Source and activity 6

'And Tango Makes Three', by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

'And Tango makes three' book cover
© Simon and Schuster 2007.
[NLS shelfmark: PB6.208.700/3]

Written in 2005, 'And Tango Makes Three' is a children's book based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two Chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo. The book follows them for six years where they form a couple and are given an egg to raise.

It has won many awards, but also been at the centre of controversy surrounding issues such as same-sex marriage, adoption and homosexuality in animals.

Most challenged book

Conservative religious groups and parents across the United States have been the most vocal opponents of 'And Tango Makes Three'. The American Library Association reported that it was the most challenged book from 2006-2010 (with the exception of 2009, when it was the second most challenged book).

One parent's objection

In 2006, according to the Associated Press, a five-year-old student from Illinois brought the book home from the school library and asked her mother, Lilly Del Pinto, to read it to her. Del Pinto thought the book was 'pretty and beautiful'. Her initial praise turned out to be short-lived. Halfway through the book, she discovered the two penguins were in love.

'That's when I ended the story,' she told the Associated Press.

'Of course, we know the kids eventually are going to learn about the homosexual lifestyle,' she said. 'That's not the issue. Please let us decide when our kids are ready. Please let us parent our kids.'

One school's view

Associated Press reported that Jennifer Filyaw, the school superintendent, said the book was 'adorable' and 'age-appropriate'. 'My feeling is that a library is to serve an entire population,' Filyaw said. 'It means you represent different families in a society — different religions, different beliefs. That's the role of a school library.'

Suggested discussion questions

This children's book is based on a true story. The objections to the book were largely based on parents who felt that children should not be exposed to what they regard as 'gay propaganda'. Do you agree?

Does it make a difference that the book is based on fact?

Should children learn about sexuality and if so at what age?

What role do you think schools should play in the debate?

Source and activity 7



Themes in focus: Censorship


Censorship related material at NLS

Browse a selection of NLS material relating to all aspects of censorship by typing the term 'censorship' in the search box above.


Visit the 'Banned books' web pages that accompanied our blockbuster 2011 exhibition.

Censorship on the web

Index on Censorship is Britain's leading organisation promoting freedom of expression.


'The Guardian' website has a dedicated section on global press and media censorship.


Scottish PEN is part of a global organisation committed to campaigning for writers under threat.

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