Controversial Children's Story About Penguins Tops List of Most Challenged Books
The first book challenged at Troy Library in five years, it is tops on list of 10 most challenged books, released during Banned Books Week.
Philip Kwik said less than a dozen books at the Troy Public Library have been challeged by patrons to be removed from the shelves during the 14 years he's worked at the building.
"We get complaints on occasion," Kwik, assistant library director, said Thursday. "We treat it seriously when people make a complaint. We look into it."
Earlier this month, the library received its first challenge to a book in nearly five years.
"This book is located in the children area," a library patron wrote on a request to have the book And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, removed from the library's collection. "I was starting to read this book to my 6-years [sic] and we were offended. Should be in a special area for sensitive themes."
The book is based on a true story about events that actually occurred with two penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. It tells the story of two male penguins which hatch an abandoned egg and parent the chick together.
It has received starred reviews in all of the major library journals, as well as several awards, including the American Library Association's Notable Children's Book; the Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of the Year; and the Gustavus Myer Outstanding Book Award in 2006.
The book also has the distinction of topping the American Library Association's most challenged books of 2010, as well as the four previous years based on complaints that it promotes homosexuality and is unsuitable for its age group. The year's list was release this week in honor of National Banned Book Week.
The annual event has been held since 1982 during the last week of September to remind Americans "not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted," according to the American Library Association.
"'Roy and Silo didn't spend much time with the girl penguins. They wound their necks around each other. They must be in love.'" the patron quoted from the book in her complaint. "This is just part of the book.
"(It) should be removed out of reach of children, maybe in gay couples area."
Cathy Russ, director of the library, said the challenge is the first of its kind in nearly five years. She said this particular challenge came in after a complaint was made through the library's online chat feature hosted on the library's webpage.
"We have had concernes about materials, but we usually try to answer questions," Russ said.
Russ said libraries often receive complaints about new teen books, as many of the new books being written deal with actual experiences that teens may be coping with, such as bullying, drug use or other teen and adult themes.
"That's why we advocate for parents to be aware of what their kids are reading," Russ said.
Russ, who said the book will remain on the shelf, responded to the request with with a letter to the patron.
"Books are selected to provide for the needs and interests, both immediate and future, of all Troy residents," Russ wrote in the letter. "In selecting material for the library, the professional staff consults a wide range of reviewing media and journals. The librarians recognize that the responsibility for the selection of those books requires sensitivity to the community and unbiased critical evaluation."
Here is the list, courtesy of the American Library Association:
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson (Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group and violence)
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley (Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism and sexually explicit)
- Crank, by Ellen Hopkins (Reasons: drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit)
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group and violence)
- Lush, by Natasha Friend (Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group)
- What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones (Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group)
- Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich (Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint and religious viewpoint)
- Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie (Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit)
- Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence)