It is not unusual for me to get letters from students telling me that they have read one of my books. But this year, I got a different kind of letter from the very, very, very smart third graders (guided, of course, by their skilled teacher) at Cherry Crest Elementary in Bellevue Washington! The letter showed their inferential detective work as they tried to figure out if Mr. Hartwell was Sarah Jane’s husband or father. As you will see, they produced a very complete body of evidence for both sides of the question, and therefore, decided to come to me for the final answer.
This letter wasn’t only inspiring, but I think it showed another great way to use a picture book to teach a specific skill, in this case inferencing, since First Day Jitters is counting on incorrect inferences in order to accomplish a surprise ending. Taking a picture book where students have to study, not only the text but also the illustrations makes an assignment like this a fun and accessible for both elementary and middle school readers!
Check out the letter below:
Dear Julie Danneberg,
This is Mrs. Tatterson’s 3rd grade class. We read your book, First Day Jitters. We are wondering if Mr. Hartwell is Mrs. Sarah Jane Hartwell’s father or husband. Here is our evidence from the book.
Evidence that Sarah is married to Mr. Hartwell:
Her name is Mrs. so that means she is married.
They have the same last name.
Mr. Hartwell called her honey and sweetheart which is what you might say to the person you are married to.
They look like they are the same age.
You probably wouldn’t live with your father if you had a job like a teacher.
Mr. Hartwell didn’t go into the school with her and parents would probably do that if it was the first day.
Evidence that it is her father:
They have similar hair and skin color so they look like they are related.
He made her lunch in a lunch box that looks like a kid lunchbox.
He woke her up instead of her using an alarm or her waking him up.
She is sleeping in her own room and if they were married they might have the same room.
Her bed looks too small for two people that are married.
Mr. Hartwell looks old and Sarah looks younger.
He drove her to school instead of her driving herself.
He talks to her like she is a child, “I’m not playing this game one second longer.”
Neither one is wearing a wedding ring.
Thank you for helping us figure out the answer to this question. Since you are the author, you are the one true expert! We hope to hear back from you soon.
Mrs. Tatterson’s 3rd Grade at Cherry Crest Elementary in Bellevue Washington