And Tango Makes Three book cover

I don’t usually read anything special for Banned Books Week. I just don’t go out of my way to read books that have been challenged in libraries or schools. I have read several, but that was because I wanted to read them or had to for a class, not to “Read a Banned Book.” This year, however, as I was reading some of the Banned Books Week coverage, there was an article which of course I can’t find right now, but the girl in it after having had And Tango Makes Three read to her class or group was so happy because it depicted a family that resembled hers. I had heard of the book before but had never read it, so since our library had a copy available I picked it up last night.

And Tango Makes Three is a cute little story aimed at preschoolers and young elementary kids. Two male penguins, Roy and Silo, spend all their time together at the Central Park Zoo. They swim together, walk together, sing together, and eventually they build a nest together. They can’t have an egg of their own, so they are given one by the zoo keeper to hatch, one whose parents probably wouldn’t be able to hatch it. Both penguins take turns caring for the egg and eventually it hatches. A beautiful little girl penguin, Tango, joins their family.

The book has been challenged because of its depiction of homosexuality and being inappropriate for the age group it is geared toward, which is just silly. I personally think it’s a cute heart-warming tale. Families are about love, about caring for each other.

A Chinstrap Penguin Family

Chinstrap Penguin Family

Sometimes, families don’t fit the standard mold, but they are still families.

At night the three penguins returned to their nest.

There 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 honestly, I think that’s the message that kids will get. So what if Tango has two daddies, at least they love her. Our kids today are surrounded by different family structures, at times I think Amber’s in the minority. I think that it’s nice to have books that represent that diversity.  The water color illustrations by Henry Cole are cute. Of course, how can you go wrong with penguins, I don’t know of any other animal has quite that combination of adorable and goofy.

There was two spots though, that I wasn’t quite comfortable. The zookeeper at one point thinks to himself that Roy and Silo “must be in love.” I think we were shown that, it didn’t have to be spelled out. It just felt off from the rest of the book. The other was when they decided to name the baby penguin Tango because it “takes two to make a Tango.” Kids just aren’t going to understand that statement.

I think its too easy as adults to read a message into the story, to forget that kids aren’t going to look as deeply into it as we do. And oh, no, it might encourage kids to treat people who are different from them nicely. Horror of horrors!

It’s a sweet story. I don’t think I would have had a problem reading this to Amber when she was younger. And yes, I had tears in my eyes at the end. (I am such a wuss.) I was happy for Roy and Silo, they had the little family they longed for.

You can purchase And Tango Makes Three on Amazon or from an Indie bookstore.

3½ out of 5 stars

Category: Picture Book – Animals

Published June 2005
32 pages

Book source: Library