Every year, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) throws a luncheon at its annual convention to announce the winners of two prestigious children’s book awards: the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children and the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. This year’s luncheon took place on November 23 in Baltimore, MD, honoring the 2020 award winners. 

CHARLOTTE HUCK AWARD WINNERS

Authors Kate and Jol Temple and illustrator Terri Rose Baynton were named winners of the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award for their novel Room on Our Rock (Kane Miller Books), a heartwarming and clever story about sharing and compassion that can be read forward and backward, revealing two narratives. 

The 2020 Honor Books include Between Us and Abuela, written by Mitali Perkins and illustrated by Sara Palacios; I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day; New Kid by Jerry Craft; Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga; and When Aidan Became a Brother, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita.

The Charlotte Huck Award was established in 2014 to promote and recognize fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder. The award honors Dr. Charlotte Huck, a professor at The Ohio State University who devoted her career to promoting the role of children’s books in young people’s academic, social, and emotional development. Each year, the committee selects a winner, up to five honor books, and recommended titles appropriate for ages 3–12.

“I can’t think of a more important time than now to celebrate and promote books that invite compassion, imagination, and wonder,” remarked Desiree Cueto, chair of the selection committee for the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children. “The books selected by the 2020 Charlotte Huck Award Committee encourage readers to rise above fear and intolerance—so prevalent in national discourse—with openness and curiosity. These books truly have the potential to transform lives.”

ORBIS PICTUS AWARD WINNERS

Author Barry Wittenstein and illustrator Jerry Pinkney were named winners of the 2020 Orbis Pictus Award for their nonfiction book, A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation (Neal Porter Books). Wittenstein’s prose and Pinkney’s collage illustrations transport readers to the lobby of the Willard Hotel as a community advises Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the writing, rewriting, and revising of his 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream.” 

The 2020 Honor Books include Manhattan: Mapping The Story Of An Island by Jennifer Thermes; Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Denise; Soldier for Equality by Duncan Tonatiuh; 1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler; and The Poison Eaters by Gail Jarrow.

The Orbis Pictus Award, established in 1989, is the oldest children’s book award for nonfiction. It pays homage to John Amos Comenius’s Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures (1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children. Each year, the committee selects a winner, up to five honor books, and recommended titles ideal for K–8 classroom use. 

“Learning to discern fact from fiction is a fundamental part of literacy development,” says Denise Dávila, chair of the selection committee for the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. “This year’s award winners reflect the integrity of authors and illustrators who ground their essential work for youth in meticulous research.” 

Both awards are chosen by committees of educators committed to identifying books that transform children’s understanding of the world, with special attention to social justice and cultural authenticity, not limited by format or genre.