Top library complaint: Story about same-sex penguin couple
Two male Chinstrap penguins like these formed a real-life romantic attachment which led to a children's book, says The New York Times.
April 11th, 2011
03:28 PM ET

Top library complaint: Story about same-sex penguin couple

It seems like a children's book about penguins hatching a baby at the Central Park Zoo in New York would be a cute story for parents to read to their kids.

"And Tango Makes Three" is such a story, with one twist, the adult penguins are both male.

The book, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, has once again topped the American Library Association list of the 10 most frequently challenged books.

According to a news release from the ALA: "A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness."

"And Tango Makes Three" is based on a true story about two chinstrap penguins named Roy and Silo. Interestingly, Roy and Silo - after the book was published - split. Silo started hanging out with Scrappy, a female, according to the paper of record on this story, The New York Times. And Roy, the paper said, was just standing in a corner.

Author Justin Richardson told the Times in 2005, he was not broken up by the break-up, adding:

"We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks."

Still, the book was often publicly challenged for what some said were homosexual undertones. others have said it is inappropriate for children. The book topped the complaint list in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Last year, it was second on the list behind Lauren Myracle's series that includes "ttyl," "ttfn," "l8r" and "g8r."

The list is based on about 400 to 550 complaints a year compiled by the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The No. 2 book this year was "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," a young adults book of fiction based on the real-life experiences of author Sherman Alexie at a predominantly white high school.

Four books including "Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" did not make the list this year.

The list is part of the library association's The State of America's Libraries report.

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soundoff (467 Responses)
  1. Joey

    Were there any complaints about the first chapter of Romans, in the Holy Bible?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymouse


      April 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      This is proof that whiny people will complain about ANYTHING. 🙁

      April 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JR


      April 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      No, because they don't make you read that in public schools.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • duh

      How about the entire book of Genesis? How about women being created as an afterthought from a bit of Adam's rib? I strongly object to that. We obviously came from the top 25% of Adam's 46th chromosome else how'd he get to having that Y chromosome? God, get it right!

      April 11, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kai

      Evan, they don't MAKE kids read this book in school either.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • irene

      Are there any complaints about the crucifix? Why would we allow our tender children to see images of a man impaled on a cross anyway? We should ban all crucifixes because they are offensive.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • squealy

      Evan, they don't make you read this penguin book in public schools either – this is just a book one can, if one chooses, check out from the library or read at the library. I bet the people who want this book banned are the same ones yelling for the government to get out of their business!

      April 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      They don't read the Bible in public school smart one. And these are little children as well, they wouldn't get half the stuff in the Bible if they read it.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pilfer

      When I was a kid I used to ditch school most of the time.
      I ditched to go to the library. One of my favorite things to do was sneak into the "banned books" storeroom.

      The shelves were full of books most published in the 1950's or 1890-1920. Books that had not seen circulation since being banned decades before.

      It was clear how ignorant the American public was about books, even to a 13 year old kid. The shelves were full of books about Jazz, surfing (my favorite was a 1940s book on surfing that started with an entire chapter on how to select a proper tree to cut and to use to make a board), rock, communism, socialism, anarchy, punk, electronics, home built computers (70s), religion, U.S. history, world history, China, Soviet Union, presidents, California, tons of philosophy books, native culture etc.

      The list of subjects goes on and on.

      Eventually stopped ditching (mostly). Graduated with a 1.62 GPA and went on to one of the Top 5 universities in the world with a 3.9 college GPA.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      @Evan – Being available in a public library, or even a school library, and mandatory reading for classes are two entirely different things. Think before you speak. Otherwise you sound stupid, such as now.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ldsstl

      I am an elementary school teacher in an inner city school and I read this book to my 1st grade kids. I do a lot to teach my kids about the civil rights movement, women's rights movement, and discrimination of any kind. In my lessons and class discussions we constantly go back to kindness, justice, equality, and respecting others differences. I also have at least one student that I know of who has a lesbian mother who is in a relationship. I want him (and the other students) to understand that although his family may look different, it is still a family and he is loved dearly.
      Before, during, or after reading I never asked my kids any questions, told them anything, or mentioned the word gay. I simply read the book and listened to their responses. While reading my students (all black) quickly understood and saw great beauty in its message. They easily related it to many other kids books we had read about friendship. They loved that the two penguins took care of the baby penguin and commented on how it was good that the baby had two people that loved him even if he didn't have a mommy. I was most surprised by how much they admired the zoo keeper for encouraging the friendship and helping the two penguins be together and have an egg. One little boy told me he wants to go to New York now so he can go to the zoo to see Tango and his dads. He said it was pretty "cool". I don't know for sure if my kids understood that the penguins were "gay" (although I don't think they did), but I do know that they were able to see past whatever the penguins were to see a family, love, and kindness. My students, clearly more mature than the adults who want to ban this book, understood the real point of the story- not that they should be gay because the penguins were, but that although love can look different it is still love and it is a beautiful thing.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • chthys

      ... or the 10th Chapter of Jeremiah, which prohibits the celebration of the ancient pagan custom we know as Christmas.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • fdadfsfs

      the next generation is going to be completely fu ck ed

      April 11, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      Actually, we read Genesis in my high school. That was in a public school circa 1995. We read it in the context of many old classics. It didn't threaten my beliefs (or lack thereof) or hurt anyone to be knowledgeable about an old, well-known book.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. drap

    I thought top complaint would be the homeless using them for B M ing... .

    April 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darthlawsuit

      I bet they don't have any next generations. Gays- An evolutionary dead end.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey

    How many current high-school students complained that all library books are too difficult to read?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • PleaseAndThankYou

      None. They have to submit WRITTEN complaints. That's a pretty high bar.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • AB

      Especially when those complaints probably can't be emailed or text messaged in to the office.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    Seriously find something else to complain about. Pretty soon we're going to have to censor everything except the Bible. And have you read that book? Some 2/3 of Christians haven't. Scary stuff in there, I wonder why that isn't on the list.

    April 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Depends many people claim to be Christians in this country because it is the popular thing. How many people really attempt to live the life of a Christian? When it comes down to it you have to be honest with yourself.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • True Beliver (not)

      The Bible is a fairy tail... portrayed as true. That mus be breaking some rule for kids, uh?

      April 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • nicky

      We're already censoring the Bible. Of course we have been ever since the 4th century, when some church confab decided what could be included and what not. But we're at it again: somebody's puttin out [oops] a new re-edited version. "Booty" is now "spoils of war." Wonder what they'll do with all those asses. Word of God, my ass. Word of the committee.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      @ True Believer (not) I wasn't aware that Fairies had tails. Is that in the Bible, too?

      April 11, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. leeintulsa

    Only four books did not make the list this year? Sounds like it's getting out of hand... Maybe they meant four books did not return to the list?

    April 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. nkm

    I don't know . . . the story seems pretty benign to me, although I don't necessarily think the fact that two males hatched out an egg means that they are "gay" penguins. Were they observed trying to mate? Or were they just best buddies? All I heard was they were observed trying to "hatch" a rock that resembled an egg.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Masako

      Yeah, the penguins WERE gay. They did "mate" with each other. And they started to take care of a rock and pretend it was an egg together. The zookeeper gave them a real egg that had been abandoned and they raised it together.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • rohn

      This sort of behaviour (male couples or female couples raising eggs) is actually quite common in nature, it's been seen amongst albatrosses as well as several species of penguins. When the gay couples raise eggs it allows the straight birds to have more offspring, which increases the species population. This isn't just a nice children's story, it's biological true.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Interesting, so your saying that they mated or something like that or they could be just best friends. I think it proves that there can be a friendship and closeness between animals. That they would do things for their fellow penguins that humans would not do for each other.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • toxictown

      They just need to tweak it a little and it's a feel-good guy buddy story!

      April 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Rohm – so because two subspecies exhibit this behavior- that makes it "quite common in nature"? I think that is a logical stretch with a heavy agenda attached.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristis

      Sorry Dave, but it is fairly common.
      I worked with horses and pony's for years. There was this one gelding that caught the eye of just about every male (gelded or not) we put in the paddock with him. He didn't need rescuing, either. That's just how it was.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cevink

      Quite common across MANY animal species.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. distressedaboutpenguins

    How could a penguin couple split? I thought penguins mated for life? I have been lied to by "Never Been Kissed"!!

    April 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex-Michael Skott

      actually only certain species of penguin mate for lifel

      April 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • square

      Umm, dude, they never mated. They can't....hence they are both males. Simple Biology. They just took turns keeping an egg warm. The birds are very protective.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      square, please look up the word "Hence".

      April 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jimbo

    Maybe Silo had an intervention with Eddie Long and Ted Haggard, lol.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. athe

    Perhaps the bible should be banned too. There's lots of things inappropriate for children. For example, Ezekial 23:19-20.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      perhaps certain parts of evolution should be banned because we all know how evolution evolves over several generations. Should we get into those details? Or the grusome thought that billions of years ago an ice age killed everything on the planet. Let us not forget that if humans were more apes the question is what would they have done to each other at this state.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Howard

    My complaints is the fact that librarians are taking seriously the complaints of a bunch of intellectual lightweights.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • TrudyBird

      Good observation! I concur!

      April 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristis

      Taking note doesn't always mean taking things off the shelves. Librarians are list makers and archivists at heart, after all.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • irene

      Agree – read the Time Magazine article today claiming that conservatives brains are more developed for fear and Liberals brains are more developed for analytical thinking skills. This is not the first scientific study that shows how small-minded social conservatives are, but they probably won't get it because they don't believe in science.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • square

      Yes, you are very smart, because heavyweights, like yourself, spend their days reading intellectually stimulating children's book.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Welcome to Reality

      Oh I get it – anyone that disagrees with you is inferior, right? There's that liberal "tolerance" I keep hearing about...

      April 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Welcome to Reality

      Irene – you do realize that those "conservative vs. liberal" studies have been debunked as flawed, right? I think I sensed your sarcasm, but I wasn't sure.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • irene

      Thanks Square and Welcome for confirming how small minded you conservatives are. BTW: The article is real, and it is not the only study with the same results. They took MRI's and physically proved it. They did not know if the changes in lobe sizes caused conservatism/liberalism or if it was the effect. We wouldn't mind your small-mindedness it if you would stop telling the rest of us how we ought to live. BTW: This response is not for you because you will never get it. It's for the rest of us who believe in the scientific method.

      April 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sir Craig

    Yes, heaven forbid a child should read a book that might lead them to *GASP!* ask questions. Keep the kids stupid and in the dark – worked in the first 1500 years of the CE.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I agree I think the kids should understand it, but I am sure that will be the case when they hear the news and read about on CNN.

      April 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GregInBoston

    Why is this considered news that is fit to be placed on's front page?

    April 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      Because CNN is on a mission to make anyone who disagrees with their agenda look stupid. I'm not saying these people who want to ban books aren't stupid, they most definately are, but the reason CNN puts these articles up front and center is because they have an agenda.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      To make more money for CNN! CNN's web site exists for two reasons – to push their cable TV shows and to sell advertising space to third parties. The rates they get for the third-party ads depend on how many people click on pages containing the ads. The more "interesting" the story, the more clicks. It has nothing to do with being news-worthy.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThaGerm

      Seriously? I am not sure which one of you two is the bigger dolt. The one that is complaining about this not being news when the clearly read the article and even took the time to comment or the other one who despite admitting that they aggree completely with CNN's preface for the article slams them for having an "agenda" of making fools of those who don't agree with them. Pot, meet kettle, kettle this is pot. Have fun together.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      I never agreed that the article was newsworthy....I think you need to go and take another english class and learn how to comprehend a paragraph.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • anonymouse

      Thank you Mike. I cant tell you how many times I've seen people comment asking why something was considered "news-worthy". People are so stupid that they dont realize the "news" is trying to make $$, not keep them in some informed "loop"

      April 11, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • king

      @ jimbo-Every thing has an agenda. Fox has an agenda. NBC, CBS, and just about every media type has an agenda. For example you have your own agenda. You don't have to agree with an agenda nor do you have to listen or read some one else agendas. I'm just tired of people complaining about larger networks or corporations having agendas. THEY ARE PRIVATE COMPANIES. It's ok for them to have an agenda. If you don't agree with it simply stop listening or watching....or you could log on into their website and complain about it.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • cali-brownbear


      April 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      It's National Library Week.

      April 12, 2011 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joejoe

    just like prison: put males in captivity and they fall in love

    April 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JenngerAle2006

    @Josh mostlikely the bible will join the list soon and be censored.
    @leeintulsa I am with you. If you ask me it sounds like the people are wanting to complain about anything and everything. But what is the easiest way to do so. Either complain about a baby or a book and a book usually has no one to fight for it. This country we are living in now a days isnt happy even if you hung it with a new shiney silk rope.

    April 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BlythewoodSpirit

    "Silo started hanging out with Scrappy"? She is nothing but a HOMEWRECKER!!

    April 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • strongbadia1765

      Awesome comment

      April 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cavery

      That's why they call her scrappy, after she comes along your relationship is nothing but scraps!

      April 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
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