Florida School District Bans Book on Gay Penguin Couple

And Tango Makes Three
And Tango Makes Three

An award-winning book about the true story of a same-sex penguin couple raising a chick has been banned by a Florida school district in response to the state’s “don’t say gay” law.

The 2005 book And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell was one of three books reportedly removed from the libraries and classrooms of the Lake County School District in central Florida. The other books removed were Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss and In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco.

According to Popular Information, the board said the titles were “administratively removed due to content regarding sexual orientation/gender identification prohibited in HB 1557,” otherwise known as the Parental Rights in Education Act — the so-called "don't say gay" law.

Cover art for
Cover art for

While the book does not contain any discussion of same-sex sexual relations or instruction, it does tell the real-life story of two male chinstrap penguins who cohabitate and raised a penguin chick together.

“At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others,” publisher Simon & Schuster says on its website. “But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo got the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.”

The book has won numerous awards, including CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children's Book Council), CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Books of the Year, Bank Street Best Books of the Year, and was also a Lambda Literary Award Finalist among others.

Other Florida school districts are also banning or restricting books with LGBTQ+ content, citing compliance with the "don't say gay" law. Popular Information noted school districts in Seminole and Manatee counties have made similar decisions regarding literary content in their classrooms and libraries.

Same-sex couples are not uncommon among penguins. Both male and female couples often go through mating rituals and attempt to hatch eggs that have been abandoned by other couples or outright stolen from other nests.

Last year, a same-sex penguin couple in the U.K., Diego and Zorro, successfully hatched a healthy little penguin chick named Ponyo at the Oceanarium in Bournemouth.

Also last year, male Humboldt penguins Elmer and Lima successfully raised a foster chick at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y.,

In 2021, famed Australian same-sex Gentoo penguin couple Sphen and Magic shared their three-year anniversary together. A spokesperson for the Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney, Australia said the zoo celebrated the anniversary of their partnered relationship with a special frozen fish cake.