And Tango Makes Three


Written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Illustrated by Henry Cole

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

In the middle of New York City there is a great big park called Central Park. Children love to play there.

What makes this book so dangerous? It presents homosexuality as a natural occurrence.

Based on true events, this book tells the story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins who chose each other as mates. When they see the other penguin couples making nests and preparing for babies, they do the same. But the other couples all have eggs and they don’t, so they go through all the motions using a rock as a substitute. Soon, there happens to be a penguin egg that needs parents, so their keeper puts it in their nest. Roy and Silo take turns sitting and caring for the egg and hatch a little female that their keeper names Tango “because it takes two to make a Tango.”

The folks who have challenged this book may be glad to know that, in real life, Roy & Silo didn’t last as a couple. A more aggressive penguin couple ran them out of their nest and Silo took up with a female penguin named Scrappy. But don’t get too comfortable either, challengers, as similar stories have happened in Germany, China and Japan. Even Tango herself wound up choosing a female partner for her first mating seasons. Penguins were documented as displaying homosexual behavior as early as 1911, although those reports were effectively buried for almost a century. Tango’s story made headlines and was even used as a basis for a Parks & Recreation episode.

Having babies is all the rage in the penguin community.

Having babies is all the rage in the penguin community.

Authors Justin Richardson, MD and Peter Parnell do an exceptional job of sharing this family’s story in a way that shows how similar it is to every other family’s story, while also celebrating the uniqueness of the relationship between Roy and Silo. The text never feels ‘preachy’ and instead comes off as a natural animal story with a twist. The artwork, by illustrator Henry Cole, is exceedingly adorable and, particularly on the dedication page, beautifully captures some of the Central Park Zoo’s memorable spots. This book holds the dubious honor of being the most challenged book from 2006 to 2010 and several libraries had to move it to a restricted section where only adults could check it out.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that every youngster deserves parents who care for them and for each other.


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