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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.

2015 Winning Titles

The Family Romanov


The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia
by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade)

Listen to "A Conversation with Candace Fleming" from


Honor Books

A Home for Mr. Emerson
by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic Press)

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers)

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
by Stephanie Roth Sisson (Roaring Brook Press)

Recommended Books

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World
by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats
by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement
by Teri Kanefield (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Lee & Low Books)

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands
by Katherine Roy (David Macaulay Studio/Roaring Brook Press)

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
by Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane Books)

The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero
by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Terry Widener (Calkins Creek)

Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights
by Larry Dane Brimner (Calkins Creek)


NCTE on AirWatch NCTE on Air "From History to Homonyms," as the winners of the 2015 NCTE Charlotte Huck and Orbis Pictus Honor awards speak about their work. Speakers include: Kwame Alexander (Huck Honor), Cece Bell (Huck Honor), Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet (Orbis Pictus Honors), Kathy Short (NCTE President), Barbara Keifer (Huck Award Committee Chair), and Cyndi Giorgis (Orbis Pictus Award Committee Chair).


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 2016 Orbis Pictus Award must be received by November 1, 2015


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 2015 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.


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