Great First Lines: The Answers, Part 2

Here’s the second part of the answers to my Great First Lines Challenge.  I notice that no one even tried to guess any of these. I guess they are trickier than #s 1-5. Well, herewith, all is revealed: 6. There are two kinds of travel. The usual way is to take the fastest imaginable conveyance along the shortest road. The other way is not to care particularly where you are going or how long it will take you, or whether you will get there or not. --The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene DuBois
  • Do kids still read this book? I hope so. It looks like an old-fashioned kind of gentlemanly travelogue, not a rip-roaring plot-filled adventure. But, as its first line suggests, there are unparalleled delights to be savored in an indirect journey: in this case, the orderly society and Restaurant Government of the (real, but imaginarily populated) island of Krakatoa. And all those fabulous balloons, of course. I’m going to slip this into the hands of the next older kid who comes to the library looking for a copy of the “Up” DVD.
7. The bear had been their undoing, though at the time they had all laughed.—Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson
  • Most of Lyddie isn’t about the bear: it’s about Lyddie’s life as a mill girl in a Lowell textile factory, and her internal struggles over whether to join the nascent union. But this first line lets you in on the primal fear that drives Lyddie and makes her reluctant to risk her job: the wolf at her door isn’t metaphorical, but real—she knows about starvation, and the threat of the wild, and she means to survive.
8. I am riding the bicycle and I am on Route 31 in Monument, Massachusetts, on my way to Rutterburg, Vermont, and I’m pedaling furiously because this is an old-fashioned bike, no speeds, no fenders, only the warped tires and the brakes that don’t always work and the handlebars with cracked rubber grips to steer with. I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier [warning: link is very spoilerish]
  • Without giving away too much: nothing in this detail-stuffed first line, except the bicycle, is true. One of the first novels I ever read that messed with my head.
9. Later—much, much later—when we both knew what we had bought and what it had cost, she said that I should tell it. Father’s Arcane Daughter, by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Why, why, why is this book not better known? I put it on my Top Ten Novels list, even though I knew it would never make Fuse #8’s Top 100, because even though E.L. Konigsburg, multiple-Newbery-winning author, is anything but arcane, this book has somehow slipped through the cracks. It’s not even in print. But this first line is so exquisite in its gorgeousness and teaser-ish-ness that I had to include it even though I didn’t think anyone would recognize it. The rest of the book is just as good. Go, read!
10. I blame it all on The Hobbit. That, and my supportive home life.—Alice, I Think, by Susan Juby
  • Quick—what do you know about the narrator of this book, just from this first line? A) She’s familiar with The Hobbit, and so quite possibly sort of nerdy and eccentric. B) Something—“it all”, in fact—has gone wrong. C) Her home life is “supportive,” though supportive of what remains in question. D) She’s very funny, but she might not know it. E) All of the above. That’s a lot of freight for twelve little words, and it’s all borne out in the book that follows, as Alice attempts to remake herself into an ordinary high-school student (in rural British Columbia, yet) after ten years of homeschooling.
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They were very hard! Although I have read them....and I like Father's Arcane Daughter too!

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