Kathryn's Reviews > And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
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Apr 28, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: childrens-picture-books
Read in April, 2009

Review Updated*SEE COMMENTS*

Encouraged by my friend Chandra's positive review, I decided to finally give this book a try. It's popularity and controversy made me tentative before--not due to the subject, but because I thought it might have been a platform book meant to push an agenda, rather than simply tell a good story. Upon reading, I have come to the decision that it is both.

This is the very sweet true story of two penguins from the Central Park Zoo who happen to be male, happen to adore one another, and happen to want to sit on a nest and hatch a chick. Only, of course, they can't quite lay an egg like the male-female penguin pairings do. But when their zookeeper notices their tenacity, he decides to let them lay on a fertilized egg that was an unwanted "twin" from another nest. Thus, the penguins become dads! The illustrations are darling and I found myself pulling for the penguin duo, feeling for them on in their initial struggles at trying to hatch a rock (!) and then cheering as they finally hatched little Tango (and, oh, how cute Tango is, too!)

Now, for the "gay penguin" aspect: I wondered if this was the author's intent, or simply the perceptions of certain readers projected into the story. In my opinion, it IS mean to be a book about gay parents and adopted children--more than that, of course, it is a book about FAMILY and LOVE. However, the reason I think it has an "agenda" is, first of all, the author is a psychologist (I don't remember the exact degree) and has written some books about sexuality--no problem with that, but I'm just saying this is in contrast to, say, an author of children's books or an animal behaviorist or zoological author who might be more interested in this being a cute animal story. Secondly, some of the word choices indicate "gay penguin" vs "male penguins who hang out together." For example, it clearly points out that the boy penguins and the girl penguins hang out together, pair up, and lay eggs--BUT--these two male penguins don't like to hang out with the girl penguins, just with one another. The other one that seemed pretty obvious, the zookeeper notices their behavior and says, "They must be in love!" (rather than, say, "they must really like each other" or even "they must love each other"--"in love" giving a coupledom or marriage sort of connotation, rather than one that is more universal).

Personally, I am delighted that there is a well-written, sweet and adorable animal story out there that could fill a gap (albeit, I'm hoping, a narrowing one) for children with gay parents--or, frankly, ANY children to able to be exposed to just one of the wide array of ways that families are created. However, it is a shame that, in the few cases as mentioned above, the author had to take it a bit too far into "gay penguin" territory and thus alienate a huge readership from this very sweet and TRUE animal story. I think, had he left those things out, the story could have appealed equally to a wide variety of readerships, each bringing to the story what they wanted to see.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Kathryn Yes, I loved that part!


Kathryn Absolutely! I think that is what made me sad, because I know the book (as it is written) will alienate a wide variety of parents who will not allow their kids to be exposed to this sweet story nor the discussions that could ensue.


Lisa Vegan Kathryn, Never mind re posting your review to the other thread. I was able to read it because of friends voting on it so it appeared on my update feed. Great review!


message 4: by Kathryn (last edited Apr 28, 2009 09:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathryn Abigail--Oh, undoubtedly so! I was just...hoping. I could go on and on, but I had better not! ;-p I want my review to remain simply a review, rather than pushing any of my agendas!

Lisa, glad you enjoyed the review!



message 5: by Qt (new)

Qt Nice review, Katie--I haven't read it, but I think I would agree with you about how it could have reached a wider audience if it had been done just a bit differently. For my part, I would happily read a story about penguins, but I'm much less inclined to do so if I think I'm going to be preached to (about any subject). It sounds like this one isn't really preachy, but still....


message 6: by Kathryn (last edited Apr 29, 2009 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kathryn Thanks for all the great comments! It's always exciting to get a discussion going.

To assuage my burning curiosity over whether my preconceived notions affected my viewing this as a "gay penguin" book, I asked my husband to read it. He had never heard of the book and went into it thinking it was some story about penguins. (I told him nothing.) Part way through the book, he looked up at me with a quizzical expression and exclaimed, "Gay penguins!?" Too funny. Anyway, when he finished the book I asked for his feedback. He thought it was a cute story, and said that if he'd read it when he was a kid (some twenty years ago!) he probably would have just thought it was a cute, fun story about penguin families or maybe adoption. He said that now, given the changing times and that it was written with modern sensibilities behind it, that it most definitely seems to be a story about gay parent families and gay adoption. I thought this was an interesting perspective and tend to agree. With that in mind, though, I wonder how modern children would view the story?


Ronyell Awesome review Kathryn!! I agree with you if the author hadn't just said "they must be in love" then more people would have read this book and not worry about the whole homosexuality theme going on, but I thought that this book was a great book for learning about what it takes to have a great family.


Kathryn Absolutely :-)


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