Book Banning Season
March 07, 2006
With the American Library Association's announcement of last year's most-challenged books, book-banning season has begun, or rather, continues. #1 on the ALA list is It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, by Robie H. Harris.
One of the latest children's works to be challenged is And Tango Makes Three, a picture book about two male penguins who hatch an egg together at the Central Park Zoo. Written by Peter Parnell, a playwright, and Justin Richardson, a psychiatrist, the book, based on real chin-strap penguins, is a good starting point for talking to children about both adoption and families with two daddies—not to mention egg hatchery, zoos, and penguins. Cute pictures, sweet family, lots of citations as a worthy read.
The Associated Press (via MSNBC) reports that Missouri's Rolling Hills Consolidated Library recently moved And Tango Makes Three to the non-fiction section because of parental complaints. The library director said that way the book would not "blindside" readers. I'm assuming that the AP means that Tango is going to adult non-fiction. Correction 3/11: The library director moved it to children's non-fiction, she told American Libraries Online.
During the spring of last year, the picture book King & King, in which two princes marry, was making news. The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a resolution that asked libraries to move gay-themed children's books to the adult section, citing parental complaint about King & King. Citing the same reasons about the same book, a proposed resolution in the Louisiana legislature attempted to do the same (but failed to pass). A U.S. representative carried around the picture book while promoting a bill for parent advisory boards for school-library purchases. (King & King was the example of what not to buy.)
King & King did not belong on a talking-point list for legislators. And Tango Makes Three does not deserve to be a pawn in the culture wars, either. Libraries have a system for complaint within the library itself, and many have parent sections in the children's area where the books on divorce, illness, grief, gay parents/siblings/penguins, and so on, can be placed. Anyone trying to banish Tango's adorable waddling birdies to some high, unreachable shelf is missing out on a heartwarming story.
Update 3/9: Here they go again in Oklahoma. Same legislator involved as last year. More information here. Thank you to Read Roger, the blog of The Horn Book's editor, for the heads up.
Update 3/11: The Rolling Hills library director did confirm to American Libraries Online that her shelf moving of Tango was in response to parental complaint.
The bottom line, [library director Barbara] Read said, is that Tango will remain accessible so “the book can say to kids in nonnuclear families that they—the kids—are okay regardless of how we feel about their parents’ life choices.”
I still say that we haven't heard the last of book challenging in Missouri.
There is no doubt in my mind that these folks work from a script and a list. I never buy the "My child just happened to check this out and was so UPSET!" line they use.
There used to be an activity called
"parenting" where you shared your ideas and beliefs with your own child. I would love to know if these folks are as vigilent about the music on their kids'IPods and the movies they are watching at the multiplex or the videogames they are playing or the TV shows they are watching.
They are Know-Nothings and proud of it.
Posted by: Camille | March 08, 2006 at 11:41 AM
Right, right, right! Yes!
Posted by: Susan | March 08, 2006 at 12:04 PM
Oh I just read that the And Tango Makes Three title has been changed to Brokeback Penguin. ;0)
How silly to "hide" the book in non-fiction. Very interesting post, thank you!
Posted by: Paige Keiser | March 13, 2006 at 12:55 AM
You're welcome. Thanks for the comments!
Posted by: Susan | March 14, 2006 at 11:22 AM