BBW: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three is actually not an young adult book. It’s not even an adult book. It’s a picture book. Yupp, that’s right – a picture book is one of ALA’s most frequently challenged books. It boggles my mind that a picture book could cause that much controversy; especially this one! It’s such a cute story.

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

And Tango Makes Three has been on the most frequently challenged books list in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. It was in the top ten for 2006 (#1), 2007 (#1), 2008 (#1), and 2009 (#2). The authors have been on the most frequently challenged authors list in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The book comes in at number 4 in the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 list. Reasons for challenges? Homosexuality, tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality, unsuitable for age group, anti-ethnic, anti-family, religious viewpoint, and sexism.

OVERVIEW…beware of possible spoilers


And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson
ISBN-13: 9-780689-878459 picture book; April 2005; 32 pg; Simon & Schuster

Ok, this one is crazy guys. And Tango Makes Three is a picture book about penguins (and is based on a true story). Basically, two male penguins at the zoo are quite close – in love. When they notice all the female/male pairs of penguins making nests and having eggs, they try too. The zookeeper, seeing how sad the penguins are because they cannot have an egg of their own, gives them an abandoned one to hatch and raise. The baby, is Tango (the title makes sense, now :P).

Most of the reasons for this book being challenged/banned go hand in hand, so lets take a look:

Homosexuality, tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality: First of all, people keep using that word – indoctrinate. To quote my favourite movie: “I do not think it means, what you think it means.”* Second, this is the part where I throw out a bit of research. Luckily, I’m doing my philosophy of education presentation on the topic of indoctrination (in the classroom). One of my articles states this: “Indoctrination means the imposing upon a captive child the body of doctrines held by the teacher.”** No where does this book indoctrinate children about homosexuality. Yes, the two main characters are male penguins, who hatch an egg together. All the othe penguins? Male/female pairs. If the authors were trying to indoctrinate children, would not all the penguins be male/male or female/female pairs? Lastly, I can’t even comprehend that homosexuality is still a reason for challenging/banning books (according to ALA, the most stated reason). Love is love. Worry about yourself before you worry about other people.

Anti-ethnic, anti-family, and sexism: Ummm…they’re penguins. How can you be anti-ethnic, with penguins? I’m very confused. And anti-family? The whole book is all about family! How the two penguins want a child of their own, and all the other penguin pairs raising their own baby penguins. Oh wait…this ties back in to the homosexuality reason, doesn’t it, and family being a mom, dad, 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence? I’m still a little unsure just how the term sexism is being applied in this instance.

And my two favourites (yea right), unsuitable for age group and religious viewpoint: I’ll bet you anything the religious viewpoint goes hand in hand with the homosexuality reason, and is used by people who don’t want to seem discriminatory on paper. Again, not cool and completely crazy to find in the 21st century. Unsuitable for age group? Penguins + picture book = adult? Apparently.

This book is so completely cute, and such a great story about love and family. The illustrations are beautiful, and come on – penguins! Who doesn’t like penguins? Baby Tango is quite fuzzy and adorable. I highly recommend And Tango Makes Three; the story length is perfect for a child read-along with you.

* From the movie The Princess Bride. Inigo says this to Vizzini during the Cliffs of Insanity scene.
** Hare, W. & Portelli, J. P. (1996) The Neutral Teacher in Philosophy of Education, Introductory Readings, 2nd ed. Calgary: Detselig.

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2 thoughts on “BBW: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson

  1. I agree with all that you have said as to why the reasoning behind these challenges is flawed. It makes me sad to think that libraries and schools are being urged/ordered to not contain titles that feature diverse family structures. I don’t understand the mindset of folks that think we best support our children by sheltering them from reality and discouraging diversity.

    • I agree with you completely. There is no set formula for a family – it is inevitable that there will be children in school who have two fathers, or two mothers (or only one parent, or grandparents or any number of possibilites). Banning books that aren’t “the norm” is like a slap in the face to everything they know.

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