Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Pride! And Tango Makes Three!

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell/Illustrated by Henry Cole, (April 2005, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9780689878459

Recommended for readers 4-8

And Tango Makes Three is a classic in children’s and LGBT literature. It’s based on the true story of two penguins at the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, and the little penguin they hatched together. Roy and Silo were (are?) are pair of penguins that discovered each other in 1998; they walked together; bowed to each other, swam together, even built a nest together. But no egg was forthcoming until their keeper, a nice man named Mr. Gramzay, put a fertile egg in their nest. The two penguins cared for the egg until it hatched, and Mr. Gramzay named him Tango, because “it takes two to make a Tango”. Could you squeal from the adorableness? So Tango made three; a happy little penguin family.

This sweet story about family caused an uproar you wouldn’t believe, because – GASP – two male penguins were depicted in a loving relationship AND as parents! Could you even? (It’s like… adoption never existed, amirite?) Poor little Tango and his dads made a lot of people nervous, and as a result, And Tango Makes Three has topped¬†the 10 Most Challenged Books List between 2006 and 2010, and still gets people riled up 13 years later. That said, And Tango Makes Three also¬†received a lot of awards, including designation as an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book (2006); the ASPCA’s Henry Bergh Award (2005); The Gustavus Myer Outstanding Book Award (2006); Nick Jr. Family Magazine’s Best Book of the Year (2006); Bank Street College’s Best Book of the Year (2006); the Cooperative Children’s Book Council choice, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book (2006); and it was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (2006). Not too shabby!

And Tango Makes Three is a story about love, family, and community. No one at the zoo gives a second thought to Roy and Silo’s relationship, and seriously, do you think kids who come to see the animals do? It’s a story of family and how, for one couple, a baby made them complete. Henry Cole captures the spirit of New York’s Central Park with his soft watercolors, and make Roy and Silo come to life with expressive facial and body expressions. If this isn’t on your shelves or in your storytimes – Father’s Day is coming! – please add it. And hug your dad(s).

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine: Animal Adventure!

sammy shineThe Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine, by Henry Cole (Apr. 2016, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9781561458660

Recommended for ages 8-12

A young boy’s brother launches his pet mouse off in a homemade airplane, and starts the little mouse off on the adventure of a lifetime! Sammy, the mouse, lands in a field and discovers that life outside of his friend Hank’s room is very, very different. Thankfully, he meets a wonderful group of animal friends that help him in his quest to get back home, but he has to steer clear of the awful weasel, Mustela, who wants Sammy’s plane for himself!

This was another of my PLA goodies, and I’m so glad I listened to the rep and took an ARC. I love Henry Cole’s writing and illustration, and when she told me that this book was inspired by a childhood experience: Henry Cole did have a pet mouse named Sammy Shine, and his brother did launch Sammy off in a plane; this book is what Henry likes to think Sammy went on to do after that flight. What tribute to a pet is sweeter than that?

Illustrated with Cole’s beautiful black and white drawings, we get an animal adventure up there with The Rescuers, Stuart Little, and The Great Mouse Detective. The characters are sweet, even when they’re cantankerous (I always had a soft spot for Templeton in Charlotte’s Web), and the exciting sense of adventure leaps off the page, extends its hand to the reader, and invites you in to join the fun. Intermediate readers will adore Sammy, and middle graders will come back to Sammy to enjoy one more mission. I hope Mr. Cole dreams up more missions for Sammy and Co.; I’d hate to think that the adventure only lasted for one brief moment.

Get this one on your shelves for summer reading, and booktalk it with old favorites like The Rescuers, and new classics like The Tale of Desperaux, The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, and The Warriors series.

Henry Cole is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books. Among his more recent titles are Big Bug and Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad. He has illustrated such ground-breaking titles as And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, I Know a Wee Piggy by Kimberly E. Norman, and The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein. His author website includes information about all of his books and school visits, and games.