January 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

‘And Tango Makes Three’ Tops Most Challenged List, Again

By SLJ Staff

And Tango Makes Three (2005), the true story of two male penguins who hatch and parent a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo, tops the list of the most frequently challenged books of 2010, according to the American Library Association’s (ALA) State of America’s Libraries Report, which documents challenges and trends in library usage.

tango(Original Import)The picture book by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell has appeared on ALA’s Top Ten List of the Most Frequently Challenged Books for the past five years and has returned to the top slot after a brief stay at number two in 2009.

There have been dozens of attempts by school and public libraries to challenge and remove And Tango Makes Three from shelves, citing that the book is “unsuited for age group,” and objecting to its “religious viewpoint” and “homosexuality.”

“People only challenge a book when they fear it has the power to influence thought and create change,” says Richardson. “The fact that our little book has been seen as transformative by so many for so long makes us very proud.”

Richardson’s and Parnell’s latest picture book Christian, the Hugging Lion (2010, both S & S) last month was named a Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the children’s and young adult category. The real-life animal story is about two men who release their adopted lion cub into the wildness and are reunited with the wild animal years later.

Do they think Christian be similarly challenged? “We don’t think so,” adds Richardson. “The arc of that story, in which a lion continues to love his male “parents,” but is able to leave them to establish his own family, doesn’t seem to challenge traditional beliefs in the way Tango obviously has.” absolute(Original Import)

Alice Walker’s Color Purple, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War fell off the list this year. They were replaced by titles that reflect a range of themes and ideas, including Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.

“While we firmly support the right of every reader to choose or reject a book for themselves or their families, those objecting to a particular book should not be given the power to restrict other readers’ right to access and read that book,” says Barbara Jones, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). “As members of a pluralistic and complex society, we must have free access to a diverse range of viewpoints on the human condition in order to foster critical thinking and understanding. We must protect one of the most precious of our fundamental rights—the freedom to read.”

OIF collects reports on book challenges from librarians, teachers, individuals, and press reports from across the United States. A challenge is a formal written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness. OIF received 348 reports in 2010 about efforts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves, but the majority of challenges go unreported.

brave(Original Import)Here’s a list of ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010 and the reasons given for their challenges:

1. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

4. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

6. Lush by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age grouptwilight.2(Original Import)

7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

8. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

9. Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

10. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, violence

This article originally appeared in the newsletter Extra Helping. Go here to subscribe.

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