A Panic Over Penguins

A children's book about same-sex penguins still has censors raging

Two penguins hatch and care for a baby in the Central Park Zoo. Sounds adorable, right? Not all parents think so. The fact that these two penguins are male still has people pretty upset, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

The award-winning children’s book And Tango Makes Three is most often ranked in the top 10 most challenged books, says the organization. It’s been topping the list since it was released in 2006.

But what some of the book’s harshest critics may not realize is that the story – penned by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (with illustrations by Henry Cole) – is based on a real-life experience between two male penguins named Roy and Silo who actually did help raise a recently hatched baby at the zoo.

Schools from Illinois to Missouri and North Carolina have all banned the book and removed it from their school libraries.

And while the book – which follows several years in the lives of this happy penguin family – may be on many a censor’s hit list, it’s also won a slew of noteworthy awards for its loving portrayal of family life. They include the ALA’s Notable Children’s Book, Family magazine Book of the Year. It was also a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

The only other book with gay content that makes the most-challenged list is Revolutionary Voices by Amy Sonnie – a multicultural queer youth anthology. It’s in good company with Stephanie Meyer’s blockbuster Twilight, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (about living poor in the U.S.), and the classic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.