This is the fourth-most challenged and/or banned book from the decade 2000-2009. Clearly, many are uncomfortable with this book because it shows that sometimes an animal may choose a mate of the same sex. I believe that parents should have the right to choose which books are inappropriate for their children, but I don’t think that any parent has the right to say which books are inappropriate for all children. I think a book like this could teach critical lessons in tolerance and celebrating diversity.
Controversy aside, this is a lovely story. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, bond with each other and try to hatch several rocks. Naturally, this fails. When another couple has one too many eggs to take care of, a zookeeper gives Roy and Silo the extra egg. They care for it until Tango, their baby, hatches. This really did happen at Central Park Zoo (in NYC). The story was co-written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson; it was illustrated by Henry Cole.
I’m slowly making my way through Elizabeth Bird’s definitive list of “100 children’s books that belong in every library (snarky annotations included)” from Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. It’s a great list and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to dive head first into kids’ lit.
This list brought to my attention two classics by McCloskey that I hadn’t read before. One is “Make Way For Ducklings.” As two duck parents try to find a duck home for their ducklings, they see (and the reader sees) Boston from a “duck’s eye view.”
Mr. Mallard has caught some heat for having something come up (abandoning Mrs. Mallard?) as soon as the eggs began hatching–although he was looking for a home for them. Like a lot of the older Caldecott winners, you may be offended but I think the book is a trailblazer. Boston now has bronze statues in honor of its most famous ducks.
I also enjoyed Time of Wonder by McCloskey. This is a very unique picture book because it’s told in the second person (“Now you even see the drops on the water…on the age-old rocky point…on the bayberry…on the grass…. Now take a breath–IT’S RAINING ON YOU!“). The reader is transported to 1950s Maine, then spends an enjoyable day at the beach before an oncoming storm starts to pick up. The second person narration really makes the storm seem immediate, although it’s such an unusual storytelling method that it does almost create a surreal effect. This was McCloskey’s second Caldecott. Yeah, it’s about rich white kids, but it’s so unique in the children’s literature cannon (for telling a story about the reader) that it’s worth looking through.