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 

✪ Saving Winslow. Creech, Sharon. HarperCollins, 2018. {ISBN-13: 978-0-06-257070-3; 166p.} FIC (Gr. 3-6) RL: 4.1

Like Fern in Charlotte’s Web, ten-year-old Louie is alarmed when his father brings home a newborn farm animal that is not expected to live. In this case, it’s a miniature donkey from Uncle Pete’s farm nearby, born on a snowy January day to a mother too sick to care for it. The tiny creature has a small gray head, black eyes, a “trembling thin body and four long spindly legs, all of it covered in splotchy gray fur scattered with brown freckles.” When it makes a small noise that sounds like “please,” Louie says, “Okay. I accept the mission.” He has decided to “save this pitiful motherless donkey” that he names Winslow. “Don’t say it! Think positive!” Louie says to all the doubting grown-ups who are sure Winslow won’t make it. They just don’t want him to get his hopes up. At the same time, Louie is worried sick about his big brother, Gus, serving in the Army far away, who has been signing his letters home, “Remember me, Gus.” Louie’s thirteen-year-old best friend, Mac, is acting more like a teenager these days, even claiming to be in love with Claudine, a new girl in town, and Louie misses the way things used to be before Gus left. Nora, Claudine’s no-nonsense, argumentative, and downright enigmatic nine-year-old sister, refuses to have anything to do with Louie’s ailing baby donkey. She says, “I don’t see the point of holding that thing if it’s just going to die anyway.” She’s already dealt with the deaths of her premature baby brother and her dog, and though she claims not to care about Winslow, she manages to stop by to see him frequently and offer her advice. With Gus’s care, Winslow seems to be getting stronger until one morning when he is unable to stand up. The vet prescribes antibiotics and shows the apprehensive boy how to give the donkey a daily injection. With practice, Louie becomes skillful in caring for his LGD, what Uncle Pete calls a Little Gray Donkey. Louie must figure out how to contend with a neighbor who strongly objects to Winslow’s constant braying and registers a complaint with the Board of Health to have it removed. Brief chapters, most only two-to-five-pages long, full of thoughtful dialogue and brimming with hope, bring to life characters you’ll care about, especially that noisy but lovable Winslow. Louie has plenty to worry about, between his donkey’s future and his brother Gus’s safety, but, as he says to always-pessimistic Nora, he worries about the worst, but he hopes for the best. Not a bad philosophy for us all to consider. This meditation on love, loss, friendship, kindness, and hope is one that readers will treasure.

GERM: On Sharon Creech’s website are photos of her granddaughter with her own LGD, Jonathan: www.sharoncreech.com.

Discussion Points/Research & Writing Prompts:

  1. Compare and contrast the situation of Louie and the newborn mini donkey with that of Fern and Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. Why don’t Louie’s parents want him to get a dog? Why does Louie decide it’s up to him to save Winslow? (Chapter 1-4)
  2. What has changed in Louie’s friendship with Mack? How are kids who are three years older or younger than you different from you? How does caring for Winslow connect Louie to himself as a baby? Have you ever cared for a pet or wild animal? What was the situation and what did you have to do? (Chapter 5-6)
  3. Why does Louie’s soccer coach say, “Maybe sports are not your thing?” What is your thing for which you have a talent or passion and why? Why do you think Gus has been signing his letters home, “Remember me.”? How are sisters, Claudine, thirteen, and Nora, nine, different? Why won’t Nora hold Winslow? (Chapter 7-9)
  4. Louie remembers walking into town on a freezing day and wishing he could freeze that scene. What other scene did he freeze in his mind that day, what did he do about it, and why? What scenes do you have frozen in your mind and why? When Winslow gets an infection, the vet expects Louie to give the donkey a shot of antibiotics every day. How do antibiotics help people and animals? Find out more about what they are and how they work. How does one care for an LGD (Little Gray Donkey), as Louie calls him. Why does Nora run out of Louie’s house? Why is she so skittish around Winslow? (Chapter 10-13)
  5. Louie recalls a night he woke up in the middle of the night when he was little and thought he was in a different world, though it was just the full moon shining. What unusual experiences have you had concerning the sun or moon or waking in the middle of the night? There are no books about donkeys in Louie’s school library except Winnie-the-Pooh. Look up to see if there are any in yours. Teachers, stop here to read “In Which a House Is Built at Pooh Corner for Eeyore” from A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, just because everyone should know Pooh, Piglet, and that pessimistic donkey, Eeyore. (Chapter 14-16)
  6. What do you make of Nora? “Sometimes when Louie talked with Nora, he felt as if she were speaking a foreign language.” What does he mean? Why does Claudine refuse to speak to Mack? He says, “How can you give a person too much attention? I thought that’s what girls wanted: attention.” Girls, what do you think of this? How does Louie identify with the concept of getting too much attention? What advice does he give to Mack? (Chapter 17-20)
  7. What is the connection between the painting above Louie’s bed and his donkey? Who was Winslow Homer? Find out information about his work. If students Google his name and click on Images, they can find the painting described on page 75. (It’s called “Weaning the Calf,” and you can see it here: learn.ncartmuseum.org/artwork/weaning-the-calf.) (Chapter 21)
  8. Why does Nora always expect the worst? Why doesn’t Louie? How are the two different in personality? What about you? Do you always expect the worst, the best, or something in between? Think of an example. What happened to Winslow when he disappeared? Why can’t Louie stay mad at Nora? (Chapter 22-32)
  9. Why do Louie’s father and Uncle Pete agree that Winslow can’t stay at home anymore? How does Nora react and why? Why would Winslow be considered a health hazard? What do you think Louie should do? What are the Board of Health regulations for keeping farm animals in your neighborhood? Would you be able to have a donkey where you live? (Chapter 33-40)
  10. Why does Mrs. Tooley hate Winslow? How does Winslow save the day? Upon seeing Boom-Boom, Mrs. Tooley’s baby in his portable crib in Louie’s room, Louie understands a lot of what he never really thought about before. How does it change his thinking about the baby, Mrs. Tooley, Norah, and Winslow? How do these realizations and reflections help him give up Winslow? (Chapter 41-49)

RELATED TITLES: Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper, 2012. / Creech, Sharon. The Boy on the Porch. Harper, 2013. / Creech, Sharon. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup. HarperCollins, 2003. / Creech, Sharon. Love That Dog. HarperCollins, 2001. / DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie. Candlewick, 2000. / DiCamillo, Kate. Raymie Nightingale. Candlewick, 2016. / Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Chicken Boy. Atheneum, 2005. / Martin, Ann M. Everything for a Dog. Feiwel and Friends, 2009. / Milne, A. A. The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. Dutton, 1996, c1926. / O’Connor, Barbara. Wish. Farrar, 2016. / Pennypacker, Sara. Pax. Balzer + Bray, 2016. / Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. Clarion, 2011. / White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. HarperCollins, 1952.


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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