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 30+ years, Judy Freeman has presented her wildly popular, idea-packed, full-day seminar, The Winners! Workshop, throughout New Jersey. 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, that each participant receives as part of the day, is the next best thing to being there.


Looking for ways to integrate Common Core or your state standards into your classroom or library? 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 2015 Winners! Handbook

From The 2018 Winners! Handbook: A Closer Look at Judy Freeman’s Top-Rated Children’s Books of 2017 

✪  The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors. Daywalt, Drew. Illus. by Adam Rex. Balzer + Bray, 2017. {ISBN-13: 978-0-06-243889-8; 48p.} E (Gr. PreK-4) RL: 4.4

“Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard, there lived a warrior named Rock.” In what may be the most original and hilarious picture book of the year, meet three intrepid and glory-seeking warriors: Rock, the strongest; Paper, the smartest, “in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, on lonely and windswept Desk Mountain”; and Scissors, the fastest blade in “the Kitchen Realm, in the tiny village of Junk Drawer.” Rock yearns for worthy adversaries, but neither the wooden Clothespin, holding up a giant’s underwear on a rope in the Forest of Over by the Tire Swing, nor Apricot, with his tart and tangy sweetness, can stand up to Rock’s superior strength. Meanwhile, Paper, seeking the glory of battle, causes Computer Printer’s paper jam and defeats the horde in Office Trash Bin’s Half-Eaten Bag of Trail Mix. At the same time, Scissors triumphs over both Roll of Tape and Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets. The three finally come face to face in the “great cavern of Two-Car Garage.” In their ensuing epic battles—Rock Versus Scissors, Rock Versus Paper, and Paper Versus Scissors—they at last meet their respective matches. It’s rare to find such a brilliant match of text and illustrations that will convulse readers with every page turn. Herein is a mash-up of tongue-in-cheek narration, seriocomic dialogue balloons and multiple oversized display types, and diabolically funny, heroic anthropomorphic portraits of the inanimate warriors and their terrifying battles. The epic paintings look like they were created in, maybe, gouache. As Rock says, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” Verily, we are.

GERM: What drama! What action! What voices! (“YOU, SIR, LOOK LIKE A FUZZY LITTLE BUTT,” Rock says to Apricot who is dangling from a tree stem. “WHAT?! I challenge you to a duel!” Apricot responds, an enraged look in his little eye. “THEN LET US BATTLE!”) Channel your inner Laurence Olivier or Meryl Streep to read this one aloud. The stentorian dialogues and oratorical narration make it a sumptuous candidate for children to act out in Reader’s Theater. I just happen to have written that very thing, which you’ll find in this handbook on page 225. (PRINT OUT A FRESH COPY OF THIS SCRIPT AT: www.ber.org/download/BJ8.) While you can have your actors hold rocks, papers, scissors, and other tangible items to illustrate their parts in the play, know that you can order the most splendid original handmade puppets of the three main characters at www.mimismotifs.com. Do check it out. (See a photo of them in this handbook on page 187 and a flyer for Mimi’s Motifs on page 287.) The very least you can do to celebrate your reading of the story is have your kids break into pairs and play the age-old game. Then have your whole class stand up and use their whole bodies to act out an epic bout: Rock: arms out or up in the air rounded like a rock; Paper: hands up, fluttering; or Scissors: arms crossed above their heads. Have them stand back-to-back and get into position. You call, “Ready? ROCK PAPER SCISSORS: TURN!” and they jump around to face each other. Losers (and any who tie) sit down and winners re-pair with another partner and play the next round until there are only two players remaining to for the final play-off. Introduce the book as a modern day pourquoi (how-and-why) tale that explains how something came to be. (As Drew Daywalt explains in his trailer for the book, “With this book, what I wanted to do was to create a superhero origin story,” or, as he calls it in another interview, “a mythic hero story.”) Get ready to rumble with this over-the-top book trailer: www. harpercollins.com/9780062438898/the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors. Cheryl Bonsall, crackerjack librarian at Northfield Community School in Northfield, NJ, had her second and third graders pair up to play ten rounds of rock, paper, scissors and turned it into a memorable lesson on graphs. See her description of the project in this handbook on page 187.

RELATED TITLES: Ahlberg, Allan. The Pencil. Candlewick, 2008. / Barnett, Mac. Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem. Illus. by Adam Rex. Disney-Hyperion, 2009. / Barnett, Mac. Chloe and the Lion. Illus. by Adam Rex. Disney-Hyperion, 2012. / Barton, Chris. Shark Vs. Train. Little, Brown, 2010. / Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Came Back. Philomel, 2015. / Daywalt, Drew. The Day the Crayons Quit. Philomel, 2013. / Drescher, Henrik. Simon’s Book. Lothrop, 1983. / Ferry, Beth. Stick and Stone. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. / Jeffers, Oliver. Once Upon an Alphabet. Philomel, 2014. / Rex, Adam. Nothing Rhymes with Orange. Chronicle, 2017. / Rex, Adam. Pssst! Harcourt, 2007. / Rex, Adam. School’s First Day of School. Roaring Brook, 2016. / Tullet, Hervé. Press Here. Chronicle, 2011.


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 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