2008 at 9am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
The most frequently banned/challenged book of 2007, And Tango Makes Three presents the true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, who become fall in love (to the extent that penguins can), hatch an egg, and raise a baby penguin named Tango.
This beautifully illustrated children’s picture book opens with a description of the many different families that live in the zoo–red panda bear families, monkey families, toad families, toucan families, tamarin families, and, most important, penguin families.–and explains that
Every year at the very same time, the girl penguins start noticing the boy penguins. And the boy penguins start noticing the girls. When the right girl and the right boy find each other, they become a couple.
Two penguins in the penguin house were a little bit different. One was named Roy, and other was named Silo. Roy and Silo were both boys. But they did everything together.
One of the penguins’ keepers notices that Roy and Silo don’t pay much attention to the girls but instead wrap their necks around each other, and he realizes that they are in love. When Roy & Silo build a nest and fill it with an egg-shaped rock which they take turns sitting on, the keeper realizes that Roy and Silo want to be a family, too, but they can’t make an egg on their own. So, he finds an egg that needs to be cared for, places it in Roy and Silo’s nest, and a month or so later, Tango is born, the first penguin to have two daddies.
An author’s note at the end of the book tells us that Roy and Silo are still together, splashing in the penguin house and snuggling in their nest at night, and I find that incredibly heartwarming.
Though this book approaches the controversial topics of homosexuality and gay marriage, it does so in an almost apolitical way. It is, after all, a children’s book, and it is written in clear, simple language that children can easily understand. It doesn’t discuss sex or sexuality but explains in an age-appropriate fashion the fact that same-sex couples exist and want to have families, too. It promotes acceptance and diversity and the idea that love is what makes a family.
I can understand why some people have been up in arms about this book, so I will reiterate my previous statement that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it or share it with your child. But that doesn’t mean other individuals and their families shouldn’t have access to it. This is a great book for beginning a conversation about what “gay” means and for teaching children early on that there are many different types of families, and I wish I’d had it with me when my six-year-old niece asked me why some boys want to marry other boys. I think I did all right answering her, but this book would definitely have been helpful in talking about it.
The beautiful thing about children is that they are not born with prejudices or hate or negative ideas—they learn what to believe and how to treat people from their parents and the adults in their lives. And Tango Makes Three offers an opportunity to promote acceptance and an appreciation of the diversity of human expression, and I think it’s simply fantastic.
Did you miss out on the banned books fun yesterday? Click here to read my review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and here to read Jen’s (Devourer of Books) review of Kaffir Boy. And check back here every morning this week at 9am EDT and at Devourer of Books every afternoon at 2pm Central for a week-long celebration of banned books.