I am hardly the first and I won’t be the last person to read a book purely because it was banned. In fact, it’s a bit of a tradition for Banned Book Week: go out and read a banned book. I decided for a couple of reasons to go straight to the top of the banned books: here’s a book that’s the most contested, most banned book in the entire United States for four out of the last five years. (It was knocked down to second most banned book in 2009, but it rebounded back up to first place in 2010.)
This book has owned the American Library Association’s banned book list every year since its publication. Wow.
And then there’s the other reason why I picked this book. It is, in no particular order: nonfiction, a picture book, intended for a kindergarten audience, and about penguins.
“Um…,” I hear you say. “Why exactly was it banned?”
Perhaps you ask tentatively because, well, the mind kind of boggles at the potential horrors that are being done to and with penguins.
They are… nesting and raising babies. This is the kind of thing that penguins do. In fact, most species do. They find themselves a mate, they make for themselves a nest, and they have babies, generally rather cute babies.
“Um…,” you say again. “So why…?”
Well, the book focuses on a specific penguin couple and their specific little baby penguin at New York City’s Central Park Zoo. The two adult penguins are both male. The egg they hatch was given to them by one of the zoo-keepers. (Noted in the author’s note at the back, the egg came from the nest of one of the other penguin couples who had a bad habit of abandoning the second of their two eggs.)
The story is about this couple of male penguins who put together a nest, and raise a baby penguin.
So the fact that this book is so often banned is rather appalling for at least three different reasons: