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NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children - Previous Revision

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.

The award is presented annually by the Orbis Pictus Committee Chair during the Books for Children Luncheon at the NCTE Annual Convention each year. In addition, the winning books, authors, and illustrators are featured during sessions at the NCTE Annual Convention. Although only one title is singled out for the award, up to five Honor Books are also recognized. 

Orbis Pictus Award books can be used in a variety of ways with your students across content areas.   Use these lists of past award winning titles on biography, history, science, and the arts to assist with your informational text requirements under the Common Core Standards.


2013 Winning Titles 

Monsieur Marceau: Actor without Words

Monsieur Marceau: Actor without Words

by Leda Schubert 

illustrated by Gérard DuBois 

(Roaring Brook Press)



Honor Books

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz (Henry Holt & Company)

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
by Robert Byrd (Dial Books for Young Readers)

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
by Elizabeth Rusch (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)

Those Rebels, John & Tom
by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edward Fotheringham (Scholastic)

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree Publishers)

Recommended Books

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole
by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, illustrated by Michael Carroll (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship
by Russell Freedman (Clarion Books)

The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician
by Gail Jarrow (Calkins Creek)

Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
by Doreen Rappaport (Candlewick Press)

The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery
by Sandra Markle (Millbrook Press)

Chuck Close: Face Book
by Chuck Close (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books
by Karen Leggett Abouraya, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Dial Books for Young Readers)

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle
by Claire A. Nivola  (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 


Award Criteria

Nomination Procedures

Nominations for the 2014 Orbis Pictus Award must be received by December 31, 2013


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 in the United States during the 2013 calendar year.


To nominate a book send a letter including the author's name, book title, publisher, copyright date, and a short description of what you liked about the book to: NCTE Orbis Pictus Committee, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096.

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 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 committee and apply to be a member.


Have questions or comments,
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