Author: Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrator: Mary Whyte
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Word Count: 627
Summary: "Two boys discover that their mother loves them equally but in different ways."
Beginnings and endings are always important, no matter the type of story, whether it's a short story, a novel, or a picture book. Beginnings are meant to hook the reader (quite an appropriate analogy seeing as the family in this story is going fishing) and should always give the reader some kind of information about setting or character, at the very least. I heard somewhere, but don't remember who said it, that "first sentences should always do one of three things: set the tone, reveal character, or raise a question." Getting to the end of the book is the act of being reeled in. Make the ending as satisfying as catching a big fish.
The book opens:
"Early in the evening the brothers and their Mama finished supper in the sturdy red cabin and set out to fish."The next page really reels you in:
"The lake slowed its thrashing to a soft, even beat. The mosquitoes dipped low to the water and the water bugs skittered on top. The moon glowed on one side of the lake while the sun shimmered on the other. This was the time when fishing was best. Max exploded from the cabin, twirling the shovel in front of him. Mama came next, and then Julian. Julian shut the cabin door tightly to keep it safe from burglars and bears."The story continues to show Max and Julian and how they are different. When they ask who has the most worms, Mama answers that Max found the liveliest, but Julian's were the juiciest.
When they ask, "Mama, who's the best rower?" She says Julian "took the deepest strokes" and Max's "were fastest."
When bed time rolls around and each boy asks separately, "Mama, who do you love best?" She answers by telling Julian, "I love you the bluest! I love you the color of a dragon fly at the tip of its wing....The mist of a mountain. The splash of a waterfall. The hush of a whisper." Then she tells Max, "I love you the reddest! I love you the color of the sky before it blazes into night....A wide open hug. The swirl of a magic cape. The thunder of a shout."
I really don't want to spoil the ending of the book, but how can I teach you a lesson about beginnings and endings without sharing the ending?
"...one in the top bunk, glowing like the evening moon, one in the bottom bunk, shimmering like the evening sun, and Mama in the big bed dreaming of the boys she loved best."Don't you just have warm cold chills? I tell you I really did get goose bumps when I read this in the store! Did you notice how in the beginning, the setting mentions the moon and the sun? In the end, Joosse brings it back around by comparing each of the boys to the sun and the moon. Of course Mama loves her two boys the BEST! What a GREAT ending!
To learn more, check out the following resources:
Writing Great Beginnings by Harvey Stanbrough
Great Beginnings by Georgianne Ensign
See you next time and keep on keepin' on...