Itâ€™s yet another example of life imitating art, or at least humans imitating animals.
Ever since â€œAnd Tango Makes Three,â€ a childrenâ€™s book detailing the story of two male penguins and the baby chick they hatched, has been published, in 2005, more people have requested the bookâ€™s removal each year from schools and libraries than any other book in the United States, according to the American Library Association.
Now the authors of the book, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, have their own baby Tango. In February, the gay couple, who live in the West Village, had their first child. The baby, Gemma Parnell-Richardson, was born to a surrogate mother, the egg fertilized by sperm from one of the men. (Which one was left to chance.)
The two men first learned of the story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo, who hatched an egg together, through an article in The New York Times in 2004.
The penguins, who had had a six-year intimate relationship by then, tried to hatch a rock in their nest. A zookeeper took pity on them and gave them a fertile egg from another penguin couple that had problems tending to two eggs. The same-sex couple sat on the egg, which hatched, and the baby penguin was named Tango, since it â€œtakes two.â€
The authors were trying to have a child when they read the Times article. â€œWhen we heard about the penguins going and getting a rock, we completely understood that urge to have a child,â€ said Mr. Richardson, 46, a psychiatrist. The two were set up on a blind date in 1994 by a mutual friend, the playwright Wendy Wasserstein, and started thinking of raising a family together in 2003.
Peter Parnell, left, and Justin Richardson, right, with their new baby daughter, Gemma Parnell-Richardson. The two are the authors of Leora Kahn Peter Parnell, left, and Justin Richardson with their new baby daughter, Gemma Parnell-Richardson. The two are the authors of â€œAnd Tango Makes Three,â€ a childrenâ€™s book about male penguins in Central Park who hatch an egg together. It is the most challenged book in the United States.
â€œI read it aloud to Peter,â€ Mr. Richardson said. â€œIt was reading it aloud that made it sound like a childrenâ€™s story. This is a way to talk about this kind of family that will work at the level of a picture book and not a didactic â€˜itâ€™s O.K. to be differentâ€™ story. Itâ€™s a story that kids actually read. When the chick pops out, they say, â€˜Yay.â€™ â€
So Mr. Richardson and Mr. Parnell, 54, a playwright, sent out a book proposal through their agent. The book was published by Simon & Schuster, but the family was still a work in progress. They started in-vitro fertilization in 2006, but it took a few years to work.