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Banned Books Week: And Tango Makes Three

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Greetings, and welcome to Banned Books Week! For each day of Banned Books Week, this blog will be highlighting a famous banned or challenged book. The campaign to highlght milestones in the history of banned and challenged books and promote intellectual freedom was spearheaded by library activist Judith Krug. She once said "You should have access to ideas and information regardless of your age. If anyone is going to limit or guide a young person, it should be the parent or guardian—and only the parent or guardian." Today's title And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell caused quite a stir among parents and library patrons when it was first published in 2005.

And Tango Makes ThreeAnd Tango Makes ThreeWho would have ever thought that a touching story about a penguin family who lived in the Central Park Zoo could cause such a tangle? The picture book And Tango Makes Three by authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell tells the true story of three Chinstrap penguins—Roy, Silo, and their adopted daughter, Tango. The book opens with a bucolic scene of Central Park and its Zoo as an idyllic place for children and families, including the zoo animals and their families. The Central Park Zookeeper observed that they had a pair of male penguins, Roy and Silo, who liked to do everything together. They built a nest together like the other mating penguins, but could not lay an egg. So one day, the Zookeeper bought the pair an extra egg that needed to be cared for, produced by another penguin couple. Roy and Silo took turns sitting on it to keep it warm—until it hatched. The Zookeeper named the chick Tango—because it takes two to make a Tango. Roy and Silo doted on her, and Tango became the first penguin chick at the zoo to have two daddies.

Despite the happy ending to the tuxedo-adorned creatures tale, Tango challenged some Americans' ideas and assumptions about homosexuality, age-appropriateness of the material, and raised the thorny question about what makes a family. Since its publication by Simon and Shuster in 2005, And Tango Makes Three has topped the ALA's 10 Most Challenged Books List between 2006 and 2010.

Re-shelving the book was one way that libraries tried to get around the "problem" with Tango. Rolling Hills (Mo.) Library Director Barbara Read moved the book from the popular picture book section to the less-browsed non-fiction area when parents complained about the gay themes in the title. School Superintendent Edgar Hatrick III of Loudon, VA made a decision to move Tango from the Sugarland Elementary School to an area only accessible by parents and teachers after a parent complained about gay themes in the book. What helped Tango remain available in school and public libraries in some cases was the precedent set by the decision in Island Trees School District Board of Education v. Pico in 1981, which ruled that a Board of Education's decision to ban certain books from its school libraries violated First Amendment protections. The challenges against this book have been so profligate, Dr. Marta L. Magnuson, Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, recently carried out a study analyzing the motives behind these various challenges to And Tango Makes Three, published in the journal School Library Media Research in January 2011. But if penguins can survive the brutal Antarctic winter, they can surely survive the challenges of access to And Tango Makes Three.

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