As writers, we change the first sentence of every story we write again and again. We ask ourselves questions like: Is it the best path into our story? Does it start in the action? Is this information needed to understand the story? Could I start later in the action? Am I using the strongest words? Should I add an interior line rhyme? Maybe I need to sprinkle in a fresh description? Does this sentence lead in with the right mood? We stress like nuts over this single string of words. Why?
Because this one sentence has a big job. It must let an agent or reader know they are in the hands of an experienced writer, hold them, and keep them turning pages.
My library decorates the tops of their shelves with recommended books or seasonal favorites in the children’s section. I often peek inside the covers and read first lines as I walk down the rows. Yesterday, one of those top-shelf books caught my attention. I didn’t open it because the title intrigued me–although the title begged the question, “What exactly is a Pecan Pie Baby?” And the illustration on the cover isn’t what caused me to pick up the book–although the adoring look between mother and daughter instantly won my heart. What caught my attention was the author’s name. I have read other books by this author and, admittingly, fell in love with her writing style many stories ago. Jacqueline Woodson is one of those brilliant writers who lets you settle in, knowing you’re in the hands of an experienced writer. And her opening sentence, which you’ll find below, is exactly the kind of opening sentence I talked about above.
Title – Pecan Pie Baby
Written by – Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by – Sophie Blackall
Published by – G.P. Putnam’s Sons – 2010
Topics – New baby, jealousy, sharing, and love.
Opening – Just as summer started leaving us and the leaving brought all those colors to the trees, Mama pulled out my winter clothes.
Amazon’s Review – View it HERE. All anyone wants to talk about with Mama is the new “ding-dang baby” that’s on the way, and Gia is getting sick of it! If her new sibling is already such a big deal, what’s going to happen to Gia’s nice, cozy life with Mama once the baby is born?
Why do I like this book? Change is never easy, and everyone faces changes in their life. Some changes are welcome, while others we resist. Jacqueline Woodson takes the reader through the emotional journey faced by Gia, a little girl, who holds tight to all of her precious mother-daughter memories and moments. But since her mother became pregnant, family and friends only want to talk about the baby, the baby, the “ding-dang” baby! To make matters worse, Gia’s uncles are building a crib for the baby which they are placing in Gia’s room! Gia’s mother knows how to soothe away each concern and assures Gia that life with the new baby will be sweet as pecan pie.
If you have a child or know a child who is struggling with the changes life brings, this book might be the right choice to share.