Living in LoCo

Where's Tango?

Erica Garman at 12:43 p.m., February 11, 2008 (42 comments)

RELATED STORY: 'Tango' Touches Off Library Dispute

An award-winning children's book was recently removed from general circulation at Loudoun County public elementary school libraries.

"And Tango Makes Three" by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is based on the true story of two male penguins who took turns sitting on an orphaned egg at the Central Park Zoo. In the story, the penguins, Roy and Silo, start their family when the chick, Tango, is hatched.

A parent at Sugarland Elementary in Sterling filed a request with the school principal that the book be reviewed. The principal and several staff members deemed the book appropriate for general circulation.

The parent appealed the school's decision with the Loudoun County Public Schools administration. According to David Jones, the LCPS library media supervisor, a district-level committee was formed with teacher, parent, school librarian and administrative representatives who reviewed the book and offered a recommendation to Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III, who ultimately decided on the book's status.

Dr. Hatrick determined that "And Tango Makes Three" should be taken out of general circulation at the elementary level and placed in each school's professional library. Teachers may reference and share the book with students at their own discretion. Children and parents may not check the book out of the library.

The American Library Association cites "And Tango Makes Three" as one of 2006's most challenged books.

David Weintraub, president of Equality Loudoun, a gay advocacy group, said that the rights of the parent who challenged this book trumped the rights of parents who may support it. "Loudoun County Public Schools serve children from all kinds of families, including families with two moms or two dads. The administration and school board need to remember that when confronted with this sort of book challenge."

What are your thoughts on this LCPS book review?

Speaking of book reviews… today from 4-6pm the public is invited to the LCPS administrative offices to review science textbooks that the school system has recommended for adoption.


Note: does not necessarily agree with comments posted below — responsibility lies with the relevant reader alone. Peruse our reader agreement and privacy policy

All libraries "censor". Does any library contain every book in print? What criteria are used to determine which books they carry? If every library was forced to stock every book that caterd to every single special interest, there wouldn't be enough shelf space.

The LCPS is fully within their rights to pull a book from its shelves if they feel it doesn't meet the meet the needs of its patrons, even if that book is "award-winning", which Erica cleverly led off the article with. One of the awards is from the liberal American Library Association, which campaigned against the Children's Internet Protection Act.

Posted by brucewinter (anonymous) on February 11, 2008 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

the HUGE mistake is trying to keep the fact that alternative lifestyles exist. reading Tango won't change who your kid is- and enlightenment is so much smarter than keeping kids in the dark. aside from that- bruce is right- every book can't make it onto the shelves and censorship and picking and choosing aren't necessarily the same (although this reeks of censorship!). i also think there are age appropriate times to expose kids to controversial materials- racism, sexism, hatred... let's face it- there was a time when a girl who was pregnant before marriage was sent away to "live with relatives", a boy who went to jail was "away at school", divorces were kept a secret from the kids, and interracial relationships were taboo. alternative lifestyles are here to stay, so just educate your kid YOURSELF, YOUR way, and don't worry about rest. no one is forcing your kid to read Tango- and if they do read it- so what? deal with it your way. PARENT, don't CENSOR.

Posted by tttrenee (anonymous) on February 11, 2008 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Of course not every library can carry every book in print. This is about a book that was deemed appropriate to be included in its collection by the library staff. This book is now being placed behind the counter, as though it were something from which we need to protect our children.

Apparently this same parent has not read Dr. Seuss's "Horton Hatches an Egg". Horton, a male elephant, sits on an abandoned egg. Not only do we have a male defying his traditional role by being willing to nurture the egg, but he goes beyond his own species to care for another living being. We wouldn't want our children to draw any conclusions from this either, would we?

Of course, Horton is quite the subversive. In protecting the invisble Who, in another story, "Horton Hears a Who" he actually says "A person's a person, no matter how small".

Too much love, nuturing, caring and respect couldn't possibly be good for our children, could it?

Posted by mmmgrise (anonymous) on February 11, 2008 at 8:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice comparison with the "Horton" book! Excellent point! I could barely believe this story - this a book about a pair of PENGUINS! Let's make sure the kids don't see it.

The point isn't that libraries select a subset of books - the point is that a single person complained and the superintendent subverted his own library comittee to cowtow to this one individual. Have a little backbone Edgar!

Oh, and let's get that subversive "Lorax" out of there - he's just a tree-hugging environmentalist which means he must be a commie-pinko liberal too!

Posted by darthwilliam1118 (anonymous) on February 11, 2008 at 9:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's not a book about how Roy and Silo have sex.

Posted by jstafford (anonymous) on February 11, 2008 at 9:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"A person's a person, no matter how small".

Sounds like a positive pro-life message. I'm surprised Planned Parenthood or "Mainstream" hasn't objected yet.

Posted by blarf (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 6:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ignorance is bliss!

Posted by qazwsxedcrfv (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

LMAO at the Lorax! and let's pull the star bellied sneeches while we're at it- talk about classism at its worst! since the controversy in this book is homosexual connotations- I'll share this with you: i was watching the today show while getting ready for work a few years ago, and my 5 yr old son walks in just as they showed 2 men kissing b/c they had just been married in Mass. my son asked "mommy- why are 2 boys kissing on the LIPS?!?!?" i said, some boys were born liking to kiss boys, and some boys are born liking to kiss girls. Now how about some coco puffs for breakfast?"

Posted by tttrenee (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When I was in junior high (many years ago), a book my English class was assigned to read ended up being banned after much local controversy. By the end of it, pretty much everyone in town had read the book. Banning it turned out to be the best way to increase readership. My bet is that "Tango" is shooting up the Amazon sales ranking right now.

Posted by jt12 (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Not exactly: Sales Rank: #10,552 in Books.

Posted by blarf (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Checking out the book was my first thought! I would have never heard of it.

Posted by ericadawn72 (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 10:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's out of stock in the local bookstores that I have checked. Wonder if sales have picked up recently...?!

Posted by duchess (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think all of us who think what LCPS did by removing the book is ridiculous should call the school board and tell them so...wonder what will happen when a bunch of people complain that it was "put behind the counter" and not easily accesible to our kids? Can't wait to see if there is any "fallout" or "backpeddling" from this article!!!?? Great detective work, Erica!! You ROCK!!

Posted by chelsivia (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 10:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

i will be sure to buy the book now and complain to the school board. my kids love penguins, even bad ones like in the Wallace and Grommit story.

Posted by mconfoy (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

the sad thing is that this book is based on a true story,
and now our school board's stupidity is in the Wikipedia too!

Dr. Hatrick's email is:

Time to do something before we are a laughing stock like Dover, PA and Kansas!

Posted by mconfoy (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 11:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I hadn't checked Amazon, but actually 10,552 is a pretty good ranking. Their rankings go up over a million.

Posted by jt12 (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 12:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's now ranked at #8,122 on Amazon...meaning it sells between 10-15/week.

Posted by freerocker (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 1:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, #8122 with a bullet!

Posted by blarf (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 1:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

why BUY it when you can get it from the library?!?!? oh wait.... lol

Posted by tttrenee (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 2:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually, it's at the Ashburn and Cascades branches of the Loudoun Public Library.

Posted by blarf (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So when does the book burning begin??? For the record, the school's name is simply Sugarland (no Run). I have children that attend this school and am very involved with the school, staff and students. This makes me want to puke! Mrs. Robinson, the Principal, is one of the most experienced, fair and logical people I know. If Hatrick and his minions think they can actually stop us from teaching our children ACCEPTANCE (not just tolerance), then his head is clearly further up that dark space than we thought.

So what are they worried about? Are they worried that reading a story about a "homosexual" (if that's even what was intended in the story) couple will turn "heterosexual" children GAY?! Then wouldn't the opposite be true too? If we go with that logic, there wouldn't BE gay people because two "hetero's" wouldn't be ABLE to produce a gay child! RIGHT?!

Pull your heads out people!!! Get a grip!! You can't stop what is right. Two people loving each other and sharing their love with a child is what God intended. (Remember when it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person?) LOOK AROUND HATRICK...THE WORLD IS TURNING BROWN!! Just like the color on your face AFTER you pull your head out of that dark space.

I'm done.

Posted by shnamdl (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 2:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't know what Dr. Hatrick's excuse is, but what parents like the complainant are afraid of is that simply knowing that other kinds of families exist will make the anti-gay indoctrination of their own children more difficult. For some reason, they expect and demand special rights - that the schools will help them by erasing all ideas with which they disagree. We've seen this before in Loudoun, and fortunately we have a highly educated population that takes a dim view of censorship. What has come to light in this case is the lack of transparency in the process. How many other books have been silently placed on the restricted list, and for what reason?

Posted by daviddanaan (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The school system policy on this is well-spelled out in
There should be a written record of a form where the parent stated
1. What they objected to
2. What they believe the theme of the material was
3. What they believe the result of a student reading it might be
4. What age group they believe should be reading it
5. Is there anything good in this material?
6. Recommend other similar material

It's interesting that there's a distinct process for a single person to object to a book, and they could have taken it to the School Board if Hatrick had said no. But there's no way for anyone to ask for an appeal the other way that I can see. In other words, there's no formal way for the principal or people who agree with her to appeal. Would be interesting to read the Request to Review form. Then you wouldn't have to speculate as to what their problem was.

Posted by filmjoy (anonymous) on February 12, 2008 at 11:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sexuality from a morality standpoint is so steeped in religion and culture that government via public schools cannot properly teach it without stepping into first amendment issues.

(I ordered the book because I think that perhaps the sexual morality is so subtle as to be missed entirely by children and even adults not clued in by activists in the cultural wars.)

I always wondered why those most concerned about expression of homosexuality in schools from a parental rights/religious freedom standpoint are also the ones most active in promoting religious indoctrination by displaying "In God We trust" posters in the schools and having a mandatory pledge of allegiance which says we are all united under a single God.

If children can be harmed by hearing about homosexuality from schools can't children also be harmed by schools merging god and country into a civil religon at school?

A balance between how the schools handle homosexuality (no mention at all) and how they handle civil religion (coerce all children to participate) is needed. I suggest that the motto posters and the pledge should, like books that express a view of homosexuality, be restricted and available only to those children whose parents don't mind giving up moral authority to government.

Posted by edward (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 8:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Since the fear factor works, I'm just going to go with that. Penguins are scary animals. Have you ever really looked at them? Go ahead, google it. They have beady little eyes, they walk funny, and they have big feet. And, the most troubling of all is now they engage in gay activities. Therefore, I'm encouraging my kids not to read any books associated with penguins. They should also skip the penguin exibit at any zoo. I'm very concerned that these gay penguins will take over the world. I mean all this love and caring stuff is way overrated. Good God people get a grip!!!!!

Posted by mbickings (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I haven't read the book. Is it promoting "gay" penguins or simply promoting ADOPTION????

Posted by yaddayadda (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 9:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A friend suggested this. Does the software used in the school libraries have the capability to prevent children from checking out books that are inappropriate in their parents' view? For instance, take the Harry Potter books, another widely banned title. A parent lets the library staff know that they do not want their child to check out this book. The librarian then enters that request into their computer. If the child tries to check the book out, the software notifies the librarian that this title is restricted and the child is asked to select another book. Aside from possiblly opening a valuable conversation between parents and children about why the book is objectionable, this approach prevents the proliferation of one person's minority agenda.

Posted by fielders_choice (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 11:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There is nothing in this book at all that addresses sexuality (unless one counts the obvious deduction that the fertilized egg containing Tango must have come from somewhere). The book is written for six year olds; it concerns family and parenting, not sex. With regard to the line in the book that some people find distressing - when one of the zookeepers observes that Roy and Silo "must be in love" - only adults read "sexuality" into that. Six year olds do not think of "sex" when they hear of being in love. They think of the love that they know, of people nurturing and taking care of each other. That's what the book is about. The folks getting upset about this book need to turn down the volume on their imaginations a notch or two.

Posted by daviddanaan (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 5:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To elaborate slightly, allow parents to opt out of full library privileges for their children the same way they are allowed to opt out of family life programs. Why should my child's options be diminished by this one person's flawed interpretation of a true event?

Posted by fielders_choice (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 6:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think that would be fair, in the same sense that our public library internet policy allows parents to choose either filtered or unfiltered access for their own children. I'm not sure how smoothly it would work in practice in a school setting, if the objective is to prevent a child from having exposure to particular ideas. The reality is that children interact among themselves, topics come up in the classroom, and it is just not possible to isolate one child from ideas that their parents may not agree with - nor is there a constitutional right to have that demand met. This was just reaffirmed in the Circuit Court ruling discussed here:

Posted by daviddanaan (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There may not be a constitutional right to filtering but imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. A book that hintedly disparaged homosexual couples as unnatural and an unhealty environments for children.

(Or wait until some health extremist wants to add a chapter to the health curriculum that warns children that their lives will be shortened because of the corrosive effect of their parent's obesity on their health ala second-hand smoke.)

The point is that there are many polarized groups who want to promote their moral agenda through the public schools and both sides want to remove books that they find offensive and add books that support their position at the expense of parent's ability to raise children as they see fit.

So I support a software change to the library computers that allows parents to go on-line and ban books for their children. If parents can go online to check our lunch balances we have the technology to go online and add or subtract books from our children's "do not read" list.

This solution beats fighting over what books to ban.

Posted by edward (anonymous) on February 13, 2008 at 10:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think that this parent should remove their child from public school altogether and homeschool. That way they can have more control over what their child is or isn't exposed to and the rest of us won't be subject to something this ridiculous.

Posted by qazwsxedcrfv (anonymous) on February 14, 2008 at 8:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love Edward's solution of parents banning certain books for their own children. The problem is that typically people who want books banned feel they have the moral right to monitor books for ALL children, not just their own. And unfortunately the expense of the book-monitoring library software would have to be absorbed somehow by the school library's budgets, which are stretched thin as enough as it is. It's probably less expense to bend to the will of self-righteous zealots than to purchase a software upgrade. Maybe the parents could simply have a popup note added to their child's library account that would remind the library staff not to check certain books out to them. Or maybe the parents should send them to private school, or homeschool them.

Posted by ksagun13 (anonymous) on February 14, 2008 at 9:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I find the "accept the majority's morality or leave the school system for private or homeschool" to be rather harsh and unfair particularily since it involves leaving one's tax dollars behind too. Society benefits by treating people equally and respecting that people have varying views on sexuality. I disagree with the moral framework some use to understand sexuality, but punishing and ostracizing them because they hold a minority opinion is not what the founding fathers thought our government institutions should do. (See Bill of Rights, #1)

Posted by edward (anonymous) on February 15, 2008 at 12:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The rank at now: Sales Rank: #2,807 in Books

Posted by qazwsxedcrfv (anonymous) on February 15, 2008 at 8:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Society *does* benefit from treating everyone equally. That's why it's important for young children to have access to books that depict different kinds of people and families. This is not an abstract idea. Children from various religious and cultural backgrounds, including those who have two moms or two dads, attend Loudoun County Public Schools.

Parents who disagree with an idea they find in one of their children's books can do what the rest of us do - talk to their child about it and explain what they believe. We all have the same right to do that; there's no inequality there. The presence of a book with which a parent disagrees does not constitute discrimination. However, denying other families the opportunity to see their values portrayed in a book does.

Posted by daviddanaan (anonymous) on February 15, 2008 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Umm, maybe I'm dumb, but I didn't know that this bood was about gay penguins. I thought that it was about two male birds hatching an egg.

Posted by pga_mike (anonymous) on February 16, 2008 at 10:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We have a winner!

Here is a very nice way of explaining the true story of Roy and Silo. It is intended to be for a very small child, but I believe it would also be suitable for certain adults who inexplicably have visions of hot penguin sex dancing in their heads. They should pour themselves a nice glass of wine and then read the following:

1: At a zoo in New York, some penguins had a problem. Two boy penguins wanted to be daddies. They didn’t have mates, so they tried to help each other be daddies by taking turns sitting on a rock, hoping it would hatch like an egg. It didn’t.

2: Meanwhile, a mommy penguin was very lucky to lay two eggs. Most penguins only lay one egg, and two chicks would have been too much for her to care for.

3: Instead of letting one baby chick die, the zookeepers had a great idea: why not give the boy penguins their wish, and let them help each other to be daddies?

4: The zookeepers gave the boy penguins the egg, and they took turns caring for it. After the chick was hatched, they took care of it together.

5: When the baby penguin was grown, one of the boy penguins found a girl penguin to be his mate, and the other one is still looking.

6: Because the baby penguin was well-cared for, it grew strong and healthy.

The end.

Posted by daviddanaan (anonymous) on February 16, 2008 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Consider donating a copy of "And Tango Makes Three" to your local school's "professional library."

There's a great Teaching Guide available at to go along with it.

If you appreciate irony, donate a copy of "Fahrenheit 451" as well. Request that they be placed side by side on the shelf. I did. :o)

Did you know that according to the American Library Association, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry was #14 on the list of most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000? You may recall that this was the Loudoun County Public Library's 2006 selection for "One Book - One Community." Might this be the next book on some parent's hit list?

Let's not let this issue die.

Posted by rskms (anonymous) on February 17, 2008 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Until 1967- JUST 40 YEARS AGO- interracial couples were ILLEGAL in Virginia. some of you were IN elementary school here then. if (this isn't a fact, just an example) that first book in 1968 came out showing it to be ok to see a black and a white person in love and married, should the schools have pulled THAT since it went against the beliefs of many parents of that era?

Posted by tttrenee (anonymous) on February 17, 2008 at 10:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

First off, while some people may deem me not old enough to write or give my opinion on this blog, I will anyways. My name is Kaitlin and I'm a Loudoun Valley High Schooler currently in my Sophomore year. When I read this article in the Loudoun Extra (proving that High Schoolers DO read the newspaper), I was appalled that Hatrick would do this. Even more so, I was appalled that a parent at Sugarland (the Elementary school I attended) would even think to try and have this book taken out of circulation. When I went to Sugarland, I always found that they were open minded and kind. However, my view has changed drastically just from reading this article.

My opinion on this general subject is that the parent needs to be more educated. What does she think will happen when her public school child goes into High School?! I'm sure all of you remember the negative influences of High School, and the positive ones too. This parent views Homosexuals as some type of wrong. In Loudoun Valley, we have 6 Homosexuals that are Out (for lack of better words) and would admit so to the entire school if necessary. However, it's narrow minded bigots like her who would be the ones teasing them in the hallways and saying that they shouldn't be allowed in the school. How the hell do we deal with this? We just let it slide. If she can go to the Administration to get the book pulled, I say we go right back to them and get in put back.

Posted by kaitb1103 (anonymous) on February 17, 2008 at 10:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I ordered the book, read it, and think the story is cute and affirming of diversity. I'll send my 2nd grader to school with it.

But the book clearly wants to layer on top of the heart-warming children's story an adult parable about sexual orientation and the natural goodness of homosexuality.

Imagine if a sequel book written by Dr. Dobson was donated to the library. The plot is that a zookeeper introduces Roy to a female penquin and he abandons Silo the next year to raise a chick with her. (Again based on true story.) A zookeeper "thinks to himself" how wonderful that Roy has finally finally figured out how to have a natural family.

Someone complains that this hypothetical book teaches kids that gay is a choice that can be "fixed" with a little help from outside. (The outside help is religion which is apparent to parents who read the author's bio.) The book is dangerous, they argue, because if gayness is not innate then society will reject gay rights as a civil rights/equality issue. This is a thinly disguised way to inject a controversial political agenda into the school curriulum, they argue.

Would you keep this book in the public school library?
Unless the answer is yes, then "and tango makes three" shouldn't go back on the shelf either.

I think the adult parable in both stories are completely missed by children. However, public schools should not symbolically throw support to one moral viewpoint or one political movement regarding sexuality by banning the others.

Posted by edward (anonymous) on February 17, 2008 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Post a comment

(Forgotten your password?)


Deal of the Day

Give The Gift of Indoor Golf!

Keep The Swing, Ashburn's indoor hi-definition golf simulators and practice net venue has gift cards and gift certificates; the perfect ...

View all deals from Keep The Swing | All deals

Urgent Deal

• Get a Deal On Admission to C3's Fighter's Tournament! expires: 2/16/08

Search Deals and Business Directory

Your Thoughts...

Do you support the Loudoun school district's decision to pull "And Tango Makes Three" from the shelves of elementary school libraries?

View results