And Tango Makes Three. A book review.

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.

Tutankhamun Exhibit

Saturday I went to San Francisco to see the exhibit Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharohs. This is a traveling exhibition which is at the De Young Museum until March 2010. Thirty years ago there was a major traveling King Tut exhibit that was in San Francisco and I was able to see that exhibit. Although my memory has faded somewhat over the decades my impression is that this exhibit was better organized and better managed than 30 years ago. The signage I saw on Saturday was some of the better museum signage that I have experienced.

The exhibit itself was very well arranged and the items that were very impressive. A chest with a lid about a meter long which had Tutankhamun's name on it had a feeling of practical personalization and association. Another striking item was the mirror case in the shape of an Ankh. There was a golden dagger which was found inside the coffin secured around Tutankhamun's waist and this dagger and sheath were on display. The gold of the dagger and the colored beads inserted in the handle of the dagger were stunning. There were many other striking pieces such as the gold falcon piece which as designed to hang in front of the body. This piece is a broad flat gold pieces with designs in the metal; simple but stunning.

I recommend this exhibition.


WFC Review

The 2009 World Fantasy Convention was held in San Jose over Halloween weekend. It was great. In the world of SF (Speculative Fiction) the boundaries between what are traditionally referred to as Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction are often a bit fuzzy. The theme for this year was the 200th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. I have previously attended different Science Fiction conventions including many World Science Fiction Convention but this was my first World Fantasy Convention and I really enjoyed it. There was much to do ranging from listening to great panels to talking with interesting people to attending tremendous parties.

The convention was very well run; registration was great, programming was great, the various events were great, dealers room was great, the art show was great and the hospitality suite was beyond excellent. Kevin and Andy and all of their helpers ran a hospitality suite that had everything from wonderful decorations to great food to incredible drinks. They served very good wines; and let us not forget "Death in the Afternoon" which is champagne and Absinthe. The Absinthe came from St. George Spirits in Alameda. The cake was huge and shaped like a hot air balloon.