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 

✪ The Night Diary.  Hiranandani, Veera. Dial, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-0-7352-2851-1; 264p.} FIC (Gr. 5-8) RL: 3.8   [2019 Newbery Honor]

On her twelfth birthday, July 14, 1947, Nisha begins her first letter to her late mother: “Dear Mama, I know you know what happened today at 6:00 a.m., twelve years ago. How could you not? It was the day we came and you left, but I don’t want to be sad today. I want to be happy and tell you everything. I’ll start at the beginning. You probably already know what I’m telling you, but maybe you don’t. Maybe you haven’t been watching.” The diary in which she’s writing is a gift from Kazi, the male Muslim housekeeper who runs the house and the kitchen for Papa, Nisha’s stern father, head doctor at the city hospital in Mirpur Khas, India, and Dadi, Nisha’s grandmother. Nisha’s twin brother, Amil, loves to draw but has great trouble reading, plus he talks and yells all the time, all of which irks Papa no end. She notes, “Amil says he can’t read right because the words jump around and change on him.” Nisha, who is selectively mute, only speaks aloud to her family and loves to sneak into the kitchen and help Kazi prepare dinner. She writes, “It feels scary to talk, because once the words are out, you can’t put them back in. But if you write words and they don’t come out the way you want them to, you can erase them and start over.” Trouble begins four days later when four Muslim men come to the house to speak to Papa, who is Hindu (though his wife was Muslim, something controversial the twins are not supposed to talk about). Nisha can make out some of the words: Pakistan, Jinnah, independence, Nehru, India, British, Lord Mountbatten, Gandhi, partition.” The next day, as she and Amil are walking home from school, Muslim boys throw rocks at them, leading to the twins leaving school to be tutored at home by Dadi. In their city, everyone can tell who is Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh by their names and different styles of clothing. Though the three groups have always gotten along, tensions are rising now that India is about to be partitioned into Hindu-based India and Muslin-based Pakistan, which is where Nisha’s family has always lived. Papa must decide whether the family should try to stay put or relocate. The news is bad, with escalating reports of rioting and killings. Nisha’s conversational and vivid descriptions of family life, food, customs, and memories of happier times turn to darker themes. On August 3, after their home is invaded by a group of unidentified men and Kazi is attacked, Papa says, “Everyone has gone crazy . . . This was supposed to be a beautiful moment in history . . . Sometimes the world as you know it just decides to become something else.” On August 15, the day of partition, hearing about widespread killings on trains, the family leaves home on foot and begins a harrowing and life-threatening two-week, one hundred mile walk to the border, leaving Kazi behind. This unique story, told with sensitivity and clarity, introduces an unfamiliar time and place that will be a revelation to readers who will identify with Nisha’s family’s plight.

GERM: At the back of the book is a glossary of unfamiliar vocabulary (though no pronunciation guide) and an Author’s Note about the India/Pakistan partition, the largest mass migration in history. Of the fourteen million people who crossed the borders, it is estimated that at least a million people died. Nisha’s account is loosely based on and inspired by the experiences of author Veera Hiranandani’s father and his family who lived in Mirpur Khas and crossed the border to Jodhpur, India where they had to start anew as refugees. Have students ponder Papa’s restatement of Gandhi’s words: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” They can research information of the partition, on Gandhi and Jinnah, and on the current tensions that still are stoked between India and Pakistan. Find a thorough guide to the book here: tinyurl.com/yxbyxcl4, a nicely done book trailer here: tinyurl.com/y68o562u, and an interview and video of the author here: mrschureads.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-night-diary-by-veera-hiranandani.html. Students will be well-served by learning more about Gandhi’s life in Demi’s picture book biography, Gandhi. See what life is like in current day Pakistan with Aisha Saeed’s compelling fiction story, Amal Unbound, and, of course, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World.

RELATED TITLES: Demi. Gandhi. McElderry, 2001. / Gandhi, Arun, and Bethany Hegedus. Grandfather Gandhi. Atheneum, 2014. / Lai, Thanhha. Inside Out & Back Again. HarperCollins, 2011. / Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars. Houghton Mifflin, 1989. / Mazer, Norma Fox. Good Night, Maman. Harcourt, 1999. / McGinty, Alice B. Gandhi: A March to the Sea. Amazon, 2013. / Naidoo, Beverly. The Other Side of Truth. HarperCollins, 2001. / Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil. Little, Brown, 2014. / Saeed, Aisha. Amal Unbound. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, 2018. / Sheth, Kashmira. Blue Jasmine. Hyperion, 2004. / Weeks, Sarah, and Gita Varadarajan. Save Me a Seat. Scholastic, 2016. / Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. HarperCollins, 2000. / Wilkinson, Philip. Gandhi: The Young Protester Who Founded a Nation. National Geographic, 2005. / Yousafzai, Malala, with Patricia McCormick. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World. (Young Readers Edition) Little, Brown, 2014.


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