to live’

‘If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it’

‘Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds’

‘The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be thought to be’

‘False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil’

‘From the deepest desires, often come the deadliest hate’

Q – Plato

Plato was a philosopher in Classical Greece.

He founded the Academy in Athens, the first institute of higher learning in the western world.


‘Necessity is the mother of invention’

‘Death is not the worst that can happen to men’

‘Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another’

‘No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death’

‘Thinking is the talking of the soul with itself’

‘A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men’

‘The measure of a man is what he does with power’

‘There are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honour, and lovers of gain’

‘Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil’

‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light’

‘Love is a serious mental disease’

‘I have hardly ever known a mathematician who is capable of reasoning’

‘Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge’

‘Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance’

‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’

‘Never discourage anyone, who continually makes progress, no matter how slow’

‘Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something’

‘The beginning is the most important part of the work’

‘Courage is knowing what not to fear’

‘The most important part of education is proper training in the nursery’

‘At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet’

‘The madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings’

‘People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die’

‘Education is teaching our children to desire the right things’

‘I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing’

Q – Aristotle

Aristotle was a Greek Philosopher born around 384BC, one of the most important philosopher’s in the history of Western civilisation.

He spent much of his life studying to improve his own knowledge, including training at Plato’s academy. He was also the tutor for Alexander the Great and founded his own school.

Here is a selection of his many quotes.


‘Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach’

‘Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit’

‘We make war that we may live in peace’

‘The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead’

‘No one loves the man who he fears’

‘Quality is not an act, it is a habit’

‘Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies’

‘To perceive is to suffer’

‘What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do’

‘Piety requires us to honour truth above our friends’

‘Hope is a waking dream’

‘Education is the best provision for old age’

‘No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness’

‘It is best to rise from a banquet, neither thirsty or drunken’

‘Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well’

‘Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them’

‘The soul never thinks without a picture’

‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet’

‘What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies’

‘It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light’

‘Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them’

‘Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity’

‘Wit is educated insolence’

‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet’

‘The energy of the mind is the essence of life’

‘The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain’

‘All men by nature desire knowledge’