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 

✪ Hello Lighthouse. Blackall, Sophie. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-0-316-36238-2; 48p.} E (Gr. K-3) RL: 2.1

Need a bit of a getaway? Love the ocean? Transport yourself to a red and white lighthouse, built to last forever, at the top of the highest rock on a tiny island at the edge of the world. Sophie Blackall’s meticulous, delicate, full-bleed, Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations inspire awe in this carefully researched picture book with its unusually tall, narrow trim size. A new keeper has just arrived via a supply ship called a tender, to maintain the light. A cross-section of the lighthouse interior shows him caring for his close quarters, where five little circular rooms, one atop the other, are connected by a spiral staircase and a ladder. There’s a tiny foyer at the bottom where he is painting the walls sea-green, then a storeroom, then a kitchen with a big black wood-burning stove, a bedroom with a bed and bureau, and a tiny study where he keeps his daily log, threads a needle, and listens to the incessant wind. There he is, too, at the very top where he stands next to the massive light, as tall as he is but far rounder. Each day he needs to polish the lens, refill the oil, trim the wick, and, through the night, wind the clockwork that turns the light. The lighthouse and the wind are anthropomorphized slightly, as it beams out its light with “Hello! . . . Hello! . . . Hello!” as “[the] wind takes a deep breath and blows and blows and blows.” In the next double-page, we see the keeper fishing for cod with his line out the window, bringing his cooked fish to the table, and writing a letter to his wife, whose photograph sits on his desk. He will roll the letter into a glass bottle and throw it into the waves for delivery. There’s a powerful illustration of him standing at the top of the lighthouse, with the yellow beam of light cutting through ominous black storm clouds and a cascade of blue-green white-capped waves rolling and crashing up against the lighthouse. It may remind you of the force of the wave in the famous Japanese woodblock print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai. The tender ship arrives bringing supplies and the man’s wife, who is hoisted up to the lighthouse on an enormous rope pulley. In a circular inset illustration, the two dance joyously across the kitchen floor. (Do check out the circle motif in all the illustrations, including those framed with nautical rope.) Together, they weather fog, a shipwreck where the keeper rescues three sailors from the “deep, black sea,” and freezing temperatures that turn the sea to ice (with seals resting atop the white expanse). When the keeper gets the flu, his wife tends to him, running up and down the steps to bring him broth and ice she’s chipped off a window. When the ice melts, whales swim by, while inside the lighthouse the woman paces, awaiting the birth of her child. Each idyllic page turn will bring a cry of delight from readers until the page where the coast guard arrives with a brand-new light and a machine to run it. “The keeper’s work is done.” Modernization has put him out of work, and the man, his wife, and young daughter wave farewell to their lighthouse. A last surprise comes in the final illustrations—a three-page gatefold, showing the family relocated to a house on the shore overlooking the lighthouse. Caldecott worthy? For sure. Hurrah!

GERM: In her extensive “About Lighthouses” note at the back of the book, Blackall provides further facts and descriptions of the life of a lighthouse keeper. She writes, “The lighthouse in this book is based on one I stayed in on a tiny island at the northern tip of Newfoundland. But, as Herman Melville writes in Moby Dick, ‘It is not down on any map; true places never are.’” Have your kids do a little searching online to see if/where there are lighthouses in your state and peruse images of the many different styles. If they bug their parents, perhaps it could result in a family trip to visit and climb one. There’s an ethereal illustration in the book of the swirling green spirals of the Northern Lights outside the lighthouse. Have kids find pictures and information about that far North phenomenon as well. In teacher/librarian Emmie Stuart’s August 6, 2018 column for Bookpage.com, “Tips for Teachers: Under the Sea,” you’ll find several excellent ideas for using the book with your students: tinyurl.com/ycl3zjmc. See librarian Maren Vitali’s Hello Lighthouse crafty lesson plan and project, Researching What’s in the Ocean, in this handbook on page 191. Laura Moseley, librarian at West Side Elementary School in Marietta, Georgia, had her first and second graders imagine what life would be like living inside a lighthouse. Her first graders drew their own lighthouses, with the outside on one side of the paper and a cross section of the inside on the verso. Second graders made a logbook, just like the lighthouse keeper did in the story, and added their own entries to it.

RELATED TITLES: Floca, Brian. Lightship. Atheneum, 2007. / Hopkinson, Deborah. Birdie’s Lighthouse. Atheneum, 1997. / Jenkins, Emily. A Fine Dessert. Illus. by Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade, 2015. / Mattick, Lindsay. Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. Illus. by Sophie Blackall. Little, Brown, 2015. / Olshan, Matthew. The Mighty Lalouche. Illus. by Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade, 2013. / Olson, Arielle North. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter. Mystic Seaport, 2004, c1987. / Swift, Hildegarde Hoyt. The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Harcourt, 2002.


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