This picture has a dollop of peanut butter on one edge, a smear of grape jelly on the other, and an X across the whole thing. I cut it out of a magazine for homework when I was six years old. ‘Look for words that begin with W,’ my teacher, Mrs. Evans, had said.
She was the one who marked in the X, spoiling my picture. She pointed. ‘ This is a picture of a family, Hollis. A mother, M, a father, F, a brother, B, a sister, S. They’re standing in front of their house, H. I don’t see one W word here.’
“I opened my mouth to say: How about W for wish, or W for want, or W for ‘Wouldn’t it be loverly,’ like the song the music teacher had taught us?
But Mrs. Evans was at the next table by that time, shushing me over her shoulder.
That’s the opening of Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. It’s the story of child in trouble – an artist – who longs for a home and a family. The opening is a great example of miscommunication – a painful and poignant reminder of jumping to conclusions about meaning and intention.
If you enjoy a good first sentence – here is a website for you: TwitterLit – tagline: Twittering the first lines of books so you don’t have to
Two of my favorites from that list are #4
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
and # 76
“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. —Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond (1956).
It must be time to dream of summer reading.