WILMINGTON, N.C. The parents of a first-grader are fuming over a 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, couldn't believe it when Prince Bertie, the leading character in King & King, 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 Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland was published in March 2002 by Tricycle Press, the children's division of Ten Speed Press 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.
"This book was reviewed by the most reputable children's book reviewers in the country," publisher Nicole Geiger said. "Not one of them said it was inappropriate for children or should not have been published.
"There are many kinds of families in this country, and the children in these families and their friends deserve to see their situations in a positive light."
Barbara Hawley, librarian and media coordinator at Freeman Elementary School, said the book had been on the library's shelves since early last year.
"What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family is a totally acceptable thing," said Elizabeth Miars, Freeman's principal.
Hawley said she couldn't comment on the book because she hadn't seen it. She declined to say whether she knowingly selected a book on gay marriage.
The Hartsells said they are keeping the book until they get assurances it won't be circulated. But Hawley said all county schools have a committee that reviews books after their appropriateness is questioned, and the Hartsells must make a written complaint and return the book for review.
The Hartsells said they intend to file such a complaint and are considering transferring their daughter.