Judy Freeman

Judy Freeman

JUDY FREEMAN is a well-known speaker and writer on reading aloud, storytelling, booktalking, and all aspects of children’s literature. A national seminar presenter for BER (Bureau of Education and Research; www.ber.org), she also gives a variety of workshops and speeches at conferences, schools and libraries throughout the world for teachers, librarians, parents, and children. Judy served as a member of the Newbery Committee to select the Newbery Award book for the year 2000 (Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis) and the 2008 Sibert Committee, to select the most distinguished informational book for children published in 2007 (The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís). Judy proudly served as a member of the 2014 Caldecott Committee to select the Caldecott Award book for the year 2013 (Locomotive by Brian Floca).

Judy has written more than 400 book reviews and other content for best-selling author James Patterson’s spectacular website for parents, librarians, and teachers, and other children’s book-loving souls. Learn more about Judy Freeman and her work at her website,  www.judyreadsbooks.com.

Winners! Handbook

The Winners! Handbook is put out once a year by Judy Freeman and contains a closer look at some of her top-rated children’s books from the previous year. Each year, Freeman combs through the books named “best of the year” by various library organizations in order to highlight the best of the best, or bring attention to books that had been overlooked by awards committees. Freeman uses this handbook in her acclaimed Winners! Workshop, where she examines various books’ library and classroom applications as well as how the titles tie in to Common Core Standards.

Every spring, for the past 35 years, Judy Freeman has presented her wildly popular, idea-packed, full-day program, The Winners! Workshop, throughout New Jersey, a culmination of the scores of seminars she has given across the U.S. that past year. Her program is a field day for teachers, librarians, and other children’s literature-lovers looking for innovative and practical ways to use the best of the year’s children’s books for curricular connections, thematic tie-ins, resource-based learning, and just plain fun. If you can’t make it to New Jersey each year, this handbook, upon which Judy’s workshop is based, and that each participant receives as part of the day, is the next best thing to being there.


In The Winners! Handbook, you’ll discover a host of successful, kid-tested, motivating, literature-based techniques and strategies for reading and writing lessons across the curriculum, giving you a whole new repertoire of irresistible titles your kids will love as read-alones, read alouds, and for book discussion groups.

– From The 2019 Winners! Handbook

From The 2019 Winners! Handbook: A Closer Look at Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2018 

Potato Pants!  Keller, Laurie. Illus. by the author. Henry Holt/Christie Ottaviano, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-1-25010-723-7; 40p.} E (Gr. PreK-3) RL: 2.6

Potato, a brown spud with wire-like arms and legs, big round eyes, and a toothy grin, is excited! So excited, he’s doing the Robot, which he calls the PO-bot (because he’s a potato. Get it?). Why? Because today, for one day only, Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is selling POTATO PANTS! Every tater in town is rushing to the store because, as the sign in the window says, “ONCE THEY’RE GONE, THEY’RE GONE!” Looking in the store window, he is distressed to see Eggplant in there, wearing the pants he bought yesterday, which was Eggplant Pants Day. “THAT EGGPLANT IS NOTHING BUT TROUBLE!” Potato hollers. Just yesterday, Eggplant was running by and pushed Potato right into a trash can. Potato is afraid Eggplant will do it again and ruin his brand-new Potato Pants. All the other potatoes are coming out of the store in their beautiful now pants, but Eggplant is still inside, so Potato is afraid to go in there. Instead he calls the grocery store (on his Spud Phone, of course) to see if maybe they are selling Potato Pants, but the grocery store person says, “Sorry, sir, no clothing here. Just food.” When another potato exiting the store tells him there’s only one pair left, Potato bravely rushes into the store, shouting, “OUT OF MY WAY! ONLY ONE PAIR LEFT!” Unfortunately, when he swings open the door, it bashes into Eggplant, who goes flying, and rips his attractive yellow plants (with pineapples on them) all the way up the back. When Potato learns that last pair of Potato Pants is now gone, he screams, “IT’S NOT FAIR!” And now Eggplant stomps over and says, “I’ve been looking for you, Spud.” Here’s my favorite line: “Potato is SCARED! If he had Potato Boots, he’d be shaking in them.” Whew. This is one ridiculously hilarious book by the great Laurie Keller, the gal who personified all fifty states in her madcap picture book, The ScrambledStates of America and now makes you believe that all potatoes deserve a nice pair of slacks. It’s at this point that you close the book and do a Problem Vs. Solution thing where you ask kids to predict what is going to happen next. It’s a picture book, not War and Peace, so you know everything will turn out OK for Potato.

GERM: At the end of the book, right around where everyone starts cheering, have them stand up to do some Po-bot (or Egg-bot) moves. Act out Judy Freeman’s Reader’s Theater script of the story in this handbook on page 243. Download the PDF and print out a nice, clean master copy from the BER website: www.BER.org/download/BJ9. Kids will love librarian Maren Vitali’s Flip-Book lesson plan, in this handbook on page 194. Do high schools even have Home Ec anymore? Kids don’t learn how to sew anymore, which is a shame. So, bring in large needles and thread, scraps of cloth (you know the rule in education: Never Throw Anything Out), and various vegetables. Show kids how to do a basic stitch, and have them design, cut, and stitch spiffy new outfits for their produce. (You can just have them design clothes on paper, but a needle and thread are great for fine motor skills.) They can draw faces on their spuds and other veggies with magic markers. This is the wackiest book since last year’s The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. For added hilarity, I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black features another talking potato, while I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell introduces a talking yam. If you’re reading about fruits and veggies, then you simply MUST get everyone up to do the world’s best chant, “Go Bananas,” in this handbook on page 268.

RELATED TITLES: Barton, Chris. Shark Vs. Train. Little, Brown, 2010. / Bell, Cece. I Yam a Donkey. Clarion, 2015. / Black, Michael Ian. I’m Bored. Simon & Schuster, 2012. / Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit. Philomel, 2013. / Daywalt, Drew. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors. Balzer + Bray, 2017. / Ferry, Beth. Stick and Stone. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. / Gormley, Greg. Dog in Boots. Holiday House, 2011. / John, Jory. The Bad Seed. HarperCollins, 2017. / Keller, Laurie. Open Wide: Tooth School Inside. Henry Holt, 2000. / Keller, Laurie. The Scrambled States of America. Henry Holt, 1998. / Keller, Laurie. The Scrambled States of America Talent Show. Henry Holt, 2008. / Keller, Laurie. We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series) Disney-Hyperion, 2016. / Krall, Dan. The Great Lollipop Caper. Simon & Schuster, 2013. / Litwin, Eric. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes! HarperCollins, 2010. / Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. Chronicle, 2017. / Reynolds, Aaron. Creepy Carrots! Simon & Schuster, 2012. / Stein, David Ezra. Ice Boy. Candlewick, 2017.


Order Now

To order the “Winners! Handbook” click on the link within with the photo, to order the BOOKS mentioned inside the handbook, use the green “Click Here” button provided. 

Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2018 in the BTSB Bookstore

Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2017 in the BTSB Bookstore

Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2016 in the BTSB Bookstore

Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2015 in the BTSB Bookstore

Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2014 in the BTSB Bookstore