YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

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YALSA launched a Teen Book Finder Database, a one-stop shop for finding YALSA's selected lists and award winners.  Search this free resource by award, list name, year, author, genre and more, as well as print customizable lists.  This replaces the individual award and list web pages on YALSA’s site that are not searchable and that are organized only by year.

YALSA's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The winner is announced annually at the ALA Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December.

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Current Winner & Finalists

Official Nomination Lists

Previous Winners

Policies and Procedures

Committee Contacts


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2020 Winner

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Free Lunch, written by Rex Ogle and published by Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company. 9781324003601

An honest and engrossing account of Ogle’s sixth-grade year and his family’s experience with poverty and its effect on their relationships. Ogle captures the voice and emotion of his sixth-grade self in this powerful story of trauma and resilience.

2020 Finalists 

The Great Nijinsky: God of Dance, written and illustrated by Lynn Curlee and published by Charlesbridge Teen. 9781580898003

With striking portraits and bold prose, Curlee details the life of the prodigal dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who, unencumbered by sexuality and gender norms, rapidly ascended to stardom before tragically succumbing to mental illness. Curlee pushes the boundaries of the traditional young-adult biography with extravagant design and uncompromising frankness.

A Light in the Darkness: Janusz Korczak, His Orphans, and the Holocaust, written by Albert Marrin and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House. 9781524701208

A heart-wrenching look at the history of the Warsaw Ghetto, told by comparing the philosophies of Doctor Janusz Korczak, a pediatrician-turned-orphanage-director who championed children’s rights, and Adolf Hitler, a racist fanatic whose policies led to the murder and manipulation of children. This masterfully woven story is meticulously documented and asks tough, resonant questions about good and evil.

The Faithful Sky

A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II, written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 9780062453013

A thrilling, richly detailed account of the regiments of female Russian aviators who fought in World War II as pilots, mechanics, and navigators. Through extensive research, descriptive personal stories, and examples of overcoming misogynist social norms, this powerful account shows the bravery and camaraderie needed to change history.

Hey Kiddo

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children's Ship", written by Deborah Heiligman and published by Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 9781627795548

In 1940, the passenger ship City of Benares set sail from Britain, carrying 200 passengers, many of them children hoping to escape the ravages of war. Before they could reach safety, the ship was struck by a torpedo, and a tragic race to save the passengers began. Cinematic language, extensive back matter, archival photos and dramatic illustrations bring this suspenseful and devastating story to life.

2020 Committee

Members of the 2020 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award committee are: Chair Rachel Adams, King County Library, Issaquah, WA; Alicia Blowers, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, Alexandria, VA; Jennifer Cooper, Potomac Senior High School, Dumfries, VA; Heather Dickerson, Lewis & Clark Library, Helena, MT; Elizabeth E. Nelson, St. Luke's School, New Canaan, CT; Joe Prince, Jerome Library, Bowling Green, OH; Erica Ruscio, Ventress Memorial Library, Marshfield, MA; Carolyn Vidmar, New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans, LA; Steve Zampino, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT; Ronny Khuri, Booklist Consultant, Chicago, IL.

Looking for more Nonfiction?  View the list of nominated titles.

YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age appropriate resources for librarians and library workersto share with the teens in their communities.

Previous Winners

View a complete list of Nonfiction Award winners and finalists.

2019 Nonfiction Award

2018 Nonfiction Award

2017 Nonfiction Award

2016 Nonfiction Award

2015 Nonfiction Award

2014 Nonfiction Award

2013 Nonfiction Award

2012 Nonfiction Award

2011 Nonfiction Award

2010 Nonfiction Award