“Gay” Penguin Dads Get a Chilly Reception in Illinois

by Judith E. Beckett, R.N.

Some parents in Shiloh, Illinois, a town of 11,000 people located twenty miles east of Saint Louis, believe that their children aren’t ready to handle the “homosexual undertones” in the new book in their elementary school’s library. They are requesting that the book, And Tango Makes Three, be restricted to a section of the library shelves for books about mature issues. Parental permission may also be required before a child can check it out.

And Tango Makes Three is an American Library Association notable children’s book. It was written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole and published by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2005. It is based on the true story of two male penguins in New York City’s Central Park Zoo that were given a fertilized egg by a staff member at the zoo when he noticed they had built a nest together and were attempting to incubate a rock. The penguins, Roy and Silo, adopted the egg and raised the chick, Tango, as their own.

And Tango Makes Three

Lilly DelPinto’s five-year-old daughter brought the book home from school in September. DelPinto says she was half way through reading it to her daughter “when the zookeeper said the two penguins must be in love… That’s when I ended the story.”

DelPinto was referred to the school librarian by her daughter’s teacher and from there to school district Superintendent Jennifer Filyaw.

In spite of the fact that a panel appointed by Filyaw agreed the book should be moved and parental permission should be necessary to check it out, the district’s attorney believes that moving it might constitute censorship.

Filyaw agrees with him. She also believes the book is age appropriate for children from ages 4 to 8. “My feeling is that a library is there to serve an entire population,” she said. “It means you represent different families in a society – different religions, different beliefs.” For now, the book is still available to all students.

A similar incident occurred in Savannah, Missouri when two parents voiced concerns about the book at the Rolling Hill’s Consolidated Library. Director Barbara Read resolved the issue by moving the book to the nonfiction section after doing some research and learning that similar adoptions are not unusual in the world of penguins.

Roy, Silo and Tango are Chinstrap Penguins, so-called because of the thin curved line of black feathers running under their chins. The most numerous penguins in the world, they make a round nest out of stones and pebbles. The female usually lays two eggs which are kept warm by both male and female.

There are four other same-sex penguin couples at the Central Park Zoo but homosexual behavior is not unique to penguins in the animal world.

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