Can anyone guess what the fourth most banned book of the last decade was, according to the American Library Association? Perhaps a handbook for terrorists, a work of dark erotica or something “promoting” witchcraft? Uh, no. It was a kid’s picture book. About two penguins adopting a chick. Doesn’t sound all that scary, huh? Well, what if I said those two penguins were both male? Have I got you quaking in your boots yet?
And Tango Makes Three tells the true story of Ray and Silo, a couple of male chinstrap penguins in Central Park Zoo who were inseparable, and in 2000 were finally given charge of a spare egg. That egg hatched into a chick called Tango, who was arguably the first animal to be raised by same-sex parents of their own species.
It seems crazy that in this century a cute picture book about penguins could cause such widespread panic, but it just goes to show that when it comes to books for the very young, adults can get ridiculously overprotective. If you think things might have improved over the last few years, think again. And Tango Makes Three was actually at number three on the list of most challenged books as recently as 2013
A few years back when my daughter, Daisy, was starting school I set myself the challenge to find her as many LGBT positive picture books as I could. And Tango Makes Three was one of them, but I was pleased to find there are more out there. The picture above shows some of my collection—I have others but I’m not sure where the kids have hidden them! I’d love to be able to recommend them all heartily, but I’m very picky about the quality of the text and the pictures in children’s books so not all of them made the grade. However, here are a few of my favourite inclusive kid’s picture books, and they’re all approved by Daisy too!:
A modern day classic—if you’ve never read this book, please get hold of a copy. The illustrations are gorgeous and it’s a charming (true!) tale about gay penguins adopting a chick. What’s not to like?!
This is the only toddler board book I’ve ever encountered featuring a lesbian couple and their child, and it’s incredibly cute. Just like any other board book for toddlers, featuring everyday activities, just with two mums. There’s also a companion book called Daddy, Papa and ME by the same author and illustrator. Unfortunately I’ve lost our copy somewhere in the house. Maybe I should buy another!
This has always been one of Daisy’s favourites. I’m not completely sold on the illustrations, but the story is great fun to read and it’s utterly charming. It also scores top points for the two princes openly fancying each other and having a same-sex kiss illustrated in a kids picture book!
I had to send away to the States for this one but I’m glad I did. Of all the same-sex wedding-themed picture books I’ve read (and there’s been quite a few!) this is by far and away my favourite. It has a cute cast of guinea pigs and feels fun and celebratory rather than preachy in tone (an issue I sometimes have with these stories)
Not strictly LGBT, but a fantastic book about a little creature called Something Else who just doesn’t fit in with all the others. Love the illustrations and the story. This one’s a real winner, and perfect for any child who feels different to the other kids.
A gorgeous book with beautiful illustrations and a real flair with words. It’s another Lesléa Newman book, and while it’s not explicitly LGBT it’s about a boy who is irrepressibly camp and who loves life. Truly celebratory!
I think it’s incredibly important that kids of all ages have access to books that show positive images of LGBT characters living normal lives, so I’m issuing a challenge to all of you. Do you have a primary/elementary school or library near you? Could you find out if they have any of these picture books, and if not, ask them why not!
Even better, how about gifting an LGBT positive picture book to your local school or library? Any of the ones above would make an excellent choice, or you could check out the Letterbox Library for more ideas.
And to finish off, here’s a picture of my lovely Daisy sharing her favourite King and King with her younger brother, Gabriel. It’s so lovely that she still gets to enjoy all the picture books this way!
About the Author
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo’s novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and an incessantly curious toddler.