City Press Faces National Criticism for Gay Fairy Tale





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"King and King" begins just like any other fairy tale, complete with a handsome young prince, beautiful princesses and the search for true love-until Prince Charming dumps Cinderella for another Prince Charming.

Published by Berkeley-based Ten Speed Press, the controversial children's story follows the tale of a gay prince marrying another prince after refusing several potential brides.

The book has ignited a national debate over whether children should have access to gay literature in public schools, after a first-grader in North Carolina brought the book home from her school library last month.

The parents launched a campaign to remove the book from the Freeman Elementary School library, complaining about its overtly homosexual content.

Their crusade eventually lead to the book's banning from the library's children's section. Now students must make a special request if they want to check out the book.

But Dutch children's authors Stern Nijland and Linda de Haan, who penned the book, are both straight women and don't know what all the fuss is about.

"It's just a children's book about love, and we don't understand why it's causing such a heavy response from people," Nijland said from Amsterdam, Holland in a telephone interview.

As the national furor over gay marriage and civil rights grows, "King and King," which was published in 2000, has come under increased fire,

becoming the ninth-most challenged book in the nation in 2003, according to the American Library Association.

Prince Bertie is being pressured by his aging mother to marry. But Bertie, dressed in pastel clothes and heels, is lukewarm to the idea.

"I've never cared much for princesses," Prince Bertie says.

While on the prowl for potential wives, Bertie meets Prince Lee and falls in love with him.

"Oh, what a wonderful prince," each say when they see each other.

Bertie chooses Lee over dozens of princesses, and the two are shown kissing with their lips covered by a heart on the book's last page.

"There's nothing really objectionable in this story," said Laura Mancuso, a spokesperson for Ten Speed Press. "There is no language or scenes that are objectionable to children."

And the controversy surrounding the book has also boosted sales-Ten Speed Press has run out of copies.

Nijland and de Haan plan to send a copy of "King and King" to President Bush in opposition to his proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and have since released a sequel, "King and King and Family," in 2003.

In the second adventure of Gertie and Lee, the newlyweds go on a honeymoon and adopt a child.

"King and King and Family" contains several examples of the obstacles faced by gay couples in adopting a child.

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