Once again the Rejectionist has challenged her devoted readership—in honor of Banned Book Week, she’s asked us to read and review a banned book.
The only problem I had was choosing a title. Looking at the lists—and there are many, many lists—it turns out that mostly without knowing it, I’ve read a lot of books over the years that someone somewhere wanted to keep me from reading.*
But as much as I love and\or respect The Color Purple , Huckleberry Finn, George Orwell, and so on (and on and on), I thought I’d choose something I hadn’t read before. And since I’ve spent the last few days jumping up and down on my “spare the children, spoil the future” soapbox, I decided to find a banned children’s book I hadn’t read before.
The book I chose** has been attacked almost every year since it was released.*** Our library system owns several copies, all but one of which were checked out, which shows how popular it is.^
And Tango Makes Three is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York, who choose each other as partners. They do everything the other penguin couples do, which includes building a nest together. Unable to lay eggs, they take turns sitting on a rock, until the penguin keeper gives them a fertilized egg.
Roy and Silo take care of the egg and it hatches into a female penguin that the keeper names Tango, because “it takes two to make a Tango.” The two penguins successfully raise Tango together as a family.
So did Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This story makes its point through simple facts and clear sentences—no hammer necessary. Ray and Silo aren’t anthropomorphic— these are real penguins whose behavior is interpreted, in part, through their keeper. They are exactly like every other penguin couple, except they can’t produce an egg on their own.
And let the terrified rest assured: while Roy and Silo are affectionate partners, those condemning (or hoping for^^) graphic penguin lust must look elsewhere.
A child reading this book will take away at least four gentle ideas: Homosexuality naturally occurs in the animal kingdom. Families of all gender combinations occur in the animal kingdom. Roy, Silo, and Tango are liked by zoo visitors and loved by each other. No animal was harmed during the original events of this story.
No wonder every homophobe who encounters this book is threatened by it.
My children loved it.
* I’d also like to thank and give kudos to my public school system for requiring me to read so many of these books, although I certainly didn’t thank you at the time. Sort of kicks that “inappropriate for age group” grievance in the teeth, doesn’t it?
**With the help of yet more lists and a friend—thanks, Grace!
***Not in our library system, though. We blessedly get few complaints about items in our collections—The only one I can remember was an illustrated juvenile picture book of the human body that someone’s toddler was dragging around by a single page. I think we gave the mother a copy of our Unattended Children Policy and everyone agreed to call it a draw.
^ And it’s short with lots of pictures— a bonus, since I left this review until the very last minute.
^^Or both—I always wonder about people who protest too much.