N.C. Parents Angry Over Gay Children's Book

The parents of an elementary school pupil are fuming over the book their daughter brought home from the school library: a children's story about a prince whose true love turns out to be another prince.

Michael Hartsell said he and his wife, Tonya, first became worried about "King & King" (search) when the story related how a queen told her stubbornly single son she had already been married twice at his age.

The couple, who say they read with their daughter Olivia every weeknight before bed, went from surprise to disbelief when the leading character, Prince Bertie, waves off a bevy of eligible princes before falling for Prince Lee.

The book ends with the princes marrying and sharing a kiss.

"I was flabbergasted," Hartsell said. "My child is not old enough to understand something like that, especially when it is not in our beliefs."

The 32-page book, by Dutch writers Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland, was translated and published in March 2002 by Tricycle Press, the children's division of Ten Speed Press (search) of Berkeley, Calif. A follow-up, "King & King & Family," was recently published.

The publisher's Web site lists the books as intended for readers age 6 and up.

A message left after business hours Wednesday at the company's headquarters was not immediately returned.

Barbara Hawley, librarian and media coordinator at Freeman Elementary School (search), said she ordered the book in 2002 and it has been on the library's shelves since early last year.

The Hartsells can't believe the book was ever there, let alone checked out by a first-grader. They want to make sure it doesn't happen again, and say they are keeping the book until they get assurances it won't be circulated to other pupils.

Hawley said that puts the school in a difficult position, because librarians are champions of intellectual freedom and if a book is to be removed, it will have to be discussed.

All New Hanover County schools have a committee for reviewing books after questions of appropriateness come up, and the Hartsells must make a written complaint and return the book for the committee to review, she said.

The Hartsells said they intend to file a complaint soon, and are considering transferring Olivia to another school, Tonya Hartsell said.

Hawley said she couldn't comment on the book's appropriateness because she hadn't seen it and wouldn't want to prejudice any review. She declined to say whether she knowingly selected a book on gay marriage, saying she used numerous selection guides to help choose material for the school's diverse community of students, teachers and partners.

"We have a lot of diversity in our schools," said Elizabeth Miars, Freeman's principal. "What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family is a totally acceptable thing."