Banned Books Week 2013: And Tango Makes Three

September 26, 2013 Banned Books, Children's Fiction 40

Greetings Bookworms!

PENGUINS! You all already know that I am a card carrying penguin enthusiast. Actually, I don’t carry a card (though now I really want to MAKE CARDS) but I’m a huge ginormous penguin fan. In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I could combine two of my obsessions in a review of And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This book was released in 2005 and made quite a splash (pun intended.) It’s consistently topped the list of banned and challenged books since its release. How on earth could a kid’s picture book about penguins ruffle so many feathers, you ask?


Hello, adorable illustrations!

Well… The two grown penguins snuggling on the cover? They’re both dudes. And Tango Makes Three is based on a true story of a pair of chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in NYC. Roy and Silo fell in penguin love. They did all the bowing and nuzzling and nest building of a penguin couple, but because they were both boys, they couldn’t make an egg. After the zookeeper watched the pair attempting to hatch a rock (seriously how adorably heartbreaking is that?!) he decided to give them a shot at parenthood. Another penguin couple had two eggs that season and they were historically unable to care for more than one egg at a time. The zookeeper gave the orphaned egg to Roy and Silo and voila! The lovely little Tango was hatched!

Full disclosure here. I’m ALL ABOUT the rainbow. In my book, love is love is love. Now. This book is undoubtedly aimed at children. The interest level is listed as Kindergarten-2nd grade, though the reading level is around a 4th grade level. The challenges this book typically gets are that it’s age inappropriate… And that it talks about homosexuality.


I’m in a sticky situation here because while I support the gay community with all my heart and soul, I’m also a big fan of freedom of religion. It’s tough for me to rectify the two, because a lot of religions are less than enthused about homosexuality. That said, regardless of your religious views, at some point, kids are going to come in contact with gay people. There’s a very good chance a kid on their soccer team will have two dads or two moms. This book would be a FANTASTIC opening for that discussion. Heck, it’s even a great way to introduce the concept of adoption to a kiddo. Because really, what is more adorable and wonderful than an unconventional penguin family?!

Anybody out there have kids who have been introduced to And Tango Makes Three? Did they enjoy it? Because… PENGUINS!

40 Responses to “Banned Books Week 2013: And Tango Makes Three”

  1. Book Connection

    I was appalled when I learned that this book was challenged and banned. Of course, I shouldn’t have been because I do understand that there is a large minority of people who still do not support GLBTQ civil rights. Hower, I do believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to give their children reasoned explanations why they believe these penguins are wrong. FIrst it’s the same sex then it’s children then it’s bestiality… whoops these penguins went stright to bestiality. Loved your review and as I’ve noted before life lon lover of penguins. No panning penguins is my motto.

  2. A.M.B.

    Hi Katie! It’s a coincidence that you talk about this book today. In my most recent post, I have a picture of my youngest with this book (I discuss the legal framework around these issues). Quite frankly, parents who fear this book are fighting a losing battle. If their viewpoint were more persuasive, then they would have nothing to worry about.

  3. Ashley F

    I love this book. I squee’d when they talked about this on the news. Them trying to hatch a rock just broke my heart. It’s friggin adroable.

    I agree that it’s a touchy subject with kids and for religious reasons I can understand some parents objecting. But it comes down to the discretion of the parent. I don’t think anything should be banned across the board. If you think it is inappropriate for your child, that’s your choice. But don’t deny other kids an adorably sweet story that essentially teaches them about love and equality because you’ve got a beef with the gay community.

    • Words for Worms

      Right?! The rock! Oh, Roy and Silo. I love them ever so much! It’s not like the book went and said “then they went and had all kinds of gay penguin sex.” Actually, I don’t think they ever witnessed an actual sex act from Roy and Silo, but that makes sense I think, as humans and dolphins are the only animals that get it on just for the fun of it. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. Who can tell for sure? Wow. This comment got out of hand fast. I’m posting it anyway.

  4. Megan M.

    I haven’t read it but I’ve heard of it. I would absolutely read this book to my girls. I’m all about the rainbow, too! And come on, they tried to hatch a rock? That is so cute and sad at the same time. That zookeeper/adoption facilitator is awesome!

    I really struggle with religion. I believe in God but I have issues with church (which are my own personal issues and I would never try to force them on someone else.) It’s a struggle because my oldest daughter loves church and Sunday School and learning about God, and I don’t want to deny her that, but I wonder how a church would feel about me saying I want to send my daughter but have no desire to attend myself. I keep meaning to talk to a local church about it but I’m afraid to – I hate confrontation and uncomfortable situations. 🙁

    • deweydecimalsbutler

      By no means am I trying to hijack a blog – promise. But to help out another blogger, I’ll just add in my $0.02. The Episcopal Church is somewhat open (not the Anglican Church, though – long story), so you might find your daughter would be happy there and you would not feel torn. And you owe no one an explanation about yourself. Do what you feel is best.

      As for the book, I haven’t read it, but the real story of its basis is so freaking adorable. My heart would have broken at them trying to hatch a rock. Poor buddies!

  5. Charleen


    (And that’s all I’m gonna say, because the rest of it would be a repeat of what I said earlier in the week. Banning = making decisions for other people = not cool.)

    (Penguins, on the other hand = extremely awesome.)

  6. marctr

    My daughter was read this book in her third grade class by an invited guest reader. Then she saw the book at the library and checked it out. That is how I was introduced to it and found out that it was read to her at school. Like you said, it did introduce some discussion on the topic, which ended up being timely as several months later some new neighbors moved in, a delightful family with two moms, when my kids began asking more questions about it. I’m glad it is a conversation I can have with them, although I wish the conversation had started at home rather than at school (I don’t blame anyone at the school, this world is what it is, that is just how it happened). My religion is important to me, so religious freedom is important to me, but my religion also teaches love thy neighbor. I want my kids to love and withhold judgment AND have religious freedom. I’m convinced there is a way.

    • Words for Worms

      YES! Seriously, love thy neighbor, right? Even if your religion doesn’t necessarily agree with homosexuality, there’s no reason to treat people badly because they believe differently. And it’s not something you can really shelter your kids from indefinitely. You can totally have your cake and eat it too. Parents like you are the way to make it happen!

  7. derb523622013

    Reblogged this on Mindful Musings at Midlife and commented:
    It always amazes me that in this country and in this enlightened age, that there are groups who are still trying to impose their morality on others by banning books from libraries. Long past perusing the children’s book section with my own kids, and no grandchildren on the horizon, I was unaware of this beautiful story and just as amazed that anyone could find fault with it. It’s real, it’s nature, and it’s adorable.

  8. derb523622013

    Reblogged this on Mindful Musings at Midlife and commented: It always amazes me that in this country and in this enlightened age, that there are groups who are still trying to impose their morality on others by banning books from libraries. Long past perusing the children’s book section with my own kids, and no grandchildren on the horizon, I was unaware of this beautiful story and just as amazed that anyone could find fault with it. It’s real, it’s nature, and it’s adorable.

    • Words for Worms

      Thank you! Of course, nature doesn’t necessarily stop some of the more extreme branches of religion from believing certain things… There’s a museum dedicated to creationism that depicts humans and dinosaurs living together, which just is not science at all… Look at me and my judgment leaking in. Bad Katie!

  9. Book Connection

    Reblogged this on Book Connection and commented:
    Can you imagine someone trying to ban penguins. Yeah okay they’re gay pengiuins but give them credit, they’re out an they’re proud. See, it’s difficult to tell the males from the females. So they could have pretended. Lived a life that was filled with lies. But no, they are living their life free. What do you say folks? Ban or Back the Penguins?

  10. Leah

    I didn’t know about this book before, but it sounds wonderful and adorable. I believe in religious freedom, too, but I also think Church-sanctioned homophobia is totally hypocritical in a lot of ways. I’m not religious, but I was brought up in a church that is very open and accepting (United Church of Christ). They actually have commercials (I don’t know if on TV or just on the website?) that are like, “Hey gay people, we love you! Come worship with us!” So that’s pretty awesome.

    But anyway, thanks for sharing this book 🙂

    • Words for Worms

      I think it’s cool that there are open churches out there! They don’t get enough press because everyone is always focusing on the radical groups, but bravo to them!

  11. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    I have never heard of this book. However, I do think it’s fabulous for discussion. For instance, I had a K student with two moms. They were FABULOUS parents (I’m also all about equal rights for all) so the book would be great for him and his friends. Is it a book I would feel comfortable teaching in my classroom? No, but as an elementary school teacher my job is to teach tolerance, NOT to teach about religion and/or homosexuality.

    • Words for Worms

      I don’t think I’d have the guts to teach it just because I wouldn’t want the parental hassle. Add this to the list of reasons I would not make a good teacher…

      • RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

        But do you think that homosexuality is a topic for elementary schools? I don’t really. I think it’s a great book for home use, but I’m just not sure it’s age appropriate (for understanding) to talk about homosexuality in elem school. We don’t talk about heterosexuality in elem school.

        • Words for Worms

          I’m not sure how I feel about it as a classroom book. It kind of touches on the whole “how babies are made” topic and that’s not usually addressed by schools with kids until puberty… So. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have a problem with my hypothetical kid’s teacher reading it in school, but given the questions it would raise, it’s probably wiser that it be used in a home setting. I think it should still be available in the school’s library though- as those are books kids bring home to enjoy with their parents.

          • RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

            Good points. And as a future parent, I’d probably want to know in advance before the teacher talks about homosexuality, just because I’d like to be able to make the decision as to when my kid is exposed to it, and maybe how they are exposed to it, first. Kind of like how parents are notified re: sex ed, which btw in 5th grade in Florida at least, it’s about your “changing body” not sex.

  12. Monika

    I’ve been meaning to get this one to read to my kiddo. It looks completely adorable and we are all about the rainbow, too (we’re ELCA Lutheran). 😉 Doesn’t surprise me at all that this has been challenged/banned. Great post, thanks for reminding me of this title!

  13. Sarah Says Read

    UGH, people and their banning of books. If gayness isn’t your jam, then don’t read the book! And hide it from your kids, like a crazy person. But don’t try to ban it, geez… People.

    Anyways, this is ALL sorts of adorable and the idea of 2 penguins trying to hatch a rock is just too sad and cute, but mostly sad. I should get this book for my niece, I think she’d like it.

  14. PinotNinja

    This is an amazing book. We read it to my friend’s daughter — who is the adopted child of a heterosexual couple — as a way to explain to her how badly her parents wanted her and how lucky they were that someone else was able to share her with them so that they could have their own child to raise. Because, really, the book is about one of the many different forms a loving family can take.

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