One of the categories for the 2015 Reading Challenge is *banned book*. I looked at ALA’s list of most frequently challenged books in 2014 and was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d read half of the top ten. But I also discovered, at #3, a picture book I hadn’t read.
“A picture book?” you ask.
Yes. And Tango Makes Three (J. Richardson and P. Parnell, ill. H. Cole) was published in 2005 and topped ALA’s list of banned books in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. This tale of two male penguins who prefer each other’s company and hatch a chick at NYC’s Central Park Zoo –a penguin with two daddies! — raises red flags all over the place.
According to the ALA, Richardson’s and Parnell’s book has been frequently challenged because its content is anti-family and “promotes the homosexual agenda”. Others complain that the content is inappropriate for the age level. Parents in several states have asked that the book be removed from the library, or placed in a restricted section or in the non-fiction area (the assumption being that kids never browse the non-fiction section?), or marked as requiring parental consent before being checked out. In all cases, the parents’ requests were denied or eventually overruled.
Of course such efforts to bowdlerize public bookcases may be likely to backfire. Anyone who’s seen The Fantasticks knows that, if you want your kids to do something, tell them not to. Would this book have faded into obscurity if parents had said nothing? It’s impossible to know. But certainly the many challenges have kept this book in the spotlight.
It’s a lovely story. The two adult penguins are friends who do everything together, even building a nest and trying to hatch stones that look like eggs. A sympathetic zookeeper provides an abandoned egg, they take turns tending it and, mirabile dictu, it hatches. (Which makes me think of Horton hatching his egg — with no subsequent complaints from the reading public about a male elephant becoming a single parent.)
I know — I shouldn’t expect consistency or logic in this particular arena (or, in fact, in any arena). Yet, I always hope.
I’m grateful to the ALA for bringing such books to our attention, providing us opportunities to support authors, libraries, schools and READERS. If you haven’t done so yet, find a banned/challenged book and read it. Then try to figure out what all the fuss is about.