First Year Letters book cover image

First Year Letters

  • 848
  • Save $ 847

By: Julie Danneberg / Illustrated by: Judy Love

The art of letter writing is not lost.

In this sequel to First Day Jitters, Sarah Jane Hartwell has gotten up her courage and has gone to teach school. And as every first year teacher knows, a classroom full of second graders can be alarmingly unpredictable.

The key to eventual success is the classroom post office Sarah Jane establishes. The letters the children write to Mrs. Hartwell are sympathetic ("I figured you might be a little scared, just like me"); informative ("…most kids don't eat cauliflower"); encouraging ("Yesterday was THE BEST!"); and apologetic ("I'm sorry about throwing up all over your shoes"). Even the custodian and the principal write to Sarah Jane.

Teachers and children alike will identify with Mrs. Hartwell as she navigates her first year. And many classes will be inspired to write letters about their own experiences.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Julie Danneberg, author

"As a kid, when I daydreamed or played at being grown-up, I never imagined myself as a writer. Instead I dreamed of being a famous girl reporter, a secret agent, and a teacher." With an imagination like that, it's hard to believe that Colorado native Julie Danneberg never considered a career as a writer.

After graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Julie became a teacher. In her classroom, she read many children's books, and witnessed the profound impact a good book can have on a child. "I was motivated to try and write books like the ones I enjoy reading."

Read more about Julie.

Judy Love, illustrator

Judy Love is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and has illustrated numerous children's books, including First Day Jitters and Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg.

Read more about Judy.

Awards & Honors:

  • Learning Teachers' Choice Award for Children's Books

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

Danneberg follows up on the hilarity of First Day Jitters with a hair-raising account of the indomitable Sarah Jane Hartwell's first year of teaching. The epistolary tale is comprised of letters to Mrs. Hartwell from her students, principal, janitorial staff, and Phil, the local firefighter. Danneberg's dry humor is in full evidence in the course of her witty commentaries, made all the more humorous by their droll delivery. The deadpan style of the children's letters is a perfect foil for the wild escapades they refer to so innocently. An apology for vomiting on Sarah Jane's shoes, a letter marveling at Mrs. Hartwell's ability to leap a museum railing in a single bound, and a note from Phil requesting Sarah Jane not to engage in any more flammable experiments, among others, reveal the true story of this eventful year. Dating from September to May, the letters chart not only the misadventures of the class but the blossoming of Sarah Jane into a seasoned professional. Love's uproarious illustrations are over-flowing with comic touches, providing ample details for leisurely perusals of the pages. Her exuberant pictures capture the mad-cap spirit of the story without becoming ludicrous or compromising the tale's warmth. Both funny and touching, this beguiling tale of a teacher's metamorphosis is perfect to share with students and educators alike.


There are lots of humor and probably a little truth in this hilarious account of a new teacher's first year, which is relayed in a series of classroom letters. On September ninth, Shannon, who has noticed Mrs. Hartwell's hand shaking when she puts her name on the blackboard, writes to her teacher, "that's when I figured you might be a little scared, just like me." Missives in generic type are interspersed with hand written letters from Josh, a student whose spelling and handwriting noticeably improve throughout the year. Especially funny are students' observations about the principal: "When Mrs. Burton came into our class today, your face turned really red. I peeked to see what she was writing. I couldn't read a word! Did you know Mrs. Burton has very messy handwriting?" The funny illustrations show the class in glorious chaos, from dealing with an escaped class pet snake to the disarray after knocking over a stuffed bison during a field trip to a natural history museum. Kids and teachers alike will appreciate this unusual take on the ups and downs of a school year.

Publishers Weekly

Mrs. Hartwell from First Day Jitters returns for another chaotic school year in First Year Letters by Julie Danneberg, illus. by Judy Love. The narrative consists of letters that the students write to their teacher (sent via the classroom post office), candidly commenting on a variety of incidents. Eddie apologizes for throwing up on her shoes; Margaret compliments the teacher for leaping over a railing "like a real track star" to straighten up a stuffed buffalo while on a museum field trip.

School Library Journal

In this animated follow-up to First Day Jitters, Danneberg and Love continue to pay tribute to the trials and tribulations of elementary school teachers through the experiences of Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell. Through short letters and notes written by her students and colleagues, readers learn of Sarah Jane's many classroom adventures, including field trips, a loose pet, fire alarms (complete with sprinklers and the arrival of firefighters), and drop-in visits from the principal. Although these messages hint at the events that take place throughout the school year, the lively and engaging illustrations, done in transparent dyes, really tell the story, incorporating humor through details attentive children will discover. The vibrant colors and animated faces bring the barely controlled chaos to life. Although it is a bit disconcerting that only one student hand writes his messages, children will appreciate that most of the notes are typed and easy to read, and will relate to and enjoy this book.

Learning Magazine

Mrs. Hartwell has set up a post office in her second grade classroom so students can practice letter-writing skills. Through the letters in this book, you and your students can laugh and learn with Mrs. Hartwell and her class as they survive the school year and improve their letter-writing skills.

Journal of Children's Literature

It is Mrs. Hartwell's first year of teaching. On the first day of class, she is visibly nervous. Her nerves are rattled time and again due to circumstances somewhat beyond her control: her principal coming in to evaluate a lesson, one of her student's pet snakes getting loose, and the disasters of taking hyper children on a field trip. In this story, told entirely through letters from different members of the class, the humor is conveyed in the wacky illustrations. Veteran teachers should purchase multiple copies of this book to distribute to rookies before the first day of school each year.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-084-7

ISBN: 978-1-58089-085-4

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-243-4
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
8 x 10

If you like this book, you’ll enjoy these:
First Day Jitters
The Big Test
Last Day Blues
Field-Trip Fiasco