Reviews Day Tuesday: And Tango Makes Three
When Bunny started nursery, we soon realised that her family wasn’t very well represented in her everyday life and certainly not in any of the books she was reading (well having read to her – she’s not a child genius!). So we decided to buy her some books that had alternative families in them.
The first was a simple rhyming book called Mommy, Mama and Me by Lesléa Newman which is a board book about the daily activities of two mums and their small child. It perfectly represents our family set-up, even the nomenclature works – I am mummy, wife is mum/mama and the activities that each parent does with the child in the story are similar to our way of doing things. It’s lovely to see our world reflected in a book that she can look at anytime and that is simple enough for her to remember the words to.
At the same time, we also bought And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell which is based on the true story of two penguins at a New York zoo.
Roy and Silo are a couple just like any other penguin couple, apart from the fact they are both boys. They spend their lives together, swimming together, bowing to one another and even set up a home together, just the same as the other penguin couples. They don’t seem to notice that they are different until all of the other couples start nesting and the mummy penguin lays an egg, something neither Roy or Silo can do. They watch the other penguins as they nurture their egg, taking turns to sit on it, until eventually it hatches into a baby penguin. They find a rock that looks like the other penguins’ eggs and mimic their behaviour, taking turns to sit on it day and night, waiting for something to happen. Luckily, their keeper notices what they are doing and is able to give them a real egg to look after, which they do. The egg hatches and they become a penguin family, just like all the other penguin families, and indeed, just like all the other animal families in the zoo, and all the other families in the city.
I really loved the story in this book and it is also beautifully illustrated which helps with any confusion that might accompany the more wordy aspect of it for a young child. The diversity message is clearly addressed but in a way that does not feel threatening or preachy; anyone can care for and love a child and create a family; being different shouldn’t exclude you from those basic animal instincts.
When we asked Bunny what she wanted to go as for her animal story character for World Book Day, she initially said she wanted to go as a hedgehog, but then changed her mind and has consistently said she wants to go as a penguin, in reference to this book. It was heartwarming to think that she has found an identity in the story without any pushing on our part. She did waver at the weekend, and return to her original plan of being a hedgehog, but I’ve already started the penguin costume and I think she is actually quite happy to go with it, after all. We have been asked to take the book they are referencing in their costume into the session, so I hope that the teachers will find the story to be as lovely and as representative as we have. I don’t know if it will be read aloud to the class, but do hope that, just for once, Bunny has a little tiny part of her life shared with her friends.
Even if you’re not gay parents, or don’t know any, I think this book is a fantastic way to gently introduce children to the concept of different and alternative family structures. With our diverse society, the classic mummy and daddy scenario is less the norm anyway and it is refreshing to read something that is more representative of this.