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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. 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. 

2014 Winning Titles

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
A Splash of Red:  The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

(Alfred A. Knopf)

Honor Books:

by Brian Floca (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Roaring Brook Press)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Balzer + Bray)

Parrots Over Puerto Rico
by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low Books Inc.)
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers
by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press)

Recommended Books:

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty
by Tonya Bolden (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty
by Russell Freedman (Holiday House)
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Roaring Brook Press)
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library
by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O’Brien (Calkins Creek)
Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
by Elizabeth Rusch, photographs by Tom Uhlman (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives
by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books)
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Henry Holt and Company)
Scaly, Spotted, Feathered, Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?
by Catherine Thimmesh (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)


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. 

Award Criteria

Nomination Procedures

Nominations for the 2015 Orbis Pictus Award must be received by December 31, 2014


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 2014 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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