The Creation of Controversy : a case Study of And Tango Makes Three

Young, Craig A., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Smolkin, Laura, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
McKenna, Michael, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Grimes, Patrice, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Since the early 1980's, the number of picture books that present Queer characters and themes. has grown. Correspondingly, the number of challenges to these books has also increased. And Tango Makes Three, the true story of two male penguins who hatch and raise a chick in New York City's Central Park Zoo, is one such picture book that has received not only critical acclaim, but also more challenges than any other book in America for three years in a row (2006-2008). In this descriptive case study, I examined this picture book through multiple analyses. Additionally, I sought to understand the creative process, as well as how the creative team anticipated and initially received the controversy surrounding the book.

To achieve these goals, I interviewed four members of the creative team: the two authors, the illustrator, and the editor. Following an approach informed by Huberman and Miles (1994), I reduced the interviews through transcription and member checking before coding them for data display and drawing conclusions. Additionally, I analyzed the work And Tango Makes Three itself through multiple approaches: general textual and visual criteria analysis, descriptive analysis (following Marantz, 1992), text-picture relationship analysis (following Sipe, 1998), and an analysis identifying primary and secondary multicultural evaluative criteria, as well as Queer evaluative criteria (Day, 2000). Finally, I identified indicators of quality as noted by professional reviewers.

The results of my analyses of interviews revealed that the creation of And Tango Makes Three began as a personal endeavor of the authors. As they continued their creative process, they found an editor who was capable of bringing a talented illustrator on board and supporting the team's collaboration. The controversy surrounding the book, while expected by the authors and editor, was much greater than any member of the creative team expected.

The varied analyses of the work itself indicated that the book meets or excels in all identified general, multicultural, and Queer evaluative criteria. Yet, several Queer criteria are subsumed by the other levels of analysis, which allows readers to experience Queer books as multicultural, as opposed to problematic. Moreover, the results to this study speak to the historical inquiry, detecting bias in texts and instructional materials, cultural styles of teaching and learning, and prejudice reduction genres of multicultural research as seen by Bennett (2001). They also point to discrepancies between the criteria espoused by authors of children's literature textbooks and those noted by individuals who produce and review children's books.  

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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