My garden is a soft blanket of snow. It had been snowing all day yesterday and all night too. As I snuggled down to sleep last night, I thought of Pingu.
Remember Pingu? He’s that claymation anthropomorphic penguin who lives in the South Pole with his family. He has a sister named Pinga and his BFF is a seal named Robby. Pingu and Pinga have two parents—father and mother Penguin. Along with this cast is Grandfather who plays the accordion and was once a professional weight lifter.
The Pingu family is a normalised family as you can see from the cast. They were created by German animation film maker Otmar Gutmann in the late 90s and early 2000s, and produced for Swiss television and later British television. The transition from Switzerland to Great Britain was a smooth one. There was nothing to translate because Pingu speaks in sounds, in an invented grammelot known as Penguinese. Pingu babbles, mutters, and honks “Noot Noot”. Osvaldo Cavandoli provided the voice over.
Pingu made me think of Tango, the penguin chick born in a zoo in America. Central Park Zoo had a problem: two male penguins were stealing eggs. They were a couple and their names are Roy and Silo. So, their zoo keeper gave them an egg and the penguins took turns incubating this little egg who hatched into Tango, a female chick. Here is my review of AND TANGO MAKES THREE. I explain why I love this book, why it needs to be celebrated, and what this picturebook means to me.
How to Create Untoward Attention
I managed to collect this book only in London. This (in)famous picturebook was banned in Singapore and hence, I couldn’t get hold of one when I was living there. Tango first attracted attention when an ultra-conservative person discovered the picturebook in the children’s section at one of Singapore’s state libraries. This person was affronted by the content of the book. Complaints were registered and the Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Information (a woman at that time) decides to pulp the book. It was because “the content was against the city-state’s family values.” Do you see the irony?
This is what happens when people view the world through a myopic lens.
Anything on what the minister of information had said in regard to the pulping could not be found when I googled. But I found this article with comments by two veteran Singaporean authors on why Tango should remain shelved at the state libraries. The tone of the statements quoted was not of anger but of reason. And that is important because only parents and paternalistic mininsters can get angry. The rest of the (child) citizenry can only voice their unhappiness as anger is a pill that is too bitter to swallow even for many adults.
But here’s a blog post I managed to find. The tone is relatively different. There is a tempered inflection, a hint of displeasure laced with anger.
How to Keep the Love of Any Picturebook Strong
A friend who adopted three children brought the book over and we all had a good read of it. There was nothing malignant or inappropriate about Tango. In fact it was a book that celebrated families—all sorts.
Blended families, LGBTQ families, Families who support other families brought their own copies of Tango with them and gathered outside the main branch of the National Library to read the picturebook with their children. It was a quiet but powerful protest. There was no state law that could disband these families because these were families doing the right thing–reading to their children outside the library building. It was the appropriate thing to do and done so by the book.
There is nothing more malignant than to normalise the two-parent-two-children (preferably one boy, one girl) family set up. Love is love and families are families.
Valentine’s Day is for Everyone
So, for Valentine’s Day this year (2021), I am asking that we don’t forget the baby chick born to two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo. Her name is Tango. She has two fathers and they are Roy and Silo.
Here are other books celebrating all sorts of families:
Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson.
Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson.
Two Grooms on a Cake by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Robbie Cathro.
Making a Baby by Rachel Greener, illustrated by Clare Owen.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer.