Module 15: And Tango Makes Three


APA Citation

Richardson, J., Parnell, P., & Cole, H. (2005). And Tango makes three. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


This is the story of a penguin family at the Central Park Zoo. Two male penguins pair up and spend all their time together, just as all the other penguins do. The only difference is that when the other couples are hatching eggs, Roy and Silo don’t have one. They build a nest and sit on a rock that’s roughly the shape and size of an egg, but no chick. What will happen when a zoo keeper notices that the penguin couple wants a baby?


This is a wonderful little story with the message that families come in all different forms. This is certainly a timely theme and one that children can easily understand. It’s a simple, sweet story that, nonetheless has caused upset in many communities. I appreciate that the story doesn’t get preachy about the rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, even though this is a clear undertone. I think there is a lot of power in the story’s simple message of two penguins who wanted to have a baby. It’s diffuicult to make a reasonable argument that penguins could have a hidden agenda or be politically motivated. Rather than seeing this as an important book because it supports my particular political views, I think it is important because it supports a perspective that is respectful to all people.


Jennifer Mattson (Booklist, May 15, 2005 (Vol. 101, No. 18))
Roy and Silo were “a little bit different” from the other male penguins: instead of noticing females, they noticed each other. Thus penguin chick Tango, hatched from a fertilized egg given to the pining, bewildered pair, came to be “the only penguin in the Central Park Zoo with two daddies.” As told by Richardson and Parnell (a psychiatrist and playwright), this true story remains firmly within the bounds of the zoo’s polar environment, as do Cole’s expressive but still realistic watercolors (a far cry from his effete caricatures in Harvey Fierstein’s The Sissy Duckling, 2002). Emphasizing the penguins’ naturally ridiculous physiques while gently acknowledging their situation, Cole’s pictures complement the perfectly cadenced text–showing, for example, the bewildered pair craning their necks toward a nest that was “nice, but a little empty.” Indeed, intrusions from the zookeeper, who remarks that the nuzzling males “must be in love,” strike the narrative’s only false note. Further facts about the episode conclude, but it’s naive to expect this will be read only as a zoo anecdote. However, those who share this with children will find themselves returning to it again and again–not for the entree it might offer to matters of human sexuality, but for the two irresistible birds at its center and for the celebration of patient, loving fathers who “knew just what to do.”

Rosemary R. Garza (The Lorgnette – Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 18, No. 4))
This book is taken from a true story about two male chinstrap penguins that live in the Central Park Zoo. The story starts out telling about different kinds of families that visit or live at the zoo. Then the story focuses on the two male penguins that do everything together, including wanting to have a baby penguin. They build a nest, and the zookeeper brings an egg for them, so they raise a baby penguin together. The book introduces the concept of homosexuality in a matter-of-fact way without dwelling on the fact that the penguins are two males. The last page explains that the family of three penguins is just like any of the different kinds of families there are in the city. The illustrations are realistic and beautiful with a great story to tell.

Use in Library

Let’s do some research on the real Roy, Silo and Tango. Can we find pictures or videos of them? Can we find out what is happening in their lives at the zoo these days?


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