Gay Penguins Tale Tops List of 'Challenged' Books for 3rd Year

For the third consecutive year, a children's book about a gay penguin couple trying to hatch an egg tops a list of the most "challenged" library books.

And Tango Makes Three, released in 2005 and written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, remained at the top of the latest report by American Library Association (ALA) that identifies which books have received the most complaints challenging its content.

The award-winning tale draws on the real-life story of Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York. The book, published for children ages 4-8, says the two penguins sleep together and attempt to make a nest like other boy and girl penguin couples.

At one point in the book, an observer says that the two "must be in love." Roy and Silo then name their chick "Tango" because it takes two to tango.

According to the ALA's Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2008 report, the book was challenged for being anti-ethnic and anti-family and dealing with homosexuality. Some challengers also cited religious viewpoints and the book being unsuited to age groups as reasons behind their opposition.

 Pro-family organizations and parents of elementary school children often raise objections to the book over its pro-gay message.

Some parents who have challenged the book's inclusion in their children's elementary school libraries have argued that the book deals with mature subject matter that are not appropriate for young children. Others have targeted the book because they feel it promotes a gay agenda that aims to make homosexuality more socially acceptable.

Parnell has said that he "wanted to write a book that treated the subject of same-sex couples that kids will adore."

"Tango is so cuddly," he said in a 2005 interview with U.S. News. "We're hoping kids will love it and beg their parents to read it again and again, since children are bumping into children from these same-sex families at school and at birthday parties. This [book] makes it comfortable for parents to talk about these families."

ALA said it's Office of Intellectual Freedom received 513 reports last year on efforts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. The association estimates that its statistics reflect only 20 to 25 percent of the challenges that actually occur, noting that a majority of challenges go unreported.

Coming in second on ALA's most challenged books list was Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials, a trilogy of fantasy novels which tells the story of a young heroine and her battle against a dominant religious authority called the Magisterium, which condones the abduction of children for experimentation. The story starts out with the young girl embarking on a quest to uncover the reason behind her friend's disappearance and concludes with the killing of a character named God – who turns out to be a phony.

While the series is not new, the story became the center of controversy at the end of 2007 when the first book was adapted into the movie "Golden Compass."

Many of the book's critics said the story promoted atheism while others felt the story was anti-Catholic for portraying members of the Magisterium, which resembled religious officials, as the villains.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, defended the public's access to all books regardless of their content.

"Books, magazines, and other reading materials should reflect the diverse views and the rich multicultural tapestry of our Nation," she stated.

"While not every book is right for each reader, every reader has the right to choose reading materials for themselves and their families and should be able to find those materials in libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. Our goal is to protect one of our most precious fundamental rights - our freedom to read."

The ALA's Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2008 and reasons behind the challenges are as follows:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Anti-Family, Homosexuality, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2. His Dark Materials Trilogy (Series), Philip Pullman
Reasons: Political Viewpoint, Religious Viewpoint, Violence

3. TTYLTTFNL8R, G8R (Series), Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

4.Scary Stories (Series), Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, Religious Viewpoint, Violence

5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Violence

6. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Drugs, Homosexuality, Nudity, Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Suicide, Unsuited to Age Group

7. Gossip Girl(Series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: Homosexuality, Unsuited to Age Group

9.The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group