First Chapters and Children’s Books
During one of her sorting days, she handed me a child's book and said, “You should read this. It’s really good. It’s scary. She also wrote The Dollhouse Murders.”
Her big eyes grew bigger.
The book? Christina’s Ghost by Betty Ren Wright for grades 3-6. Since my daughter read at a 6th grade level in 2nd grade (yes, I’m bragging), it probably did scare her, hopefully in a thrilling way.
Of course, I wanted to investigate this 1985 children’s book. As with all writing, I wanted to find its secrets. This is what I found in chapter one.
There is a first line hook.
“Chrissy’s going to throw up again!” Jenny shrieked the news. What child isn’t interested in bodily functions? Either children laugh or are disgusted or both when bodily functions go wrong. Either way, the first line is urgent and begs the questions:
- Who’s Chrissy?
- Why is she throwing up?
- And who is Jenny?
We meet Chrissy the MC, Jenny her sister, Uncle Ralph, and Aunt Grace. We hear mention of Grandma, Mom, and Dad, the Blackwells, and a dog.
- We learn about Chrissy that she’s a “tomboy”, gets car sick, feels unwanted, and bites her nails.
- We get the feeling that Chrissy participates in her own life doesn’t just observe.
- We learn snippets about the other characters too.
Conflict begins in the first lines when we see that Chrissy has to ride in a car (resulting in car sickness) with a grumpy uncle. We also see that Chrissy has no control over her immediate circumstances as her plans are changed, in a moments notice, and she must stay with her uncle apart from her sister until their parents return.
There is setting.
The setting, in the first chapter, is the road to grandma’s house, grandma’s house before Chrissy sets out on another three hour road trip with Uncle Ralph.
However, the haunted house isn’t part of the first chapter setting.
There is dialogue.
- There is "kid talk" between two sisters.
- There is sister to sister arguing.
- The uncle’s dialogue is filled with impatience with Chrissy.
- There is quarreling between the uncle and the aunt (much like the younger siblings).