The travel experience and books go together – discovering a wider world, understanding and appreciating differences, learning about people and places.
For over fifteen years, we review and feature children’s books on Travel for Kids website (travelforkids.com) and this blog.
In recent years, children’s books are banned or restricted in some U.S. school classrooms and libraries. Books are taken off the shelves, no longer available for kids to choose to read.
We were surprised to discover 25 books recommended by Travel for Kids also appear on lists of banned or challenged books. These titles are by award-winning authors, and the books are also very popular.
Book bans turn libraries and classrooms into book deserts – deprived of books judged unacceptable by a small group of people.
Check out following list of books, and pick a favorite banned/challenged book to read!
- Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
- “Little dishes on carts, little dishes on tables,” dim sum is fun for everyone in the family – Ma-Ma likes pork buns, Ba-Ba eats fried shrimp, Mei-Mei picks sweet tofu. A charming story, plus a picture glossary of dim sum dishes.
- Maya: My First Maya Angelou by Lisbeth Kaiser, Leire Salaberria
- “Her words taught people that you can be anything you want to be.”
- Maya Angelou was a poet, writer, activist, she loved books and reading out loud. She was a cook, a streetcar conductor, dancer, singer, spoke many languages and traveled the world. She gave everyone hope.
- Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Maillard Noble, Juana Martinez-Neal
- This dish originated with the Navajo over 150 years ago, and is popular in Native American communities throughout U.S. Warm and delicious story, plus recipe for fry bread.
- Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal, Surishtha Sehgal, Vashti Harrison
- Holi is a popular Hindu spring festival celebrated in India. Family, friends and neighbors toss powdered colors and water on each other, and enjoy holiday foods, singing and dancing.
- Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, Stasia Burrington
- Inspiring story of Mae Jemison, who is the first African American woman in space.
- Asked in school what she wanted to be when she grew up, Mae said, “I want to be an astronaut.”
- Mae went to Stanford, then medical school for an MD, and worked with the Peace Corps in Africa, before joining NASA.
- Islandborn by Junot Diaz, Leo Espinosa
- When her teacher asks the class to draw a picture of the country they come from, Lola was a baby when her family left their Caribbean island.
- Lola goes to her friends and family in her neighborhood. They tell her memories of music, mangoes and fresh coconut milk, heroes that stood up to a Monster, bright colored houses and flowers, hurricane that hit the island, and dolphins that come to shore at sunset.
- Coolies by Yin, Chris Soenpiet
- A boy hears the story how his great-great-great-grandfather came to America. Two brothers, Shek and Little Wong leave China for better opportunities.
- The brothers are hired as Chinese laborers, building the transcontinental railroad. It was dangerous and backbreaking work – pounding spikes into the ground from dawn to dusk, in hot sun or freezing snow, for very little pay. But after four years, the brothers survived, railroad was completed, and they found a new home in California.
- Celia Cruz Queen of Salsa by by Veronica Chambers, Julie Maren
- In Havana there lived a girl, Celia Cruz, and she sang like a bird. She sang lullabies to put her younger siblings to sleep, and people in the neighborhood said her voice was so sweet, it sent you to the land of angel dreams. A vibrant story of Celia Cruz, growing up in Cuba, her family, her singing, her dreams.
- I am Martin Luther King Jr. by Brad Meltzer, Christopher Eliopoulos
- Growing up, Martin Luther King’s parents taught him that he was as good as anyone, even though black people were treated very differently than white people. But what could he do about it?
- He fought for civil rights all his life, won the Nobel Peace Prize, a national holiday is named in his memory.
- I am Martin Luther King Jr.
I stand for peace.
I stand for justice.
I stand to help others.
I stand as proof that no matter how hard the struggle, we must fight for what is right and work to change what is wrong.
I know that is we stand together, nothing can stop our dream.
- Hachiko by Pamela S. Turner, Yan Nascimbene
- In Tokyo, “There is a statue of my old friend at the entrance to the Shibuya Station …”
- Heart-warming story of the dog Hachiko, told through the eyes of a young child. Each day, Hachiko walks to the station with Dr. Ueno and waits all day for him return.
- Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, Cozbi A. Cabrera
- Gwendolyn Brooks is the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
- She grew up with books, and started writing poetry as a child. Even when times were hard, she always kept writing. She was inspired by what she saw and heard in the street, and she wrote powerful poems about life in South Side Chicago.
- Totem Tale: A Tall Story from Alaska by Deb Vanasse, Erik Brooks
- A totem pole magically comes to life.
- Grizzly Bear, Beaver, Frog, and Raven are happy to get down and run around. When first light of dawn appears, the animals have to reassemble themselves in the right order on the totem pole. Can wise Raven sort things out?
- Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate from Farm to Family by Elizabeth Zunon
- A little girl bakes a birthday chocolate cake with her father. While they mix it together he tells her about Grandpa Cacao, who lives in Ivory Coast, West Africa.
- Grandpa Caco worked on a farm, where they grew cacao, the fruit used to make chocolate. Everyone in the village worked together to prepare cacao beans to sell. Plus fun facts about history of chocolate, and a recipe for chocolate celebration cake.
- The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil, Anait Semirdzhyan
- Kanzi’s family has moved from Egypt to America. On the first day of school, when kids tease her about using Arabic words, Kanzi writes a poem about a treasured quilt made by her grandmother.
- The teacher has an idea to translate names of everyone in the class into Arabic, and create a beautiful new class quilt.
- Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bilner, John Parra
- In New Orleans, Marvelous Cornelius is a garbage truck driver, he sings and dances up and down the streets, he’s is a one-man parade with people following behind.
- Then came Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans flooded, the amount of trash was immense! Every morning, Cornelius brought his truck and picked up garbage, everyone in the neighborhood helped too. Then volunteers came from other cities to help with the cleanup, thousands, millions of people.
- Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona, a kindly grandma, has a magic pasta pot. Big Anthony gets into trouble when he sings the magic words himself, “Bubble, bubble pasta pot, boil me some pasta nice and hot.” But he doesn’t know how to make the pot stop, so pasta flows out windows and doors of the house and through the town.
- Pele: King of Soccer by Monica Brown, Rudy Gutierrez
- Story of Pele, who became one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
- Pele first played soccer with boys in his neighborhood. They had no money for shoes, or a ball, so they used a grapefruit. But his “Barefoot Team” played every chance they could, and Pele was asked to join a professional team. When he was 17, he played in the World Cup, and for the first time, Brazil won!
- The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Brian Collier
- Shorty and his friends live in New Orleans. They are the 5 O’Clock Band, and get together to play music every afternoon downtown. After missing a performance with the band, Shorty wonders what it takes to be a great bandleader.
- Walking through the French Quarter, he meets Tuba Treme and Queen Lola, and learns about playing with love, dedication and tradition.
- Abuela by by Arthur Dorros, Elisa Kleven
- Fly with Rosalba and her Abuela (grandma) above Manhattan, over the streets and parks “El parque es lindo” (park is beautiful), wave to people and say “Buenos Dias,” past the Statue of Liberty, stopping to drink limonada in her uncle’s store, then soaring higher than the tallest buildings. “Vamos – Let’s go!”
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- One winter morning, a boy wakes up in the city and looks out his window. Everything is covered in deep snow! He puts on his snowsuit and runs outside. Fabulous collages capture a child’s joy and imagination exploring his world – this classic is timeless.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- I am born not long from the time
or far from the place
worked the deep rich land
- Jacqueline Woodson grew up between the South and North, segregation and Civil Rights, rural South Carolina and urban New York City.
- Outstanding story of her childhood, filled with lemon-chiffon ice cream in summer with her grandparents, merengue dancing and soul music, elementary school that takes up a whole city block in the city, and dreams of becoming a writer.
- And what a writer and poet she is!
- Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
- Fabulous fantasy, inspired by Chinese folktales, this is a story about the moon. A magical toad that is also a rabbit, boy who runs away but misses his family, girl whose brother is missing, magistrate turned into an angry tiger, jumping goldfish, firefly lanterns, garden full of snails, lady in the moon who grants secret wishes, and sage in the mountain who knows the secret of peace.
- Molly of Denali: Berry Itchy Day by WGBH Kids
- Molly, an Alaska Native girl, and her family are off to pick blueberries (jak).
- Mosquitos are fierce today, but they make bug repellent from plants growing in the meadow. Plus tips for berry-picking.
- Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence, Elizabet Vukovic
- On New Year’s Day, Jasmine’s extended family gathers in Los Angeles for a special Japanese tradition – making mochi rice balls (mochi-tsuki).
Women usually shape mochi after it’s pounded, but Jasmine wants to hoist the heavy hammer, and pound hot cooked rice along with the men.
- What Was the March on Washington by Kathleen Krull
- Read about this historic 1963 March on Washington, in support of equal rights for black Americans. More than 250,000 people gathered between Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to hear from speakers, including Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his speech for the ages “I Have a Dream.”
- “I have a dream that my four little children will live one day in a nation where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
How did we discover Travel for Kids recommended books have been banned or challenged?
Pen America’s Index of Schoool Book Bans. 23 of the books above are on that list, 2 more titles are on public library lists of banned or challenged books.
Tip: Travel for Kids mobile site, travelforkids.mobi, does not feature children’s books, due to small screen size.