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

“TOM!”
No answer.
“TOM!”
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.”

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