The book And Tango Makes Three is written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell with illustrations by Henry Cole. It is published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers; what most of us would refer to as a children's book. The hardbound book is a couple of dozen pages long and has about 800 words of text along with the beautiful illustrations. What brought this book to my attention was that during Banned Book Week I saw it listed as one of the most challenged books for children. So I decided to take a look for myself. I was actually going to buy a copy of it at Kepler's since I was going to be there the next day but they were sold out and had more coming that were not shelved yet. So a few days later I was back at Kepler's to hear Richard Dawkins speak about his new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution and I bought a copy then along with Dawkins' book. I read the book a couple of days later; and yes those of you who are quick with subtracting one date from another are correcting realizing that I have been slow to write the review but now I am finally getting to it.
The book is based on actual events at the New York Central Park Zoo involving two male chinstrap penguins named Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo were a couple and built a nest but did not have an egg. According to the story they tried to hatch a rock that was shaped like an egg. Rob Gramzay is the senior penguin keeper at the zoo and he took the step of taking an egg from another penguin pair which had two eggs but in the past had not been able to handle two eggs and gave it to Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo took care of the egg and soon there was a new addition. Roy and Silo became parents of Tango. Roy and Silo seem to have raised Tango very well and taught her the appropriate penguin skills such as swimming and eating fish.
So why the controversy? Well is seems that some people are upset that book mentions that both of the parents were male and they do not want children to find out that the penguins had a same sex relationship. And they do not want children to know that two penguins of the same sex can be good parents. Or at least this is what I think they are saying. I did a small bit of google searching trying to find a coherent statement from the persons who wanted the book banned from library access or restricted. But I gave up since I was not finding anything that made any sense at all.
The book ends with Roy and Silo together raising Tango. But life goes on after a book ends; Roy and Silo were together five years after Tango arrived and then they split up. According to a news article in the NY Times Silo had taken up with a new partner and her name is Scrappy. She is from California. New York Times article has the details.
So what are some of the lessons we can learn? Censorship seldom accomplishes what it sets out to do. Penguin relationships do not last forever.
If you are looking for a gift book for a young child this year I recommend this one.