And Tango Makes Three

and tango makes three

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

From the dust jacket, “In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others.”

This is a true story of 2 male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a couple and built a nest for an egg that never came. One of the zookeepers placed an extra fertilized egg in the boy penguin’s empty nest and they each took turns to sit on it and eventually, a female chick, Tango, was hatched.

The penguins in the story are so sweet – they’re like any other animal couple – playing, sleeping and eating together; and, most of all, their inborn desire to have a chick. When I was reading it, my heart hurt a little when Roy and Silo built their little nest and tried to hatch a rock – which of course, didn’t hatch. Thank goodness for attentive zookeepers who care for their charges and want to provide the best for them.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws for cuteness of the penguins, of course, but more importantly, for the honesty and forthrightness with which the story is told. No apologies or excuses, here. Just the facts, ‘mam, just the facts. Two boys can make a family!!

If you want to read about the multiple times this book has been challenged and banned, please scroll past the adorable illustrations!




You can imagine why this book is banned and challenged… The ALA reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most frequently challenged book from 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most frequently challenged…and thank you to the ALA for the following information.

2014 –
• One of three books about gay couples withdrawn from libraries in Singapore (2014), where gay sex is illegal. In a statement, the National Library Board suggested that gayness and family values are incompatible. And that copies of the book would be pulped. It was announced later that authorities in Singapore reversed their decision and stopped the national library from destroying the children’s books, after its decision in July produced a public outcry over literary censorship. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim ordered that the books be moved to the adult section, where parents can borrow them for their children.
• Frequently challenged in the U.S. for the following reasons: anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, as well as “promotes the homosexual agenda”

2011 –
• Pulled from the Gibbs Elementary School in Rochester, Minn. (2011) as inappropriate for elementary school students and removed from school library shelves. This decision was later reversed as a mistake for failing to follow district policy. Eventually, a “temporary resolution” was reached requiring that one of the parents who challenged the book be present when their child checks out books from the school media center in the future.

2009 –
• Challenged, but retained in the North Kansas City, Mo. schools despite a parent’s concern that the book wasn’t age-appropriate, didn’t follow the district’s policy on human sexuality education, and tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality. In subsequent discussions, the schools appear to be headed towards segregating elementary school libraries according to “age appropriateness.” Students might be restricted to view or check out materials in their own age-class or younger.

2008 –
• Returned to the general circulation shelves in the 16 elementary school libraries in Loudoun County, Va. despite a complaint about its subject matter.
• Withdrawn from two Bristol, England, U.K., primary schools following objections from parents who claimed the book was unsuitable for children and that they had not been consulted on their opinions.
• Challenged, but retained at the Eli Pinney Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio despite a parent’s concerns that the book “is based on one of those subjects that is best left to be discovered by students at another time or in another place.”
• Challenged in the elementary school library in Ankeny, Iowa by parents who do not want their children to read the story of two male penguin parents in the Central Park Zoo due to concerns that it promotes homosexuality. On Dec. 15, 2008, the Ankeny school board members voted six to one to keep the book.
• Retained in the Chico, Calif. Unified School District, over complaints that the book is inappropriate for elementary school students. The district review committee determined that the book meets library selection standards and district policy.
• Retained by the Calvert County Library in Prince Frederick, MD after requests that the book be removed from the children’s section and shelved in a labeled alternative section.
• Retained in the Meadowview Elementary School in Farmington, Minn. despite a parent’s concern that “a topic such as sexual preference does not belong in a library where it can be obtained by young elementary students.”

2007 –
• Challenged at the Lodi, Calif. Public Library by a resident deriding what she called its “homosexual story line that has been sugarcoated with cute penguins.”

2006 –
• Moved from the children’s fiction section to children’s nonfiction at 2 Rolling Hill’s Consolidated Library’s branches in Savannah and St. Joseph, Mo after parents complained of its homosexual undertones.
• Challenged at the Shiloh, Ill Elementary School library. A committee of school employees and a parent suggested the book be moved to a separate shelf, requiring parent permission before checkout. The school’s superintendent, however, rejected the proposal and the book remained on the library shelf.
• Pulled from 4 elementary school libraries in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC area after a few parents and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James questioned the controversial but true story. The books were returned after the local paper questioned the ban. It should be noted that there was no formal request for the book’s removal.



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian


Goodbye Mog

Goodbye, Mog

Goodbye Mog

Judith Kerr
Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2002

From the dust jacket, “’Mog was tired… Mog thought, “I want to sleep forever.” And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next…’

“Judith Kerr’s stories about Mog have delighted children for more than thirty years and sold over three million copies worldwide. In Goodbye Mog, Judith Kerr uses characteristic warmth and humor to create an extra-special book about everyone’s favourite family cat.”

This is one of those books that talks about the death of a family pet in a gentle way. The author reminds the reader that even though the cat (or other pet) is physically gone from our lives, they remain there in spirit. This reminds me of something I read or heard somewhere – that as long as you remember your loved one they are never really dead. I like that at the end of the book, Mog moves on spiritually when his work is finished – as so often happens, when one pet leaves their human a new one comes along, not to replace the first pet, but to help the human heal and move forward in love and peace.

If you, your family, or someone you know has suffered the death of a beloved pet, this sweet picture book is an ideal way to approach the subject and, maybe, begin the healing process.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws; the author tackles a tough subject with absolute gentleness and hope.






Seven Spools of Thread


Seven Spools of Thread

A Kwanzaa Story

Angela Shelf Medearis

Illustrated by Daniel Minter

Albert Whitman & Company, 2000

From the dust jacket: “In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of colored thread. If they fail, they will be left with no inheritance and turned out as beggars. Using Nguzo Saba, or “seven principles,” of Kwanzaa, Angela Shelf Medearis has written an unforgettable story that demonstrates how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community.”

Can you imagine living in a house where there is constant fighting? I know it would drive me crazy and I wouldn’t like it very much. The family in this story, seven brothers fight about everything – from the weather to food portions to farming. It’s a shame that the only reason they stop is because their father died. This is just one of the many lessons the reader can take from this story. Like Jesus’ parables and Aesop’s fables, this tale is one to think about and discuss, not just read and put the book back on the shelf. It is an excellent, yet simply told tale of family and unity.

The print is small and the story is long so it might not be good for early readers. But for the experienced readers they would enjoy reading it to themselves or their younger siblings. The woodcut illustrations are amazing and full of bright colors. They are a definite labor of love.

Rating: 3 paws


Reviewer: Simon


Together for Kwanzaa


Together for Kwanzaa

Juwanda Ford

Illustrated by Shell Hehenberger

A Random House Pictureback Book, 2000

Publisher’s description: “While celebrating Kwanzaa and its many traditions with her parents, Kayla hopes that her big brother Khari will get home from college before the holiday is over.”

I knew absolutely nothing about this Kwanzaa before I read this book; now I know a lot more! The author explains very simply what Kwanzaa is and why it is celebrated. It is a wonderful holiday centered around the celebration of family and community. And even though the book is about the holiday, the reader can feel the disappointment and hope of Kayla, as she waits for her beloved brother to come home.  The text is medium-small so early readers may need help with the book. The illustrations are rich in color and beautifully detailed. Even if you don’t celebrate Kwanzaa, it is always good to learn about someone else’s tradition!

Rating 4 paws



Reviewer Simon

The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank


The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank

Erma Bombeck

McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1976

As you can tell from the publication date, this book was written in the early 70’s, so if you would like to see what life was like in those days, this is the book for you. Also, this book is really funny; it’s more of a satire of what life was like in suburbia as opposed to urban living. I laughed out loud – really laughed out loud on many occasions. My auntie remembers reading some of Erma Bombeck’s stuff when she was younger (she grew up in the 70’s) and said she is just as funny now as she was then. Here’s a funny tidbit for you from each chapter – well, at least I thought it was funny!

Foreword – …within weeks thirty million city dwellers readied their station wagons and began the long journey to the edge of town in search of a bath and a half and a tree. It wasn’t easy for the first settlers. They planted trees and crabgrass came up. They planted schools and taxes came up.

Chapter One – Station Wagons . . . Ho!  – The selling of the suburbs made the coronation of Queen Elizabeth look like an impulse. 

Chapter Two – Major Battles Fought in the Suburbs  – The suburbs didn’t invent sex – it only gave it a wider distribution.

Chapter Three – The Great Plastic Rush – “Did you just belch?” “Of course not,” she smiled, “I am burping my Suckerware.”. . . This was the beginning of the Great Plastic Rush. . . .The Home Party was born and there was no stopping its growth.

Chapter Four – Hazards of Suburban Living – The fast-talking-elusive-repairman was an endangered species. Only five had been sighted in the suburbs during a five year period.

Chapter Five – The Heartbreak of Psuburbaniasis – One day my husband looked at me and said, “Good heavens. Are you aware that you are shaped like a gourd?” At that moment, I converted to the suburban religion called Cottage Cheese. I ate so much cottage cheese my teeth curdled.

Chapter Six – Ya Got Trouble – Are certain words creeping into {your son’s} conversation –words like ‘far-out’ and ‘Linda Lovelace’ and “Ma, where’s your purse?” Well, my friends, you got trouble, trouble with a capital T…

Chapter Seven – It Comes with the Territory—{Loneliness} No one talked about it a lot, but everyone knew what it was. It was the day you alphabetized your spices on the spice rack. Then you dressed all the naked dolls in the house and arranged them on the bed according to size.

Chapter Eight – Law and Order – From the Suburbian Gems Police Blotter: Bicycle stolen while chained to bike rack. Supermarket reports bike rack stolen.

Chapter Nine – Put Your Winnebagos into a Circle and Fight – Lester is a klutz. … Right after he dropped the pin from our (boat) motor in the water, he dropped our flashlight down the only outdoor convenience. It’s still down there lit. Now we can’t see where we’re going—only where we’ve been.

Chapter Ten – Super Mom! – …mothers were divided into two distinct groups: the Super Moms and the Interim Mothers. . . .The Super Moms were faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a harsh laxative… .The Interim Mothers were just biding their time until the children were grown.

Chapter Eleven – The Volunteer Brigade – I’m volunteering so much now my husband reported me missing.

Chapter Twelve – “By God, We’re Going to Be a Close-Knit Family if I Have to Chain You to the Bed!” – For no apparent reason, other than its functional value, the refrigerator became the meeting place of the American suburban family.

Chapter Thirteen – Postscript to Suburbian Gems – In a few short years, it (suburbia) became one of the most powerful forces in this country. How they voted. How they ran their schools. How they designated their land. How they incorporated around them what they wanted and needed. How they were governed.

Most humans, I think, live in the suburbs so it’s not such a novelty anymore; but back in the 70’s it was still a new thing. Even so, that doesn’t make the experiences of the family in this book any less funny. And, the challenges are still the same in the suburbs of today. Erma Bombeck is a really funny writer – makes me wonder why she isn’t a stand-up comic. Maybe it’s just not her thing. But, really, you should make this book your thing – it is that funny. If you’re blue and you need a lift, read this book. It will make you feel better about your own life, especially if it is a suburban life!

We read this as a part of the Summer Reading Challenge, 2015, category: Read a Funny Book. By the way – I’ll be really glad when this reading challenge is over. I have read and reviewed so many books this past two months – I’m gonna refuse to read anymore the rest of the year! Let my cousins take up the slack!!

Rating: 4 paws out of 5 for laugh out loud fun!!!

jack 071115aaReviewer: Jack

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