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 

✪ Book of Boy.  Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. Illus. by Ian Schoenherr. Greenwillow, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-0-06-268620-6; 278p.} FIC (Gr. 5-8) RL: 4.7 [2019 Newbery Honor]

Because Boy, goatherd at a manor in France in 1350, has climbed high into an apple tree one cold March day to pick the lone apple still hanging there, he is the first to spy the approaching pilgrim wearing a brown robe and carrying a pack on a long pole. The pilgrim wants the boy to take him to his master and observes that Boy, a hunchback, has “the face of an angel and the body of a fiend.” The lord of the manor, Sir Jacques, is mentally incapacitated from injuries he suffered in a joust. Pestilence has taken his wife and three children; bad-tempered Cook has married him and taken over running the manor. The pilgrim, Secundus, persuades Cook to allow Boy to accompany him on a three-day journey to the church at Saint-Peter’s-Step, promising to donate her offering of Sir Jacques’ silver toasting cup and to pray for her soul there. As the two head out, they encounter Ox, an older boy, “big as a bear and dumb as a boulder” and “cruel as a boar,” who is Boy’s chief tormentor. Secundus labels Ox a sinner, telling him, “Do you know what happens to thosewho do not protect the weak? They go to hell. Shall I tell you what hell is like?” For the first time, someone has come to Boy’s defense. Still, Secundus scares Boy who perceives, “He had power, this pilgrim. And already his power was touching me. Transforming me as a rotten apple infects its neighbors.” In response, as they are leaving the manor, Boy dares to stick his tongue out at Ox, though he now worries about what Ox will do to him when he returns from his six-day trip. And so, the two set off, Boy carrying the pilgrim’s pack tied over his hump and trying his best to keep up with the man’s quick pace. Secundus tells Boy he was once a lawyer but now he is on a quest for seven precious relics of Saint Peter that he believes will save him, reciting the items written down in his small book: rib tooth thumb shin dust skull tomb. As a narrator of this medieval quest, Boy observes everything. He has learned from the late Father Petrus who raised him and whom he served that he must never reveal himself to others. “I must never show myself nor touch my hump for my hump was wicked and made me a monster—that and my other secret.” As the story progresses, one charming element is the affection all animals hold for Boy. He also has a most unusual ability to communicate with his goats with whom he holds telepathic conversations. Every morning of his journey with Secundus, he awakes to find himself sleeping in a pile of goats or sheep or dogs or a cat and holding useful conversations with them. Because he wears the pack on his back that covers his hump, the people they encounter along the way do not see it and thus do not fear him or make the sign of protection. So far, Secundus has collected one of the seven relics—the rib of Saint Peter—but he cannot touch it or any true relic without being burned by it. Boy will need to handle and add to his pack the relics they collect (mostly through trickery, bribery, and theft) along the way. At Saint-Peter’s-Step, Secundus tells Boy he needs his help to protect the first holy relic, a dusty old shoe believed to have belonged to Saint Peter, though in reality, the pilgrim succeeds in stealing it. His actual aim is to gather all the relics to take to Saint Peter’s tomb all the way in Rome, the city of miracles. Boy persuades him to let him come along, ostensibly to carry Secundas’s pack so he is not burned by the relics within. Boy also has a secret desire: “to reach the tomb of Saint Peter, so that he can make me a regular boy.” Both of them are not who they seem. It would be helpful to have a bit of knowledge about Christianity, the pope, Rome, Saint Peter, angels, hell, and relics, but readers will manage well enough on their own. Boy’s wondrous narrative will carry the day, though this may end up being one of those books for the “special reader” who will persevere when the going gets a bit ponderous and incomprehensible.

GERM: Read an interesting Horn Book interview with the author here: www.hbook.com/2018/07/using-books/five-questions-catherine-gilbert-murdock. Peruse Betsy Bird’s enthusiastic analysis of the book on her excellent blog, “A Fuse #8 Production,” here: blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2018/03/29/review-of-the-day-the-book-of-boy-by-catherine-gilbert-murdock. Other wonderful books about the Middle Ages include Newbery winner, Catherine, Not Birdy by Karen Cushman and Newbery Honor winner, The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, and, actually, now that I mention it, all of the books listed below. Rustle some up for a booktalk and read aloud Katy Beebe’s picture book Brother Hugo and the Bear. Laura Amy Schlitz’s Newbery winner Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village makes for a masterful Reader’s theater activity with each person or small group reading aloud one of the poems about daily life in those days.

RELATED TITLES: Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Hyperion, 2004. / Avi. The Player King. Atheneum, 2017. / Barrett, Tracy. Anna of Byzantium. Delacorte, 1999. / Beebe, Katy. Brother Hugo and the Bear. Eerdmans, 2014. / Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean. Oxford University Press, 1996. / Cushman, Karen. Catherine, Called Birdy. Clarion,1994. / Cushman, Karen. The Midwife’s Apprentice. Clarion, 1995. / Gidwitz, Adam. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Dutton, 2010. / Osborne, Mary Pope. Favorite Medieval Tales. Hyperion, 2002. / Schlitz, Laura Amy. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village. Candlewick, 2007. / Williams, Marcia, retel. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Candlewick, 2007.


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