2020 Category Description: Nonfiction

Cybils Awards logo, 500 px

Oftentimes we can say that the truth is stranger than fiction. Children and students of all ages are curious about a variety of subjects and we can feed their thirst by providing outstanding nonfiction titles. Whether their interests lie in learning about someone’s life, history, math, science, current events, social justice, activism, journalism, and so much more there is a quality nonfiction book that will fit their needs. With the world constantly evolving and the need for factual, accurate information, nonfiction is even more important to our students and for our collections. This year we are combining back nonfiction into one category, however we will be awarding three different winners. We will be looking for the best of the best for:

  • Elementary: Up to 8 years old or Kindergarten to Grade 3
  • Middle Grade: Ages 8 to 12 years old or roughly Grade 4 to Grade 6
  • High School: Ages 13 and Up or roughly Grade 8 and Up

What makes nonfiction outstanding? It is filled with illustrations, photographs, and accurate back matter to highlight concepts to wow students and adults alike about topics so fascinating it is equally as engaging as any novel. The books we seek will be at least 50% narrative nonfiction to whisk our readers off to lands, open up the science worlds, different time periods, and have you walk the shoes of someone else’s life as easily as fiction–for in our case, these people, lands, and events really took place another. Most importantly, the titles we seek are filled with factual content and are informational titles and we seek a balance so our students do not feel like they are being lectured to, and are instead being presented information to them so they can make informed decisions for themselves. Because of this, authors have the ultimate responsibility of bringing truth alive to these discerning readers. With this year including all ages in one nonfiction category, we will continue to seek nonfiction especially for young adults and recognize young adult nonfiction readers will not and should not shy away from controversial topics; they rely on accurate and up-to-date information to help them form opinions on what matters most to them. While some topics are not easily discussed, we need these resources so they have a safe place to turn to for the information they seek. 

After explaining to you what we do want in an outstanding nonfiction book, what we do not want are: encyclopedias, cookbooks, almanac style fact books, mythology, folklore, poetry, graphic novels–even nonfiction (it should be nominated in graphic novels), how-to nonfiction, textbooks, or historical fiction (which should be nominated in the correct age category).

— Stephanie Charlefour, Category chair