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Great Leads/ WOW Beginnings

Hook Your Reader

Begin with a question, a series of questions, dialogue, sound, a surprise, action, describing the setting, making a promise, or introducing the problem.


Start with Action:

The Red Racer by Audrey Wood

Nona was pedaling to school on her old bicycle when the chain suddenly came lose and the brakes jammed.  “Aaaahhhhh!  Look out!” Nona cried.  She flew over the handlebars and crashed to the ground right in front of the BRATS.

 Begin with a question:

The Book of Bad Ideas, by Laura Huliska-Beith

 “Have you ever done something and then thought, ‘Uh-oh, that was a bad idea’?  We have.  Seems like a lot of bad ideas come from what start out to be ‘good ideas.’  Borderline GENIUS, in fact!  But then, something goes HORRIBLY wrong.  Well, this is a collection of some of our most ‘brilliant’ ideas that resulted in some VERY embarrassing moments.”


Hey Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose

 What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up at you and started talking?  Would you stop and listen?  What if your fiends saw you hesitate?

 All About Sharks by Jim Arnosky

 Have you ever wondered about sharks?  How big do they grow?  How sharp are there teeth?  What do they eat?  Why do they attack people?  (Expository story that pulls the reader in by asking wondering type questions and he makes a promise the reader that he will answer them.)

 Begin with a situation:

 Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni and cheese, some white rice, two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.  This is what happened:  I walked into the produce section of the Winn-Dixie grocery store to pick out my tomatoes and I almost bumped right into the store manager. He was standing there all red-faced, screaming and waving his arms around. “Who let that dog in here?” he kept on shouting.  “Who let a dirty dog in here?”


Some things are just plain scary.  Being on a swing and someone is pushing you too high, being in he first car as the roller coaster reaches the top of a steep hill, stepping on something slimy and squishy when you’re in your bare feet are just a few.

 Begin with a problem: 

Dear Willie Rudd by Libba Moore Gray

 Miss Elizabeth felt troubled.  She went out o the front porch, and sat in her grandmother’s big, green wicker rocking chair.  She rocked, and she rocked, and she rocked.  She had to figure out a way to solve the most difficult problem of her life. 

When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

 Sophie was playing when….she kicks, she screams.  She wants to smash the world to smithereens.  She roars a red, red roar. 

Start with a setting: 

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

 On a hill in the southeast corner of Second Street and Eighteenth Street, in Yuma, Arizona, there is a place known as Roxaboxen.  Marian called it Roxaboxen. (She always knew the name of everything.)  There across the road, it looked like any rocky hill – nothing but sand and rocks, some old wooden boxes, cactus and greasewood and some thorny bushes – but it was really a sparkling world of jeweled homes, streets edged with the whitest stones, and two ice-cream shops.  With its gently rolling terrain, blossoming cacti and vast skies of ever changing hues, all children needed to go there with a long stick and a soaring imagination.

 Ruby Mae Has Something to Say by David Small

 The town of Nada Texas was small.  You could stand on one side of town, whisper something, and be heard on the other side of town.  It was that small.  Still, Nada had a few things in it.  There was a general store, an abandoned train depot, a three-legged dog, and the World headquarters for Universal Peace and Understanding.

Bluebird Summer by Deborah Hopkinson

 Every summer my little brother, Cody, and I go to the farm on the ridge.  It’s not much of a farm anymore.  The wheat fields are still there washing up against the barn like a golden sea, but they belong to someone else now.  Since Grandma died, gramps has sold off pieces of the farm one by one.  Gramps says he never thought he’d miss the hot taste of dust in his mouth, or getting up before dawn to plow.  But Gramps misses lots of things now; Grams most of all.

 Begin with dialogue:

 Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz

 “I’ve had it with kindergarten!” Bea Jones said to her father as he was sitting down to breakfast.  “I’ve had it with beanbag games.  I’ve had it with clothespin games.  I’ve had it with sitting on a big, green carpet and playing that dumb lollipop game.  I’m ready for a change.”

 The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow

 “What is the seashore like?” a little boy asked his mother.  He lived in the mountains and had never seen the sea.  His mother smiled, “Let’s pretend,” she said.  “It’s early morning at the seashore, and it’s hard to tell where the stops and the sky begins.”

 Begin with a sound:

 Cook-A-Doodle-Doo by Susan Stevens Crummel 

Peck, peck, peck.  “Always chicken feed.”  “Day after day, year after year, I’m sick of it!”  squawked Big Brown Rooster.  “Can we get something new to eat around here? Please? Nobody’s listening.  What’s a hungry rooster to do?”  I’ve got it!  I’ve got a plan.

 “Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!” crows Big, Brown Rooster.  “Let’s get cooking!”  So Rooster and his eager assistants, Tommy Turtle, Iggy Iguana and Potbellied Pig set out to make the most wonderful, magnificent strawberry shortcake in the whole wide world.  Rooster is glad to have the help, but there is one problem, none of his friends know how to cook! The team bravely forges ahead, and with Rooster’s help, they learn how to measure flour (not with a ruler), and how to beat an egg (not with a baseball hat.)  But will they be able to keep pig from gobbling up all of the ingredients. 

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

Flap! Flap! Flap!  Ooooh!  A hot dog! Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

The Monster Trap by Dean Morrissey 

A-a-a-h-h-h-l-l-l-u-u-u-g-g-a-a-h-h-! The car horn roared loudly as Pop and his grandson, Paddy rode down the street.  “Come on, move that bucket of bolts,” Pop shouted at the car in front of him.  A few minutes later they pulled up in front of Pop’s shop.  Paddy was staying with Pop for a few days while his parents were away.


Begin with a Character Description: 

Sleeping with Ugly by Jane Yolen 

Princess Miserella was a beautiful princess if you counted her eyes, nose, and mouth and all the way down to her toes.  But inside, where it was hard to see, she was the meanest, wickedest, and most worthless princess around.   She liked stepping on dogs.  She kicked kittens. 

Mr. Lincoln’s way by Patricia Polacco 

Mr. Lincoln was the coolest principal ever!  He wears cool clothes and has a cool smile and did the coolest things.  He had tea parties with the Kindergarteners every spring.  He took Mr. Bliss’s sixth grade class on nature walks in the fall.  He set up his telescope next to the pond in the back of the school on special nights and invited kids and their families to come and look at the stars.  In the winter, he was Santa for the Christmas play, he lit the menorah for Chanukah, wore dashiki for Kwanza and a burnoose for Ramadan.  Mr. Lincoln is just plain cool!  All the kids love him…except for Eugene Esterhause. 

“Mean Gene” hates everyone who’s different from himself.  He’s a terrible student.  He pushes little kids down and makes them cry.  He also calls people awful names.  How can Mr. Lincoln get through to Mean Gene and show him that the differences between people are what make them special. 

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes 

Wemberly worried about everything.  Big things, little things, and things in between.  Then it was time for school to start, so Wemberly worried even more. 


Begin with a thought: 

My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray 

With a grin and a giggle, a hug and a whistle, we’d slap our knees and Mama would say: “Bless the world it feels like tip-tapping song-singing finger-snapping kind of day. Let’s celebrate!  So we did!