I just put my 8 year old daughter to bed & I need to brag on her a bit, plus let you know about the great book we read and discussed.


I'm working on a program for "Banned Books Week," which many libraries observe every year at the end of September. My research tells me that top of the list the past three years or so is a picture book called And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. So I checked it out and when my daughter saw it today with its three adorable penguins on the cover, she picked it up and started to read. I asked her to wait so I could read it with her at bedtime.


Spoiler alert - I'm gonna tell the whole story in this next paragraph.


It's based on an actual event involving two male chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo. The penguin keeper notices that the two have become a couple, have built a nest, and are trying together to hatch a rock, having been unsuccessful at laying an egg! When a spare egg becomes available, the keeper slips it into their nest. They tend it and hatch it and raise a baby girl penguin, which the keeper names "Tango," because it takes two to make a tango.


My daughter wanted to know why this book has been banned so often. I asked if she knew what a homosexual is - no. So I explained. I said that some people are attracted to their own gender, so instead of a man and woman falling in love it might be a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Then I said that some religions think it's wrong to be homosexual; they think God doesn't like homosexuality. 


Her reaction: "If God created it, why wouldn't he like it?"


Exactly!


I explained that some people don't understand that homosexuality is built-in, rather than a choice. 


There is some criticism of this book based on the idea that it describes an anomalous situation, not a natural one, since the penguins are in a zoo. Also, in real life one of the penguin daddies switched teams later and hooked up with a female! This is supposed to somehow invalidate the message of the book. These critics seem to expect that the book should offer sound scientific evidence that homosexuality is natural. They are missing the point! It's a love story, not a science text book.


My daughter was totally charmed by this story, as was I. It opened up her interest and allowed for a teaching moment about what homosexuality is. Look how easily she blew past the religious reasoning against it! We also discussed gay marriage and she seemed a bit shocked and incensed to discover that it isn't allowed in most states. She said "That's not fair!" and she thinks gay couples should all move to the good states so they can get married. 


I'll make a point of saying this: I just gave her the facts. Her opinions are her own. I think this goes to show that acceptance is natural, whereas hate must be taught.


And Tango Makes Three is a great book for kids who are adopted, or kids who are in any kind of non-traditional family, or for anyone who likes penguins or love stories or love stories about penguins, or for any parent who wants to introduce their kids to the concept of homosexuality the right way before the local yahoos on the playground do it with pejoratives, ignorance, and prejudice.


Tags: books, homosexuality, penguins, tango

Views: 649

Replies to This Discussion

I was once told that any banned book is a book worth reading.

I don't mean to sound as naive as I usually end up sounding, but we ban books in America? Isn't that a little... um, I don't know... against all we stand for?

I think it's a sweet story. My two little preschoolers love penguins. I wonder if I can find that book in state, or if I will have to go online. My local book store has one small shelf for Science books and like 10 rows for religious (Xian) books. So I doubt they have this one. :(

Ruby Bridges (the little African American girl who fought for her rights in regards to segregated schools) once said, “Each and every one of us is born with a clean heart. Our babies know nothing about hate or racism. But soon they begin to learn—and only from us. We keep racism alive. We pass it on to our children. We owe it to our children to help them keep their clean start.” I think the same applies to homophobia.
Yes, believe it or not, books do get banned in America, which is why they have Banned Books Week - to raise awareness. However, I do think the word "banned" may be misleading. It's not like there are federal or state laws banning particular books.

What happens is that someone may complain about a given book, resulting in its being removed from the shelf at a school or public library. So it's more of a local ban. It won't keep people who have the means from purchasing the book, but it will keep a book out of the hands of a kid who might have no other way of reading it.

Certainly there are thousands of kids out there who could benefit from Tango, but no longer have access to it because it has been removed from their school library, due to complaints from some other kids' parents!

Leilani, I hope you can find a copy at your library!

Or, you can order it from Amazon.com - just click here: And Tango Makes Three
yes, America bans books. One of the most amazing books (IMO) to be banned is Huckleberry Finn, from Mark Twain, because of an issue involving a word commonly used at the time of writing.
This is true, I stand corrected. :) Thank you for reminding me of the distiction.
Kids are sometimes so much more intuitive about things than so many give credit for. Often we adults come along and squash natural intuitiveness right out of them to the point where they no longer trust their own conclusions. Yay for your daughter for immediately seeing the contradiction.

My boys have recently discovered a tv show called Pingu and are asking all sorts of questions about penguins. This will be a good book to add to our study of penguins. Thanks!
I have no kids, so don't really belong in this group, but after I saw this on The Nerd's Facebook, I just had to say Excelent!
And I've re-posted it on my Facebook page.
Hooray for your daughter and hooray for bisexual penguins! I feel bad for the kids of gay parents who don't have any fairy tales they can relate to. I can't wait till the day Disney has a princess/princess or prince/prince pairing.

I also like 'King and King' and its sequel 'King and King and Family'. I never understood how these kinds of books could be twisted to be sex ed (the reason there was la lawsuit against using 'King and King' in a 2nd grade class in Mass.).
My kids have had this story read to them a few times at our UU congregation. It's also nice that he has been exposed to some kids having two mommies.

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