National Council of Teachers of English Logo

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

NCTE Orbis Pictus AwardThe NCTE Orbis Pictus Award  was established in 1989 for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children.

Although only one title is singled out for the award each year, up to five Honor Books are also recognized. Eight additional recommended books can be named.

Use the Orbis Pictus Award books with your students across content areas---biography, history, science, and the arts.


2016 Winner

Drowned City

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans
by Don Brown
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)






Honor Books

  • Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
  • Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares (Candlewick)
  • Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno (Candlewick)
  • Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Chronicle Books)
  • Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Recommended Books

  • Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic Press)
  • Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy, illustrated by Randy DuBurke (Carolrhoda Books)
  • The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Kathryn Brown (Henry Holt & Company)
  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin  (Roaring Brook Press)
  •  My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  •  Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre (Beach Lane Books)
  • Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
  •  W Is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary by Tracey Fern, illustrated by Boris Kulikov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Award Presentation

NCTE Annual ConventionThe award is presented annually by the Orbis Pictus Committee Chair at the Children's Book Awards Luncheon during the NCTE Annual Convention. The award-winning author and/or illustrator will be a featured speaker at the luncheon.


Award Criteria

Nomination Procedures

Nominations for the 2017 Orbis Pictus Award must be received by November 1, 2016


Nominations of individual titles may come from the membership of NCTE and from the educational community at large. Any title of nonfiction literature which has as its central purpose the sharing of information may be nominated. This includes biography, but excludes textbooks, historical fiction, folklore, or poetry. Books must have been published or distributed in the United States during the 2016 calendar year.


Contact to nominate a book. 

Each nomination should meet the following literary criteria:

Accuracy—facts current and complete, balance of fact and theory, varying point of view, stereotypes avoided, author's qualifications adequate, appropriate scope, authenticity of detail

Organization—logical development, clear sequence, interrelationships indicated, patterns provided (general-to-specific, simple-to-complex, etc.)

Design—attractive, readable, illustrations complement text, placement of illustrative material appropriate and complementary, appropriate media, format, type

Style—writing is interesting, stimulating, reveals author's enthusiasm for subject; curiosity and wonder encouraged, appropriate terminology, rich language
In addition, each nomination should be useful in classroom teaching grades K-8, should encourage thinking and more reading, model exemplary expository writing and research skills, share interesting and timely subject matter, and appeal to a wide range of ages.


Award Committee

Members of the Orbis Pictus Award Committee select the award recipient and up to five honor books annually, host sessions and meet during the NCTE Annual Convention, and promote the use of nonfiction children's books in the classroom.

Learn more about the award committee and apply to be a member.


Award Seals

Orbis Pictus seals are available to accompany winning books and their future printings. The seals serve to endorse the excellence of the books and distinguish them from among the thousands of books published each year. Seals are $.20 each and available in gold for winning books, silver for honor books, and bronze for recommended books.

To place an order, please call our customer service department toll-free at 1-877-369-6283.


Have questions or comments,
email us today!


Drowned City
Drowned City
Drowned City

Document and Site Resources

Share This On:

Page Tools:

Join NCTE Today

Related Search Terms


Copyright © 1998-2015 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved in all media.

1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283

Looking for information? Browse our FAQs, tour our sitemap and store sitemap, or contact NCTE

Read our Privacy Policy Statement and Links Policy. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use

Visit us on:
Facebook Twitter Linked In Pinterest Instagram