Review: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

As part of this years Banned Books Week in the US, I decided to read a couple of books from the ALA’s list of most-challenged books. One of these books, And Tango Makes Three, has been challenged and banned “for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group.”

Amazon delivered it promptly this week, and I’ve spent the past couple of days mulling it over. Co-written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, the story revolves around two chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo, who love each other dearly. Roy and Silo are both boys.

Okay, so when I heard about the controversy surrounding this story, I thought, “what a big hullabaloo!”. Introducing children to the reality of same-sex relationships at an early age would surely discourage homophobic idiocy in later life.

What about kids who have two mummies or two daddies? Unlike the stories about princes and princesses, And Tango Makes Three gives children of same-sex relationships something to relate to and identify with.

One of the reasons homophobic tension exists is because children are unfamiliar with it; they fear and consequently hate what they do not know. Tango Makes Three could be integral to improving attitudes towards homosexuality.

Yet, I am surprised. I expected to be writing a post that 100% rubbished all claims for this book to be banned, but I’d be lying if I said that I didnt raise my eyebrows at least once – but not because of the books “gay undertones”.

I admit that some sentences in the book did surprise me:

Every night Roy and Silo slept there together, just like the other penguin couples. And every morning Roy and Silo woke up together. But one day Roy and Silo saw that the other couples could do something they could not.

The alarm ringing in my head sounded like this “SEX! SEX! SEX!”. The book raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions that a parent might not want to have to answer to their 5 or 6 year old. And I can half-understand why they’re running around schools and libraries yelling “give my child his/her innocence back!”.

Tango was the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies.

But the intention of this story is clear. Its about making kids feel accepted and the same as all the other kids. There are obvious points in the story where Roy and Silo and Tango are portrayed as equal to all the other families:

they snuggled together and, like all the other penguins in the penguin house, and all the other animals in the zoo, and all the families in the big city around them, they went to sleep.

And there is nothing wrong with that!! Yes, the book might deal with some controversial subject matter, but if you don’t want your kids to read it, then don’t let them! Or, take the opportunity to sit with your child to read and discuss together, that’s what this book is all about. It is not an “anti-family” book, it is not dangerous, and it will do anything but corrupt your kids’ moral values.

It is beautifully illusrated by Henry Cole and the story is written and presented in a mature and responsible way. So lets all grow up and take a leaf out of Roy and Silo’s book!


2 thoughts on “Review: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell

  1. I haven’t had the opportunity to read this book yet, but the sentence you mentioned about how Roy and Silo couldn’t do what other penguin couples could do might refer to having eggs, not the act of copulation (but, not having read the book, I could be wrong).

    Either way, it sounds like a lovely book about what it means to be a family, and I think that children need to be exposed to the concept that families come in all shapes and sizes.

    Besides, the main characters are penguins. And who doesn’t like penguins?

    • Hi,
      Thanks for the comment!

      No, I do think that you’re completely right, the author probably intends for the sentence to mean ‘eggs’ as opposed to ‘copulation’. But as an adult reading, ‘copulation’ is the first thing that sprang to my mind, and I think this is probably where much of the controversy stems from: parents/adults getting the WRONG idea and misinterpreting the story…

      It is a fab book, and like you say, it really enforces the idea that families do come in all shapes and sizes.

      There’s also a kids book called King and King, which has a similar theme if you’re interested:

      (…but penguins are way cooler than kings!)

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