And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole.
Little Simon, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015, orig. pub. 2005.
Picture book converted to board book format, 32 pages.
The true story of two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a family, and their adopted daughter Tango.
This is a picture book converted to a board book. Such conversions are always tricky. Some cut valuable information and lose the meaning of the story or the grace of the illustrations. Others simply shrink down the size of the book and create a hybrid that might not work for either the original picture book audience or the babies and toddlers that typically use board books.
Sadly, this book falls more on the latter side. We have not read the original picture book (I’ll write another review for it if we do), but there don’t appear to have been any changes when the format changed.
The illustrations come in two styles. Some are large two page spreads with a single image, while the rest have multiple vignettes. In general, the large spreads worked much better in this format, with the exception of a few pages that had short snippets of text with each of the smaller illustrations.
Most of the pages had more than a paragraph of text. Since the pages are shrunk to fit the board book size, the text is teeny and difficult to read aloud. It’s still possible with one or two children, but wouldn’t be easy with more,so this doesn’t work for the usual board book audience. Most older kids would rather have a larger picture book and most young children would not be able to sit and listen through the amount of text on these pages.
The writing was fine although I felt it could have been condensed, particularly for this board book version. There is definitely a narrative arc and also some basic info about how penguins nest and hatch. Children who have been adopted or fostered might have some questions about Tango’s birth family, so I’d suggest pre-reading if your family fits one of those categories. Tango’s birth parents are named in the author’s note, which also talks about how some penguin couples lay two eggs but can only care for one.
The illustrations themselves are nicely done. While most of the scenes are of penguins and the main human character zookeeper Mr. Gramzay is white, I appreciated that the crowd scenes included a wider variety. Even if they don’t have the attention span for the entire book, the penguins are pretty entertaining for a few pages at a time.
While the format doesn’t work here, this is still a welcome addition to our collection. To date (writing in December 2018) I’ve found a mere five board books that are LGBT-ish. Even if you include “family” compilation books that show a same-sex couple in passing, there are still less than ten. Most families will probably be better served by getting the picture book version of this title, but I’m still glad that the board book was produced.