This week, September 27-October 4, is Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read. The American Library Association compiles an annual list of most banned books based on newspaper reports and the reports from librarians across the country. These are books that have been challenged with a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that the book be removed because of its content or appropriateness.
Banned Books Week serves as an annual reminder of the fragility of intellectual freedom and as a barometer of issues being debated in American culture. Sadly, every year many of the top-ten banned titles are books addressing LGBT lives, particularly books for children on non-traditional families and for adolescents coming to terms with their sexuality. Case in point, this year's number one banned book—for the second year in a row—is Justin Richardson and Peter Pannell's charming children's book And Tango Makes Three, illustrated by Henry Cole.
The book is based on the nationally publicized, true-life story of the pair of male penguins at the Central Park Zoo that formed a couple and raised a penguin chick together. Parnell and Richardson used this story to address the challenges facing non-traditional families in a sweet and accessible way. Despite winning numerous national awards and recognition—including the American Library Association Notable Children's Book Award, the ASPCA's Henry Bergh Award, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of the Year, and Bank Street Best Book of the Year—it is the most challenged book in the country.
Thankfully, And Tango Makes Three is readily available at branches across The New York Public Library. So are past top-ten banned books, such as Annie on my Mind. For more information about Banned Books Week see their official website and ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom.