We received this book as a gift from an aunt with the handwritten inscription “May you always know love and may you always be free to love who you love”.
I had never heard of it before, it looked like a nice story about penguins, but as the story developed I started to suspect there may be more to it. By the end I was struggling to read aloud as my eyes welled with joyful tears that someone has created such a beautiful, simplistic and natural book about this subject. And then, in the author’s note, you discover it’s a true story. The truth really is more perfect than fiction.
It begins by introducing us to Central Park and casting it as a place for all the families in New York to visit. All the different types of families can be seen doing different activities. We start to home in on the Central Park Zoo and the different types of animal families represented within. Chief among these are the penguins, and the penguins have reached a certain time of the year.
Every year at the same time, the girl penguins start noticing the boy penguins. And the boy penguins start noticing the girls.
I guess I’m not very perceptive because I hadn’t picked up on any of the clues by this point and, at this stage, was starting to wonder where the story was going and was I about to educate my 3 year old on the Penguin version of the Birds and the Bees?!
On the next page we meet the delightfully illustrated Roy and Silo.
Roy and Silo were both boys.
The penny dropped.
We learn that Roy and Silo love to do everything together and have very little interest in the girl penguins.
But one day Roy and Silo saw that the other couples could do something they could not.
My heart sank.
We observe a perplexed Roy and Silo watch from the sidelines as the other penguin couples hatch their eggs and nurture their baby penguins.
Not to be outdone, what follows is a great sequence of Roy and Silo finding and nurturing a rock, but to no avail. Finally the zookeeper swaps their rock for a real egg and they continue to split their domestic responsibilities of sitting and hunting until finally the egg hatches and we meet Tango.
Tango was the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies.
The subject is dealt with in such a natural and heart warming way. It’s neither preaching nor trying to convince anyone. The emphasis is on familial love and similarities as opposed to differences. Roy and Silo go through the same emotions and parental strife as every other penguin couple in that zoo.
It was the final paragraph in particular that struck me as the greatest message.
There they snuggled together (Roy and Silo and Tango) and, like all the other penguins in the penguin house, and all the other animals in the zoo, and all the families in the big city around them, they went to sleep.
I can’t say it any clearer than that so, from penguins to people, I hope that we all know love and that we are all free to love whomever we love.