Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday's "Forgotten" Books - Banned Books Week

September 27-October 4 is Banned Books Week, Celebrating the Freedom to Read. According to the American Library Association's website, "Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress."

When I was asked to discuss a banned book for Friday's "Forgotten" Books, I immediately went to this year's list to see what the most banned books were in 2007. There's a beautiful picture book, And Tango Makes Three that appears on the top of the list. "1. "And Tango Makes Three," by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group."

This is a picture book, designed for children ages 4 to 8. It's set at the Central Park Zoo, a place where families go to see the animals, including animal families such as red panda bear families, monkey families, toucan families. And, then there are the penguin families. And Tango Makes Three tells how boy penguins and girl penguins get together, but two boys, Roy and Silo, were best friends, and they even built a nest together. Unfortunately, they could only fill it with stones until the penguin keeper gave them an extra egg. Roy and Silo faithfully tended that egg until it hatched. Then, as good parents, they fed and raised their new daughter, Tango.

And Tango Makes Three is based on a true story of events at the Central Park Zoo that started in 1998 when two male penguins found each other, and eventually hatched, and raised, a penguin named Tango. Now, go back and look at the reasons this beautifully illustrated book has been banned. Anti-Ethnic? And, what ethnicity are penguins supposed to be? Sexism? I can't find any evidence of this. Homosexuality? Yes, this is a male couple, but they are a loving couple that raised a child. Anti-Family? Excuse me? This book is so encouraging of strong families, and taking care of children. It's a story of two loving penguins sharing their love with a child. Religious viewpoint? What religion are penguins? Unsuited to age group? At what age should children discover that parents love their children, and that parents want to be together?

I understand that people do object to homosexuality. However, I also know that parents should be supervising their children's reading. If they object to And Tango Makes Three, they have the right not to read it to their children, or not to allow their own children read it. However, freedom to read means that we allow other people the option to read books, and don't try to interfere with that right. For me, And Tango Makes Three remains a beautiful book, one that has a message of love and family.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, ©2005. ISBN 9780689878459 (hardcover), 32p.


teabird said...

Amen to everything you wrote.

Plus: aren't gay families part of the library's clientele? How pleased they would be to have books to read to their children, and how sad to have to do without.

Lesa said...

Yes, gay families are part of the library's clientele, and our staff. I agree. It's very appropriate that they have suitable books to read to their children.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is just heartbreaking. When a story is based on actual events how dare someone try to mute it.

Lesa said...

I agree, Patti. It's a beautiful true story of love.

Lesa said...

Reuters and both picked up this commentary on Banned Books Week and And Tango Makes Three.

Jen said...

This is a book I want to get for my nephew. We have no gay family members (to my knowledge anyway) but we do have gay friends. And both my sister and I want her children to be tolerant of everyone, regardless of what the differences happen to be. It makes me sad that people can still be so intolerant!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Jen. I don't think you or your sister will regret getting this book. It's beautiful.

I totally agree with you.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Jen. I don't think you or your sister will regret getting this book. It's beautiful.

I totally agree with you.


"I am presently a Library Manager and a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Blogcritics Magazine, and various websites. Lesa's Book Critiques is syndicated through Blogburst, and reviews have been picked up by Reuters, USA Today and other news distributors."


For someone in your position doing what you do to provide such one-sided, biased, and misleading information is really striking. And it's really sad. I don't know how people can trust your opinions when you provide such biased information.

Get some BBW balance.

Consider a former ALA Councilor said:

It also highlights the thing we know about Banned Books Week that we don't talk about much--the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it's totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all.

Totally different.

And the soon-to-be-published Annoyed Librarian said in "Banned" Books Week Strikes Again:

"Banned" Books Week, or BBW, is upon us once again. Since the ALA has nothing new to say on the matter, I don't either. So read the old stuff; it's still better than the nonsense emanating from the ALA. Take a look at the books shown in the first link. Yeah, it's hard for people to get hold of a Harry Potter book, and I'm pretty sure Catcher in the Rye isn't available , either. And forget Huckleberry Finn. You can't find that darn thing anywhere, because it's been "banned." They've all been "banned"! Banned books, indeed. Enter the alternative universe of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, where we are always on the verge of totalitarianism because some rube in Bumflap, GA doesn't like gay penguins. Be sure to check your intellect at the door, though. Otherwise it's hard to take this stuff.

Listen, I'll assume you have been taken in by the ALA propaganda as so many others have. But after considering the above information and the contents of the links contained therein, do you still wish to provide ALA propaganda without any balance whatsoever? If you do, can you ever again be trusted for accurate and truthful information?

Lesa said...

Thank you. I value your information and your opinion. I would value it even more if you had the openness to sign your name to your opinions and your blog. I think opinions have more value when people have the courage to stand up for the convictions.

I will certainly leave your opinion up on my blog. However, if you no longer value my opinion, I know there are large numbers of blogs for you to read. Thank you for your comments.



Honestly, this is the first time my name or affiliation did not get automatically attached to my blog comment. I'm scratching my head as to why that happened. I thought to write it in but the single underline that was linked went to my blogger profile and I thought that was okay.

Anyway, I'm Dan Kleinman from

(I see it's about to happened again -- don't know why.)

Listen, I came down hard on you. It is true that many good people are simply taken in by the sheer weight and effectiveness of ALA propaganda. You know, of course, no book has been banned in the USA for many years.

So I gave you the benefit of the doubt and provided some balance for your consideration. I hope you do not continue to stand by the ALA's misinformation now that you have been presented with another point of view.

Censorship and banning are serious issues. They should be treated as such and not conflated with the perfectly legal methods of keeping children from inappropriate material. You agree, right?

Lesa said...

Thank you, Dan. Earlier in the week, I stressed Banned Books Week as Right to Read week, and that includes the right to read. I also mentioned that parents should take an interest in their children's reading, and it's up to parents to guide their children's reading.

When I was in Florida, we were part of an organized attempt to ban, and I mean ban, not just move to an "appropriate" location, the book, Daddy's Roommate. Our library system fought that act of censorship, and our Director received the first Florida Library Association Award for fighting the attempt to ban the book. The group that attempted to censor it wanted the book totally removed from our library system.

Yes, we do have filters on our computers, and, no we do not allow people to look at pornography in the library.

I'm not certain what you mean by "perfectly legal methods of keeping children from inappropriate material." Yes, I've seen books challenged, and moved to a more appropriate location in the library. But, I have also seen someone actually try to ban a book. It might not have been officially "banned" from the country, but a group did try to get it banned from our library. That, I am opposed to.

As for the Annoyed Librarian, although I read the blog regularly, I do disagree with the comments quite frequently.

Thank you for adding your name, Dan. I appreciate it.

Jim said...

Let me state first that I am totally opposed to the banning of ANY book. However, I don't see this as ALA propaganda as much as a First Amendment Right to read what one chooses. I agree that children should be protected from inappropriate reading, however I would say this is the parents responsibility. After all I am sure the ALA can not assume the role of the Library Police nor should they. I know for a fact that this book reviewer was asked by her parents not to read or view a various book or movie until a certain age, and she complied with her parents request. Children deserve being protected, however not at the expense of becoming bigoted adults who perpetuate their opinions & prejudice upon others. I sadly fear that this was the beginning of many hate crimes perpetuated upon others in recent years.

Thank God I have to FREEDOM to express my opinion here, without devaluing others opinions.


Lesa said...

Thank you, Jim. I'm glad you brought up First Amendment Rights. I appreciate it. Very nice.


I understand your concerns. Let me tell you the concerns of others of which you may not have been aware.

Yes, parents need to be responsible. Yes, they should use informed consent to make decisions for their own children.

Two problems with that.

1) The pool of inappropriate materials has grown larger and larger. This means parents need to really be on their toes as the likelihood of a child selecting or having selected for them a book that may be inappropriate has grown significantly.

Oh, let me head off at the pass the usual excuse for ignoring people like me--we're conservative or Christian. Whether I personally am or not is not the issue. What is the issue is that conservatives and Christians are not the only ones who have observed this downward spiral in children's literature. See, for example, "Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things," by Naomi Wolf, The New York Times, 12 March 2006.

Back to where we were.

2) Informed consent of parents is impossible where those parents are being misled. In other words, even where a parent makes a good faith effort to determine the contents of the book, the child may still get an inappropriate book where the parent has been misled.

An example would be the 2006 "Michael Printz" awarded best book of the year for kids age 12 and up. The book is pervasively vulgar and contains at least one instance of graphic oral sex, yet the ALA calls it the book of the year for 12 year olds and up, and the ALA provides absolutely no notice whatsoever of the graphic nature of the contents. So effective is the ALA's award and lack of notice that I even saw the book for sale at kid's eye level in a grocery checkout aisle next to a "Bob the Builder" book.

And I personally got the author to admit he would not even give his own award winning book to his own 12 year old if he had one--he may have been the only on notice of the book's contents.

I do not see how parents can be responsible where they are being misled and where the percentage of inappropriate material is growing in leaps and bounds.

It is simply not the First Amendment right of the ALA to mislead parents on the one hand then blame them on the other.

It is simply not the First Amendment right of children to have access to pervasively vulgar, sexually inappropriate material. (Bd of Educ v. Pico, 1982).

As the Court said in US v. ALA:

"The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."

Do not tell me the ALA and its so-called "Library Bill of Rights" trumps the US Supreme Court, especially in a case the ALA itself lost and lost big.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Dan.