27 September 2010

Banned Book Week: And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.  ISBN: 9780689878459.

First of all, I didn't actually like this book.  I didn't think it was really all that interesting or captivating text-wise.  I did find the illustrations somewhat charming.  It was okay, but not what I would call good, so really the banning is what makes it exceptional, as well as it being a first.  Not really all that special when it comes down to it.

There's actually very little homosexuality in the book.  The greatest leap is when the zookeeper notices that Silo and Roy were engaging in paired behavior and stated, "They must be in love" in the book.  Apparently Silo and Roy were never actually seen engaging in sex.  Other than that all we see the penguins do is bow, sing, and nest together.  Scandalizing.

What are the banners really upset about with this one?  That the penguins are cute and that their children will want to be...gay penguins?  Or maybe they want more warning about the content of the book before they sit down for bedtime?  But really...it's all of 20 pages long and could easily be read in a matter of seconds.  Somehow I doubt plastering on the cover, "Here there be gay penguins" would be satisfactory to the people who object to homosexuality in the book.  Just imagine putting it on the outside.

Maybe we should all go around with giant stickers and slap them on all the books that even mention homosexuality regardless of the context.  But seriously, there is no sex in this book and they are animals.  It would be like complaining about Full House because all the men are acting as a family unit, or how about Tom Selleck's forgettable 3 Men and a Baby?  If parents wanted to, they could easily spin this short and not very extensive tale any way they wanted to rather than outright refusing to let kids read it.  They could always say, "Oh the zookeeper was mistaken.  See, Silo and Roy were just practicing, Silo later paired with a female penguin named Scrappy."  This of course would require parents to not only be engaged with the material, but also *gasp* their children.

On the other hand, they could also recognize that yes, homosexuality does exist and then explain their beliefs to their child.  Right or wrong, people have every right to teach their children that homosexuality is wrong and to use whatever tools they want, including books about gay penguins.  Unfortunately the knee jerk reaction is to not have their children read or learn about it at all, because maybe if they have time to think about it, their children might come to realize that homosexuality isn't such a bad thing.  Terrible.  Children thinking for themselves.  Next thing you know they'll want to move out of your basement, and they're only 32 years old and so precious at that age.

Banned for "gay sugar-coated penguins."  Delicious.


  1. Haha! I would love to see banners go after Three Men and a Baby or Full House. Hilarious!

  2. It's interesting that there's not more uproar about visual violence, homosexuality, etc. It's much easier for a 12 year old to access something like Will and Grace than it is to disseminate any homosexual themes in classic novels, yet I see very little uproar about it. I don't see parents going out and canceling cable connections. It's as if once it gets into the realm of the visual it's all of a sudden "okay".

    I think I might respect book banners a little more if they were more aggressive with depictions of gratuitous visual violence and sex. But nope, boobs and guts everywhere.

  3. I don't think I've ever read this one. Friends of ours brought the one about the Prince who wanted to marry another prince to a party once. While I liked it, I thought it was primarily written for adults, not for kids. I suspect the same is true with Tango. Kids picture books are still in the preaching stage when it comes to LGBT issues. I think we've several years to go before the LGBT aspect is taken for granted the way it's starting to become in YA lit.

  4. These really just read as a book list I am determined will be on my shelves.
    Thank you!

  5. C.B.,
    I certainly hope so, I would like to see more kids books with LGBT issues out there. I also read Tango as an adult so compared to the other books I have less warm fuzzy childlike feelings for it.

    I'm glad to hear that! I'll be making a post on the 2nd about other Banned Books that I've covered previously, so be prepared to put those on your list as well.

  6. I've never really got why this was banned. It doesn't make much sense to ban something like this but there are the dumbest reasons that dumb people ban books.


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