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.