This year, for Banned Books week, I read a controversial children's picture book.
And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell,
illus. by Henry Cole
NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c. 2005
At New York City's Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches.
This is a very sweet book based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins at New York's Central Park zoo, who acted like a couple, built a nest and tried to hatch a rock. When one of the female penguins laid two eggs, a zookeeper took one of the eggs and put it in Roy and Silo's nest. (Previously, the female and her partner had never been able to raise more than one egg at a time.) But Roy and Silo were up to the job. They took turns sitting on the nest to keep the egg warm, and when it hatched, they took care of Tango, feeding her and teaching her to swim. The book ends with the three of them as a happy family.
After the book was published, one of the male penguins dumped the other for a female, so I guess he was really bi. Who knows? They're penguins!
Believe it or not, the ALA lists this book as the most challenged book of 2006, 2007 & 2008 and the most banned book of 2009, because of the gay penguin theme. Frankly, I think both sides of the debate are reading a little too much into it. It seems to me that penguins come from a very harsh ecosystem, and obviously both male and female penguins are hard-wired to protect and nurture their young to ensure survival of the species.
In any case, it's a sweet, heartwarming story, with delightful artwork. And honestly, what is cuter than a penguin?
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