Celebrating the Freedom to Read

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Tomorrow is September 25, the first day of Banned Books Week.  Launched in 1982, it is an annual spotlight on books that are challenged (and sometimes banned) for a variety of reasons, including profanity, racism, and homosexuality.  According to the American Library Association, over 460 books were challenged in 2009.  One book that has made the “top ten” list (a dubious honor) since its publication in 2005 is And Tango Makes Three, a picture book by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

And Tango Makes Three is the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo.  Zookeepers observed the two waiting for a “rock” to hatch – a rock they thought was an egg.  The good people at the zoo decided to help Roy and Silo by taking an egg from a female penguin (who had two) and letting the pair care for Tango as their own.   School Library Journal gave the book a starred review and called it a “joyful story about the meaning of family.”  In its starred review, Booklist called it a “celebration of patient, loving fathers who ‘knew just what to do.'”

The issue that always bothers me (and many others) when I read that And Tango Makes Three has been challenged is that the concerns about it are adult concerns.  If you look at the book with a child they read a sweet and charmingly told story. Children love this book because the penguins are cute and funny. The people at the zoo did a nice thing.  That’s it. Along the way, the reader is perhaps opening their hearts to another kind of family.  In such a complicated world where we divide ourselves in so many ways, why don’t we celebrate a book that opens hearts – rather than closes them.

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