Gay Penguin Story Tops List of Challenged Books

Story of a penguin with two dads makes the American Library Association’s annual list.

And Tango Makes Three, a children’s book about a family of penguins with two fathers, once again topped the American Library Association’s list of the most challenged books in libraries and public schools, the Associated Press reported in May.

The story, which also capped the list last year, is based on the real-world tale of Roy and Silo, two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who together raised a female chick named Tango. The pair subsequently split in 2005, after six years of same-sex coupling. Tango reportedly has pursued her own same-sex pairing with another female penguin named Tazuni.

Challengers argue that the book, published in 2005 and written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, is objectionable because it exposes children to homosexuality, and makes it seem okay. However, scientists caution that same-sex bird couplings, a common phenomenon in nature, should not be equated with the human concept
of homosexuality.

According to the ALA, a challenge is a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of reported challenges overall last year was 420, down from 546 in 2006. It is estimated that many challenges to books go unreported.

Other books on the ALA’s list of top 10 challenged books include Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, which became a film starring Nicole Kidman in 2007.

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