Thursday, May 24, 2007

AND TANGO MAKES THREE is #1 Most Challenged Book

Interesting article on the picture book And Tango Makes Three, currently the country's single more challenged book, in England's The Guardian.
"We did expect a negative reaction," admits one of the authors of the children's book And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson. "In the US, homosexuality and talking to children about sexuality have been highly politicised, so yes, we expected to take some heat for it."

In the event, the story of two male penguins who bring up a chick, which Richardson co-wrote with the playwright Peter Parnell, generated more heat than its authors perhaps anticipated. In 2006, it shot to the top of the American Library Association's (ALA) list of most frequently challenged books as people across the country objected to the idea of such a tale being aimed at children of its target age group of between four and eight, provoking protests in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa and Indiana.

But this was not a tale: it was, in fact, inspired by a newspaper article, which told how a zookeeper noticed two of his penguins, Roy and Silo, were trying to hatch a stone.

"The New York Times ran an article called The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name about homosexual behaviour in animals, which started with Roy and Silo's story," remembers Richardson. He started reading it out to Parnell, and "in reading it aloud, it started sounding like a children's story.

"It had the same elements as some of the books we'd grown up with," agrees Parnell, "where an unlikely character tries and tries and eventually succeeds."

They were aware, however, that the idea of two gay penguins striving to raise a child would prove more controversial than, say, the Little Red Hen's attempts to bake bread.
I had an interesting conversation recently with the editor of another often-banned gay-themed picture book. Everyone assumes that these books sell really well because of all the publicity. That's not necessarily true. Which says to me that there's still a lot of self-censoring going of gay-themed books. How else to explain libraries not purchasing these a highly-praised, obviously topical, and much discussed books?