So you’re reading a picture book to your kiddos or perusing the new pb shelf at the library or paging through new releases at the bookstore, and you’re blithely going along – yes, oh cute, uh-huh – when you come to a line that grabs you by the glottis. Whoa, Nellie, you think. What’s this?
It’s that one line. The one that’s surprisingly subversive or makes you laugh out loud or pierces your heart or makes you shout, “BRILL!” because you didn’t see it coming. I wrote an entire post about one line in Kelly DiPucchio’s GASTON for the TeachingAuthors blog. You can read that here, if moved to do so.
For me, a few more of those one liners that affected me (in these cases, making me laugh aloud) are:
From Mo Willems’s GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS: “Sure enough, five minutes later a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks came traipsing along.” Poorly supervised. Har.
From Pat Zietlow Miller’s SOPHIE’S SQUASH – from Sophie’s mother, after watching her daughter feed, hug, and kiss her precious squash, Bernice: “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables.”
From Mary Amato’s THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY – when Henrietta’s big sisters are trying to convince her that she’s a chicken, telling her that one of their jobs is to pluck out her feathers each morning before she wakes up: “It’s why we get more allowance than you do. Right, Clare?”
But the first time a line stopped me in my tracks was the most powerful. That was while reading Kevin Henkes’s JULIUS, BABY OF THE WORLD to my kids 20 years ago (20?!! gulp). What a cute story, I thought as I went along. That Lilly, what a character. Ooh, I like what he’s doing with repetition…. Then I came to this page, on which baby hater Lily feels the need to warn an expectant stranger: “You will live to regret that bump under your dress.”
Wha–? I blinked. Reread. Wondered, Can they do that?! They could, and they did. Who knew emotions that honest were allowed in children’s books? Not me.
Lily’s cheeky call to that stranger affected me deeply. Until then, I’d been sitting on the fence for three or four years – Should I try writing for kids? Naw, I don’t know how. But maybe I could learn. But, naw…. Lily shoved me off the fence and sent me stumbling down the path that led me to … well, to myself.
How about you? Is there one line that inspired you or made you laugh or forever changed your writing or your life?
P.S. You can still enter to win a copy of Linda Ashman’s new book, LITTLE BABY BUTTERCUP! You have until the 15th.
P.P.S. Don’t miss this interview with our own Tammi Sauer! Woot! Way to go, Tammi.