Penguin Book Tops Banned List

Did you know that this is Banned Books Week?  The Penguin Post didn’t until we were set straight by the folks at and once again a penguin book has topped the list.  The true story of a pair of gay penguins in And Tango Makes Three has been an annual banned book list topper since 2005. The Central Park Zoo in New York has an unlikely, but lovable pair of penguins, and the true story of these penguins was so charming that Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell teamed up with well-known illustrator Henry Cole to create a children’s book out of the story.  They called it “And Tango Makes Three.”  It has been on the banned books list since it was published in 2005.  It is usually listed as the number one most-banned title, although one year went fell to second place. Roy and Silo are a pair of chinstrap penguins who reside in the penguin quarters.  When the girl penguins noticed the boy penguins and when the boy penguins noticed the girl penguins, Roy and Silo, two boys, noticed each other.  They bowed and sang to each other and made a nice nest.  But it was a little empty.  They then noticed that the other Penguins couples could do something they could not do.  They tried and tried, even rolling an egg shaped rock and sitting on it for hours, but they could not hatch it. One of the zookeepers noticed, and when another penguin couple produced two fertile eggs, he gave one of the m to Roy and Silo.  The odds of having two fertile eggs raised to adulthood by one couple are slim.  Twins are hard everywhere, it seems. Roy and Silo knew ‘just what to do” and kept the egg warm, turning it over and over so all sides would benefit, and finally, their daughter Tango arrived. (Get it? Because it takes two to make a Tango?).  Her fathers fed her and sang to her and snuggled her warm at night. “She was the very first penguin to have two daddies.” And there it is, the line that prompted the ban. This book talks about love, and family, and the heartbreak of being childless.  It talks about families who are not conventional and who love each other anyway.  Indeed the inside fly cover reads: “In the zoo there are all kinds of families.  But Tango’s family is not like any of the others.” Now, as far as I could research, Tango, Roy and Silo are still a happy family.  It took the kindness  of a zookeeper, and an extra egg to create it.  It makes me wonder what would happen if there were kind zookeepers in the wild.  Maybe Tango would not have been the first penguin with two daddies, or two mommies. The concept of homosexuality is the reason for the ban.  Except the book isn’t about that, and it is now on my bookshelf, where any of my friends can read it, no matter their age. Children between the ages of six and nine have definite ideas about gender roles, but are willing to accept the idea of two daddies, or two mommies, or one mommy or one daddy.  This is 2011. They live with all different kinds of families now. I showed it to a 13-year-old friend of mine, and he flipped through the pages trying to find the reason for the ban.  He couldn’t do it.  He didn’t see anything wrong with Roy and Silo. I am so grateful for that, and hope that many more kids see this book the same way.  Better yet, that their parents do.

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