Recently, I just completed my fourth and final year on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)’s Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction selection committee. While the award itself has been around for almost thirty years, it’s a “quiet” award that members of the CLiF community may not yet know about.
The Orbis Pictus was first awarded in 1990, having been established to recognize the changes in nonfiction literature for children that began to happen in the 1980s, to recognize the increasingly “artful” ways in which writers and illustrators were approaching nonfiction, and to celebrate the fact that many young people are avid nonfiction readers. The award is in honor of Orbis Sensualium Pictus, first published in 1658, written by John Amos Comenius, and considered the first modern picture book and the first book to intentionally use both words and images to convey information to young people. The Orbis Pictus award seeks to find interesting, engaging, well-written, and well-documented nonfiction books that prompt inquiry on the part of young people. We look for the kinds of books that, when finished, send young people off to find out more about the topic.
The 2019 winners offer elementary and middle grade readers a range of fascinating options, and teachers a dazzling array of teaching possibilities and versatile roles in curriculum. New Hampshire and CLiF’s own Sandra Neil Wallace’s Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, illustrated by Bryan Collier, won the Orbis Pictus Award. This picture book biography is ideal for read alouds and curricular explorations of theme and genre, but will also have young artists and athletes alike reading it for pleasure over and over again. Middle grade readers can learn more about the Vietnam War in Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge. Elementary readers will find opportunities for connections and new learning in debut author Traci Sorrel’s We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, about contemporary Cherokee life.
You can enjoy the backlist of titles on NCTE’s Orbis Pictus page, and discover a whole range of recently published nonfiction picture books and chapter books that you haven’t read!
Mary Ann Cappiello is a member of CLiF’s Board of Advisors, as well as an education and literacy advocate and a professor of children’s literature and literacy at Lesley University’s Graduate School of Education. She is the author of Teaching with Text Sets (Shell, 2012) and Teaching to Complexity: An Evaluation Framework for Literary and Content-Area Texts (Shell, 2013).