Friday, February 20, 2009

And Tango Makes Three part 2

So I decided to check out the most challenged book of 2007, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell with illustrations by Henry Cole. I wasn't even sure if my local public library would carry it but a quick check of the HCL catalog revealed that I could get my hands on it, most challenged book be damned! What a relief!

Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group- these are the reasons identified by ALA for why this title is so frequently challenged. It should be noted here that ALA defines a challenge as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."

So needless to say, due to all the uproar and identified "challenge-worthy" criticisms, when I first sat down to read this book, I expected to find lots of racy pictures of male penguins having cartoonish-like sex. Wrong! Instead, I found a sweet story about two male penguins named Roy and Silo at the Central Park Zoo who fall in love, make a nest of stones together, and desire to fill their empty nest like all the other penguin couples hatching little baby penguins together. In the end, their keeper sneaks an orphaned egg into their nest, and Roy and Silo take turns caring for the egg until a baby girl penguin named Tango hatches. Ultimately, this is a love story. It does not advocate homosexuality or disparage "families." It sends the message that love is love and no family or couple is the same.

What I find most interesting about the book comes in the author's note on the last page- this is the true story of a penguin family living at the Central Park Zoo. I wonder if the individuals and groups who challenged And Tango Makes Three went to the zoo to protest the real Roy, Silo, and Tango. Seems pretty silly to me...


  1. I loved this story. I also see the reason for adults to fear it. So lets just say a kid has tehbook read to her. I want to know how many kids are able to make teh mental leap from Central Park Zoo to same sex adoption, which I beleve is one of the things the books is said to espouse. Little kids can't make that abstraction developmentally, so I don't understand...

    Did you read anything about the "anti-ethnic" charge? It's a true story, and I can't imagine, even with my biggest censor hat on, how it could be anti-ethnic.

  2. I was wondering that too, I haevn't read it yet, but have read of it and am wondering where the anti-ethnic part comes in. I found a blog post where the writer actually wrote the ALA to find out where that came from (below). It seems that someone had jusy checked the box on the challenge form, but no-one is sure why? Anyways, you've inspired me, I have the book on hold! It seems like the sweetest story.

  3. We received a complaint about this book last fall and the patron chose to pursue reconsideration for the collection. We went through the process. It was interesting that the patron was very aggressive in tone at first, but as the process went on she was more deliberate. Initially, her complaint was that the book was "nothing but promote a lifestyle." The words she used when she completed the Statement of Concern was that the book was "literature promoting homosexual lifestyle".

    Now, she obviously means the same thing with both statements, which I believe is a sad perversion of the story. However, the emotion was diffused somewhat when she filled out the form. She was invited to the meeting to discuss the librarian's recommendations but did not attend.

    The book remains in the Children's Collection. The library will not change how this patron feels about this book, but I think this difficult process helps to develop an understanding about the role of the library in the community.

  4. Riiiiiiiight...the penguins are out to turn your kids gay, and Knut is living proof that every child needs a mother and a father...

  5. There's a part of me that understands why certain parents may be concerned about this, but I've found that most kids don't see the things in books that parents are so worried about. When led to the answer, they might see it, but I know when I read this story to my young cousins (4 & 5), all they saw was a cute story about penguins. I don't think they cared that the penguins were both male or that they had even realized that the two were together in a relationship instead of just a friendship. To children it's not a political agenda, it's a story.