Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

And Tango Makes Three Still Under Fire

The American Library Association has released the top challenged books in public schools and libraries.

There is some positive news – the number of complaints decreased. Last year there were 420 challenges versus 546 the previous year. However, according to ALA’s release many challenges go unreported.

The most challenged book – And Tango Makes Three. This is the second year in a row that And Tango Makes Three topped the list.

The children’s book is based on a true story about two male penguins at New York City’s Central Park Zoo. The duo shares a nest and when the other penguins starting having babies, place an egg-shaped rock in their nest that they treat like an egg.

"They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today." (Julie Roach, Watertown Free Public Library, MA via Amazon)

The Top Ten Challenged Books:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reasons:Religious Viewpoint

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons:Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons:Sexually Explicit

9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

From the Associated Press: “In Burlingame, Calif., Mark Mathabane's "Kaffir Boy," a memoir about growing up poor and black in apartheid-era South Africa, was banned from an intermediate school after a parent complained about a two-paragraph scene in which men pay boys for sex.”

It’s depressing that the dissenting voices are keeping children from reading great works like Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I respect that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but when that leads to books being pulled from the library shelves, I have serious problems.

Why not use books that you disagree with as a chance to discuss your beliefs with your children. In the case of Kaffir Boy, that’s an opportunity to discuss the effects of poverty and racism. Or alternatively, see if your child can read another book instead of the one assigned.

Books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings may be upsetting to some, but they’re based on reality. By trying to have them banned, their opponents are trying to stifle someone else’s voice. And that’s just wrong.


“Free access to information is a core American value that should be protected,” said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Not every book is right for each reader, but an individual’s interpretation of a book should not take away my right to select reading materials for my family or myself."

“Penguin tale tops list of `challenged' books” -;_ylt=AmKMwT3ITjsBqlsWWTX5kWZREhkF

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