The 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.
Book Lists of Past Winners
Use the award-winning books across content areas---biography, history, science, and the arts.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans
by Don Brown
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Read Don Brown's interview “Hard Topics Can Lead to Good Kids' Books" in the March issue of The Council Chronicle.
- 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 Press)
- Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno (Candlewick Press)
- 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)
- 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)
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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