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 

✪ Alma and How She Got Her Name Back. Martinez-Neal, Juana. Illus. by the author. Candlewick, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-9355-8; 32p.} E (Gr. PreK-2) RL: 2.0 [2019 Caldecott Honor; 2019 Ezra Jack Keats Author Honor]

Running out of room on her paper when attempting to write her whole name, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela says, “My name is so long, Daddy. It never fits.” Her wise dad says, “Let me tell you the story of your name. Then you can decide if it fits.” On each subsequent double page, he introduces one of her relatives in their family book of photos and explains a bit about why she was named for that person. First, there’s Sofia, her grandmother who loved books, poetry, and jasmine flowers, and taught Alma’s father to read. Alma responds, “I love books and flowers . . . and you, too, Daddy! I am Sofia.” The accompanying illustration shows pink-cheeked Alma in her red-and-white-striped onesie, a little red bow in her short, dark hair, sitting on a stack of books under a potted jasmine tree covered in pink-flowers. The soft, sweet, smudgy illustrations are “done with graphite, colored pencils, and print transfers on handmade textured paper,” highlighted with touches of blue and pink. Esperanza, her great grandmother, hoped to travel but never did. On a huge wall map, Alma connects with red yarn the many cities she’d like to see with Daddy someday. José, her father’s father was an artist, and Alma connects with that, noting she draws a lot, too. Pura, her great-aunt, believed “the spirits of our ancestors are always with us, watching over us.” When Alma was born, Pura tied a red string around the baby’s wrist as a charm to keep her safe. Finally, Candela was her other grandmother, shown pregnant and at an unidentified demonstration with her two kids. Others are holding signs (untranslated) that read ESCUCHA (listen, pay attention), PIENSA (think), and ¡DENUNCIA! (accuse, denunciate?). Daddy says, “She always stood up for what was right.” Daddy then explains that she is “the first and only Alma,” saying to his delighted daughter, “You will make your own story.”

GERM: A Spanish edition of the book, Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre, is also available. We’ve been through other manifestations of name problems with the title character, a young mouse, in Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes; with the boy who wants his own name, not his father’s in Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie; and with Unhei, a Korean girl, just arrived in America, who sets out to pick a new name in Yangsook Choi’s The Name Jar. This one has its own twist—a girl who is unhappy with her great long name until she learns the stories behind it. In an Author’s Note at the back, Juana parses her own name which she hated as a child, stating, “ . . . I got stuck with what I thought was the most old-fashioned, harsh, ugly, and way-too-Spanish name in all of Lima, Peru, where I grew up! Little did I know that later on, after I moved to the United States, it would feel unique and remind me every day of where I come from. What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” You’ll want to start off your interaction with your students the way Shelly Porter, school librarian at West Fork Elementary School in West Fork, Arkansas did after reading the book with her second graders. She says, “They were engaged and excited to share their own ‘how they got their name’ stories with each other. I learned some very interesting things about my students!” Have children go home and ask their parents and other family members to tell them stories about their names and other family tales.

RELATED TITLES: Alexie, Sherman. Thunder Boy Jr. Little, Brown, 2016. / Aylesworth, Jim. My Grandfather’s Coat. Scholastic, 2014. / Brown, Monica. Maya’s Blanket/La manta de Maya. Children’s Book Press, 2015. / Choi, Yangsook. The Name Jar. Knopf, 2001. / De la Peña, Matt. Carmela Full of Wishes. Putnam, 2018. / Dominguez, Angela. Sing, Don’t Cry. Henry Holt, 2017. / Dorros, Arthur. Abuela. Dutton, 1991. / Dorros, Arthur. Abuelo. Harper, 2014. / Elya, Susan Middleton. La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Niños. Illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Putnam, 2016. / Elya, Susan Middleton. La Princesa and the Pea. Illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Putnam, 2016. / Henkes, Kevin. Chrysanthemum. Greenwillow, 1991. / Johnston, Tony. My Abuelita. Harcourt, 2009. / Medina, Meg. Mango, Abuela, and Me. Candlewick, 2015. / Medina, Meg. Tía Isa Wants a Car. Candlewick, 2011. / Mora, Pat. Gracias/Thanks. Lee & Low, 2009.


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