Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Sunday, 11 August 2013


A blurb probably isn’t as useful as we tend to think it is. My boss never used to read them, saying they “spoiled the story.” He would go straight to the beginning and decide if he wanted to read more from there, and lately I think I’m starting to agree with him. The real truth about a book is best found in the author’s own words, with that opening line.

Often the opening line is the part of the book that stays with me. I will never forget that the Dursleys at number four, Privet Drive, are perfectly normal, thank you very much. I will never forget the bright cold day in April when the clocks struck thirteen, or that in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

This year’s shortlisted books have offered up some corkers, too.  Sonya Hartnett’s glorious opening line: She heard it: footsteps in the dark. I love Vikki Wakefield’s: My life has been told through campfire tales—stories that spill over when the fire has burned low and the silence must be filled.

A great opening line is as much about what it doesn’t say as what it does say. The best introduce us to a character and an action - driving us forward because we must know more about this place, this person, and these things that are happening. A perfect opening line gives us exactly enough information to know that something here is different to what we might normally expect, but if we want to know more we will have to keep reading.

That’s why, I think, the best opening line ever (so far) is from my favourite novel, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book:

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Even typing it sends a shiver up my spine. Perfect. A big picture in very few words, like a photograph of one of the bricks in a sprawling, monumental tower. Calling you to see the rest.

So let’s take a moment to notice the places where we start these incredible journeys. Go on, what’s your favourite opening?

Lyndon Riggall

And from Patsy Jones, who puts the blogs up – Lyndon has referenced five opening lines – let’s see if you can write me a comment telling me the names of the books and their authors – I promise I won’t publish your answers until next week…. (of course Neil Gaiman’s book is not one of them – he told us all about it!)


  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (JK Rowling), Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell), The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien), The Children of the King (Sonya Hartnett) and Friday Brown (Vikki Wakefield). And I agree, The Graveyard Book is fabulous!

  2. Friday Brown - Vicki Wakefield
    The Children of the King - Sonya Hartnett
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone- JK Rowling
    The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
    Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell

    and one of my favourites for making you want to read on;
    "Sophie couldn't sleep." (The BFG, Roald Dahl).
    and a more recent yet equally brief opening line I love;
    "The hamster was dead." (Ratburger, David Walliams).

    I also loved Julie Hunt's opening line in Song for a Scarlet Runner; "Marlie and I lived at the Overhang, near the place where three roads met." This does for me exactly that which Lyndon describes above - drives me forward to discover more about this person, this place and what has happened.

  3. 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.'