It is a children's picture book about penguins. Yes, penguins. It is probably challenged so often because it is a true story. It's about two chinstrap penguins who live at the Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo are two male penguins uninterested in the females, choosing instead to be together. They are clearly devoted to each other, and when the other penguin couples start building nests, Roy and Silo build one, too. But the other couples can do something that Roy and Silo can't: lay eggs. One day the zookeeper notices Roy and Silo sitting on an egg-shaped stone, trying to hatch it. Another penguin couple has an extra egg -- they can only ever take care of one -- and so the zookeeper gives it to Roy and Silo to raise. And they do a wonderful job! Little Tango is born, and Roy and Silo take excellent care of her. You can visit them today at the Central Park Zoo - and maybe even see them online via the penguin cam.
This book gave me goosebumps the first time I read it. It is such a wonderful story, and my children love it, too. It talks about such important things: loving and taking care of each other, finding a way to be happy despite being different or being unable to do things exactly the way those around us do, and the fact that people and families can all be different, and that is okay. These are things I enjoy talking about with my kids.
What is it that makes some people so very uneasy about this book? It is well written, touching, and beautifully illustrated. It has won many major awards, and its literary and artistic value are undeniable. It has been challenged by parents in school libraries, removed from some school systems, moved to the nonfiction section in others; but in most cases it has remained on the shelves, I'm happy to say.
Personally, I find it a bit amusing that this lovely story about penguins can stir things up and maybe, just maybe, engender some intelligent and thoughtful discussion. Or am I too optimistic? I hope not.
If you are interested in more information about the brouhaha, the wikipedia entry about the book has links to articles about the controversy.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005)
Publisher recommends for ages 4 - 8.