And Tango Makes Three

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And Tango Makes Three
First edition cover of And Tango Makes Three
Author Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Illustrator Henry Cole
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publisher Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication date
April 26, 2005
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 32
ISBN 0-689-87845-1
OCLC 55518633
[E] 22
LC Class PZ10.3.R414 Tan 2005

And Tango Makes Three is a 2005 children's book written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole. The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in New York's Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life when they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

The book has won many awards but also been at the center of numerous censorship and culture war debates on same-sex marriage, adoption, and homosexuality in animals. The American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged.[1][2][3]

Plot synopsis[edit]

The book is based on the story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in New York's Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo were observed performing behaviors typically seen in penguin couples, such as bowing to one another. Roy and Silo made a nest together, and seemed to be trying to hatch a rock that resembled an egg. When zookeepers realized that these two males had formed a couple, they gave them an egg to hatch. This egg was obtained from a male-female penguin couple, named Betty and Porkey, who had two eggs and could not care for both at once. Roy and Silo took turns sitting on the egg, and eventually it hatched. The female chick was named "Tango" by the zookeepers.


Due to the penguin parents being of the same sex, some adults have objected to children reading the book.[4] Homosexuality in animals is seen as controversial by some social conservatives, who believe that asserting the naturalness of animal homosexuality affects the morality of homosexuality in humans. Others believe that it has no implications and is nonsensical to equate animal behavior to morality.[5][6]

Senior penguin keeper Rob Gramzay said that he never saw the pair complete a sex act, but the two did engage in mating rituals like entwining their necks and vocalizing to one another.[7]

Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said the book is far from a “true story”. “It’s very misleading,” she said, “and it’s a very disingenuous, inaccurate way to promote a political agenda to little kids". Silo's heterosexual behavior was widely reported in national news,[7] including the Chicago Tribune.

The American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006, 2007, and 2008.[8] The book dropped to second position in 2009 but returned to the top slot in 2010.[9]

In Shiloh, Illinois, some parents of students at Shiloh Elementary School requested in November 2006 that the book be placed in a restricted section of the library and for the school to require parental permission prior to checking the book out. The school's superintendent resolved instead to keep the book freely available.[10]

Roy and Silo, two New York City Central Park Zoo male chinstrap penguins similar to those pictured, became internationally known when they became a couple and later were given an egg that needed hatching and care, which they successfully provided.[5]

In Missouri, parents had the book moved to the school library's non-fiction section.[4]

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Peter Gorman, the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, ordered the book removed from school libraries on December 20, 2006. Gorman agreed to let a committee review the decision due to concerns that the policy on challenging books was not followed.[11]

In 2008 Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edgar B. Hatrick removed the book from general circulation at public elementary school libraries on the basis of a parent's complaint, overriding the decision of a Sterling, Virginia school principal and staff members who deemed the book suitable for young readers.[12][13] Hatrick subsequently returned the book into circulation as he found "significant procedural errors that he believes void the process followed in this matter".[14]

In Calvert County, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., a mother requested that the book be removed from the children's section and placed in an area specifically for books about "alternative or non-traditional families". The library board of trustees denied the request, concluding that libraries should disseminate information fairly and without bias or judgment.[15] Shortly thereafter, in November 2008, the Calvert County Library Board of Trustees heard another challenge to the book. A parent, describing the book as presenting issues of sexuality to children too young to understand them, asked that the book be removed from the library, shelved with adult books on sexuality, or marked with a "red dot" to alert parents to its controversial nature. The parent charged that the book's statement that penguins Roy and Silo "slept together" is a reference to sexual behavior between the birds.[16]

In Ankeny, Iowa parents at the local elementary school asked in 2008 that this book be placed in a restricted section of the library so only parents could check it out. The school district's lawyer argued that such a decision, if challenged, would likely not hold up in court. PEN America and the American Library Association sent letters urging the board to preserve students' access to Tango. On 12/15/08 the Ankeny school board voted 6 to 1 to keep the book in general circulation.[17][18]

In Chico, California, a school committee formed of parents, teachers, librarians and school administrators, voted unanimously to retain the book on the shelves of the Chico Unified School District libraries following the complaints of three parents that the book was unsuitable for young children.[19][20]

The book is listed on the "15 Most Controversial Picture Books" because of the controversy surrounding the popular children's book. A school librarian in Massachusetts feared losing her job after introducing the book to students.[21]

In July 2014, Singapore's National Library Board (NLB) announced it would destroy three children's books with pro-LGBT families themes as they saw the titles as being "against its 'pro-family' stance following complaints by a parent and its own internal review."[22] The three books, And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express, which features children adopted by a variety of families including gay, mixed-race and single parents, and Who’s In My Family, discusses families, including references to gay couples, came to the attention of religious conservatives two weeks after Pink Dot SG, a gay rights rally.[22] The rally "sparked a fierce debate" between the religious conservatives opposed to the event and Singapore's growing gay-rights lobby."[22] The NLB is a state-funded network of 26 public libraries.[22] The decision was widely criticized by LGBT supporters and the arts and literary community who see the actions as akin to book burnings and other forms of censorship.[22]And Tango Makes Three and The White Swan Express were eventually placed in the adult section instead of being pulped, and the NLB announced that their book selection and review processes would be refined.[23][24]

Freedom of speech precedents[edit]

In October 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent an advisory letter to the Calvert County, Maryland Board of Library Trustees, at the time facing a challenge to And Tango Makes Three, explaining that unrestricted access to the book in public libraries is protected freedom of speech under the First Amendment.[25] The ACLU cited numerous judicial opinions supporting this view.

Board of Education v. Pico, 457 U.S. 853 (1982): The Court held that the U.S. Constitution "does not permit the suppression of ideas”, and the ACLU noted that "any attempt by government officials to suppress ideas or information, whether directly through criminal sanctions or 'prior restraints,' or indirectly through political interference with the professional choices made by librarians" is prohibited by the First Amendment's freedom of speech provision.
Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997) and Kreimer v. Bureau of Police, 958 F.2d 1242, 1255 (3d Cir.1992). According to the ACLU, "Like the right to express oneself freely, the right to receive information and ideas is protected by the First Amendment. These precepts apply with particular force to public libraries", deemed by the 3rd Circuit Court to be "the quintessential locus of the receipt of information”.
Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, 121 F. Supp. 2d 530 (N.D. Texas 2000). According to the ACLU, "whether those seeking to remove books from the library wish to do so completely or merely to sequester or segregate the challenged books, the courts have held such censorship unconstitutional".

In the Wichita Falls case cited, the Federal Court found unconstitutional a local resolution removing two controversial children’s books from children’s section of public library and placing them in an adult section. The court stated that those looking for the books and those browsing would be unable to locate them. The Court further found "[I]f a parent wishes to prevent her child from reading a particular book, that parent can and should accompany the child to the Library, and should not prevent all children in the community from gaining access to constitutionally protected materials. Where First Amendment rights are concerned, those seeking to restrict access to information should be forced to take affirmative steps to shield themselves from unwanted materials; the onus should not be on the general public to overcome barriers to their access to fully protected information."


  • And Tango Makes Three, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, April 26, 2005 ISBN 0-689-87845-1

Awards and nominations[edit]

National book awards
Awards from children's groups
  • Sheffield Children's Book Award - shortlisted - 2008[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Attempts to remove children's book on male penguin couple parenting chick continue". American Library Association. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Jeremy (October 2, 2009). "Book About Gay Penguins Is Most Banned of the Year". Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  3. ^ ""And Tango Makes Three" waddles its way back to the number one slot as America's most frequently challenged book". American Library Association. April 11, 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-04-14. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Harris, Paul (2006-11-19). "Flap over a tale of gay penguins". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 30 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  5. ^ a b Smith, Dinitia (February 7, 2004). "Love That Dare Not Squeak Its Name". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-10. 
  6. ^ * Solimeo, Luiz Sérgio (21 September 2004). "The Animal Homosexuality Myth" National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Retrieved on 10 September 2007. * Solimeo, Luiz Sérgio (2004). Defending A Higher Law: Why We Must Resist Same-Sex "Marriage" and the Homosexual Movement Spring Grove, Pennsylvania: The American TFP, ISBN 187790533X. Retrieved on 10 September 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Miller, Jonathan (2008-09-24). "New Love Breaks Up a 6-Year Relationship at the Zoo". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  8. ^ "Attempts to remove children's book on male penguin couple parenting chick continue". American Library Association. 2009-04-16. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  9. ^ "Top library complaint: Story about same-sex penguin couple". CNN. April 11, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  10. ^ Suhr, Jim (2006-11-16). "Parents want gay penguins book blocked". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  11. ^ "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools". The Boston Globe. Mcclatchy Newspapers. 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-21. 
  12. ^ Erica Garman (2008-02-11). "Where's Tango?". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 17 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  13. ^ Michael Alison Chandler (2008-02-17). "Two Guys and a Chick Set Off Tiff Over School Library Policy". Washington_Post_Company. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  14. ^ ""And Tango Makes Three" Decision Voided". 2008-03-03. Archived from the original on 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  15. ^ Johnson, Jenna; Goodman, Christy (2008-10-23). "Library Backs Book On Same-Sex Parents". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  16. ^ Mitrano, Erica (November 21, 2008). "'Tango' Book Challenged by Another Mom". Southern Maryland Newspapers. Retrieved March 3, 2012. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ "Ankeny Couple Wants Penguin Book Restricted". WCF Courier. November 18, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Children's book remains on shelves". Chico Enterprise Record. Archived from the original on February 22, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Editorial: Hits and Misses - Our take on the week in news". Chico Enterprise Record. Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  21. ^ "The 15 Most Controversial Picture Books". 2008-08-18. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  22. ^ a b c d e "Singapore national library to destroy LGBT-themed children’s books" Library says three books are contrary to its “pro-family” stance. The AFP, July 2014,
  23. ^ Tan, Dawn Wei (18 July 2014). "NLB saga: Two removed children's books will go into adult section at library". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  24. ^ Grosse, Sara; Mohandas, Vimita (4 August 2014). "NLB to finetune book selection, review processes: Yaacob". Channel News Asia. Channel News Asia. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  25. ^ "ACLU of Maryland" (PDF). Aclu-Md. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-23. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  26. ^ [2] Archived November 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ "de beste bron van informatie over myerscenter. Deze website is te koop!". Archived from the original on February 29, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2012. 
  28. ^ Sheilah Egan. "The Natural World of Henry Cole". Children's Literature Comprehensive Database. Retrieved March 26, 2016.