Spotlight on Censorship – And Tango Makes Three

Banned Books Week, Censorship, Office for Intellectual Freedom


And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” — Oscar Wilde

A delightful story about a new addition to the family, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell teaches children not only about the unique circumstances of penguin egg incubation atop their parents’ feet, but about the trans-species themes of love and family.  The Office for Intellectual Freedom reports that this slim book, based on the true story of two male penguins that adopted an abandoned egg in New York’s Central Park Zoo in the late 1990s, was the most frequently challenged book in 2006, 2007, and 2008.  It was the second most frequently challenged book in 2009.

Most complaints center on the fact that the story is “controversial” or “unsuitable” for children because the penguin parents are both male. In 2007, a Lodi, California resident challenged the book at the public library for what she called its “homosexual story line that has been sugarcoated with cute penguins.”

Fortunately, And Tango Makes Three was returned to or retained on library shelves in a majority of the publicly reported challenges.  In California in 2008, for example, the book was retained in the Chico Unified School District despite complaints that it was inappropriate for elementary school student.  The district review committee found that the book met the library’s selection standards.

And Tango Makes Three was challenged again in 2008 in Dublin, Ohio by one parent who claimed that it is “based on one of those subjects that is best left to be discovered by students at another time or another place.”  Thankfully the Eli Pinney Elementary School chose to uphold the freedom to read and retained the book, apparently determining that the right time is now and right place is its library.


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