Thursday, May 8, 2008

Illustrated and Banned: The Gay Penguin Story

So, for the past 15 years, the American Library Association has released a list of the Top Ten library books that have received the most complaints. A complaint is given the "not-so-bitchy-sounding" name of "book challenge" (as if you're calling the book out to a duel). A book challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. Yes, removed. As in taken out of the library because someone doesn't like it. No word on if that includes making a big bonfire in the back of the library with all successfully "challenged" books.

Now, I can think of a lot of things about a lot of books that MAY be offensive. (And actually, I'm sure that all of those things ARE offensive to SOMEONE. EVERYTHING is offensive to SOMEONE these days it seems.) I CAN'T think of a lot of books that MAY warrant a formal, written complaint about the books and the request that the book be banned and removed from circulating in wherever the book was that it offended someone. (I mean, after all, it's a BOOK.) But there are a lot of people out there who will find things to complain about on the grounds that they are "offended". Whatever. And they picked a real winner this time.

Of the Top Ten most challenged books, eight of them had "sexually explicit" cited as the reason for the offense. Five of them had "offensive language" cited. Three cited "homosexuality". Only two had one reason cited, the rest had multiple reasons cited. The book that was challenged the most last year listed the following SIX reasons for being offensive:

  • Anti-Ethnic

  • Sexism

  • Homosexuality

  • Anti-Family

  • Religious Viewpoint

  • Unsuited to Age Group

My God, that sounds horrible. It has to be worthy of being removed from library circulation if it contains all of those things, right? Maybe not. The book in question? Brace yourself.

"And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Farnell.


Never heard of it? Think you've heard of it and think I HAVE to be wrong? Allow me to give a brief synopsis of this children's book. Basically, it's a children’s book about two male penguins (Roy and Silo. Cute.) who are both caring for an orphaned egg. There you have it. The summary of the book in a nutshell. Er, eggshell. Whatever. Are you up in arms yet?

According to the director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, Judith Krug, "The complaints are that young children will believe that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is acceptable. The people complaining, of course, don't agree with that."

It's about two PENGUINS!! Two penguins who are DRAWN in a BOOK! THAT is going to influence children to believe that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle?! If it were only that easy! Spare me! Hey! People who are complaining about this! Yes, you! Are you SO afraid of "the homo" that your heterosexuality is threatened by a couple of cartoon penguins?!?! Are you so incapable of sending your message of narrow minded bias that you think a couple of cartoon penguins is going to undermine your message of intolerance and hatred? You people are weak. Weak, weak, soft headed individuals. Get over yourselves. And leave the damn books alone.

Other books and the weak reasons for being challenged that made the Top Ten List include:

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

One more thing. Back to Tango for a minute. You know what is the saddest aspect of that book being number one on the ALA's Top Ten list? It's the second year in a row that it has been Number One. (Apparently, the soft-headed, anti-homosexual penguin types out there don't let things go easily.)

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