I was at an inservice session today and someone said, “All the nonfiction books for kids are badly written.”
I was shocked.
That’s because there are so many great lists of excellent nonfiction books. But I suddenly realized that these awards lists aren’t very well known. You may know the Newbery award or the Caldecott award. But did you know that there are at least six nationally recognized awards of excellence for nonfiction children’s books. There are also numerous smaller awards lists, so look for award lists about special topics.
Orbis Pictus Award from the NCTE
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has annually awarded the Orbis Pictus award since 1990 for “promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children.”
Winner of the 2012 Orbis Pictus award is Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade
by Melissa Sweet, (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
Honor Books 2012
- Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart,by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade Books)
- Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons, by Harold Holzer (Calkins Creek) Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, by Monica Brown, illulstrated by Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt and Company)
- Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust, by Ruth Thomson (Candlewick Press)
- The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low Books Inc.)
Recommended Books 2012
- Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution, by Laurence Pringle, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Boyds Mills Press)
- Far from Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage, by Sophie Webb (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children)
- For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson, by Peggy Thomas, illustrated by Laura Jacques (Calkins Creek)
- Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)
- Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist, by Janice Weaver, illustrated by Chris Lane (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
- Inkblot by Margaret Peot (Boyds Mills Press)
- Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown and Company)
- Thunder Birds: Nature’s Flying Predators by Jim Arnosky (Sterling)
For previous years, see the NCTE’s page for the Orbis Pictus award.
Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Award from the ALA
The American Library Association annually awards the Robert F. Siebert Informational Book Award “to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year.”
2012 Medal Winner
Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet, published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
The story of Tony Sarg, the artistic inventor who conceived the huge balloons that float through New York City each Thanksgiving. Beginning at a very young age, his never-ending zeal for play and discovery delighted millions, and likewise, Sweet’s festive words, mixed media illustrations and thorough research, bring their own contagious joy to this celebration of his life’s creative process.
“Sweet’s book rose above all others this year by brilliantly showing and telling the story of one person’s ideas with passion and panache, demonstrating the very best of what an informational book can be,” said Sibert Medal Committee Chair Andrew Medlar.
2012 Honor Books
- Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor, written by Larry Dane Brimner and published by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Inc.
This powerful examination of a crucial dichotomy in the civil rights movement focuses on two polar opposites—one man committed to ending segregation, and one just as determined to see it maintained—with visual elements as arresting as the stimulating words.
- Drawing from Memory, written and illustrated by Allen Say and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
Say, an esteemed children’s book creator, engagingly relays his early training, including the influences of his family and his artistic sensei, by filling his distinct scrapbook format with captivating text and dynamic illustrative styles, from watercolors to comics, which exudes enthusiasm and talent.
- Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem written and illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzerand published by the National Geographic Society.
Whether being introduced or reintroduced to the topic, readers will be stunned by the research and accusations in this pivotal drama of American history. With a size reminiscent of a prayer book and startling scratchboard-style illustrations, this work of art presents an account of our past and asks questions of our future.
The Elephant Scientist, written by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, photographs byCaitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwelland published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Power-packed photos and prose transport readers to the dusty world of African elephants and a woman who studies such large mysteries as how they use their feet and trunks to communicate with other animals and sense distant thunder. Throughout, O’Connell, Jackson, and Rodwell keep readers constantly engaged with curiosity sparked by the latest discoveries from the field.
For more information and lists of previous winners, see the ALA Siebert Medal Page
Golden Kite for Nonfiction
The Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators (scbwi.org) awards a series of Golden Kite awards that are especially coveted by writers and illustrators because they are awarded by their peers.
2012 Nonfiction Golden Kite Winner
AMELIA LOST: THE LIFE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF AMELIA EARHART, By Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade (Random House)
Alternating chapters between Amelia’s childhood and her life as a flyer, Fleming captures the drama and detail (Amelia liked to eat tomato soup while flying) of Earhart’s life with suspense and enthusiasm. Maps, handwritten notes and photos further highlight the remarkable journey of one of America’s most celebrated women.
2012 Nonfiction Golden Kite Honor Winner
MYSTERIOUS BONES: THE STORY OF KENNEWICK MAN
By Katherine Kirkpatrick, illustrated by Emma Stevenson
For more information and previous winners, see Golden Kite awards page.
IRA Informational Book Awards
The International Reading Association award the Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards, which are intended for newly published authors who show unusual promise in the children’s and young adults’ book field. Awards are given for fiction and nonfiction in each of three categories: primary, intermediate, and young adult.
2012 Primary Nonfiction
Jeanne Walker Harvey
My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey (Primary-Nonfiction)
2012 Young Adult Nonfiction
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous (Young Adult-Nonfiction)
For more information and former winners, see the IRA Award page.
Carter G. Woodson Book Award
The National Council of Social Studies awards the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for the most distinguished social science books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States.
2012 Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winner, Elementary Level (Grades K–6)
Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Ša, Native American
Author, Musician, and Activist
Adapted by Gina Capaldi and Q. L. Pearce
Published by Carolrhoda Books
2012 Carter G. Woodson Honor Award
A Nation’s Hope The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
by De La Peña, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
For more information and previous winners, see the Carter G. Woodson Book Award page.
Notable Social Studies Trade Books
The NCSS also creates a annotated list of Notable Social Studies Trade Books. The current year’s list is only available to members, but previous years are available at their website. Single printed copies of the current list are available from the Children’s Book Council for $5.00 per copy. Send payment and orders to Children’s Book Council, attn.: Social Studies, 54 West 39th Street, 14th floor, New York, NY 10018.
National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Books
Reading science trade books is the perfect way for students to build literacy skills while learning science content. The books that appear in these lists were selected as outstanding children’s science trade books. They were chosen by a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council (CBC).
The current list is available as a pdf flyer here. More exciting is the new database NSTA Recommends, which lists books from the Outstanding Books lists from the last 11 years. This database can be searched by grade and topic. See more at NSTA Recommends.
Thanks to a reader for a reminder about this award. If you think of others, please leave a comment.
Don’t forget the SB&F/AAAS/Subaru Prize books for excellence in science writing, given by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.