I have a special place in my heart for And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnel, and not only because I dressed as Tango in the ICPL’s Banned Books march during this past year’s homecoming parade.
Before I came to SLIS, I remember reading all about Iowa’s own controversies with Tango in the Des Moines Register. According to this article from the Iowa Independent, an Ankeny couple protested the book in East Elementary school, complaining it:
“attempts to “normalize” homosexuality to children who are too young to understand the “risky lifestyle.”
I remember thinking at the time that it must be an interesting job to defend illustrated books about penguins to parents, especially when the book depicted a real life penguin love story.
Today, I realize the challenges many librarians face when it comes to books challenged by parents and other users of library materials. The ALA provides an extensive list of links titled Dealing with challenges to books and other library materials, which includes everything from policy writing to conducting challenge hearings. One source I also found helpful was Joni Richards-Bodart’s Radical Reads, which is geared towards teens but includes a step by step chapter on how to deal with book challenges in a public library setting.
In the case of Ankeny, a nearly unanimous school board vote decided that And Tango Makes Three would stay on the shelves, and not move to a restricted area, as suggested by parents. The final article I found detailing the challenge had the school board reconsidering the current policy for challenged library materials. The board proposed including high school students as part of a group that addresses challenged materials, as well as making sure there were forms available for items parents would like to challenge.
As Brittney mentioned earlier, And Tango Makes Three is the recipient of multiple awards. The content, illustrations, and warm-hearted story deserve the attention not of critics, but of penguin loving readers everywhere.