This is the first and probably the only children’s book we will review on this site. It has a very interesting origin story. It is the story of Marlon Bundo, an actual bunny who lives with the Vice President of the United States. This particular Vice President takes his title too seriously, believing that his job is to stamp out vice, especially the horrible vice of people being gay. He has devoted much of his life and energy in politics to this holy (in his mind) cause.
There are two books about Marlon Bundo, both released within days of each other. I am only reviewing the one released first, not the the one written by Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte and illustrated by his wife Karen. That one is titled Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President, and focuses more on the VP than the bunny.
While I believe that Mike Pence is a truly horrible person, I don’t know that I can say the same about his daughter Charlotte. I’ll explain more of why a bit later. As a writer, though, her attempt at anapestic trimeter is not particularly successful. The New Yorker described it as embarassing. It seems to be more of a self-promotional puff piece than an actual attempt at children’s literature.
Karen is an adequate illustrator. Her illustrations in the book have been described as “demure, muted watercolors.”
The proceeds go to a group for art therapy (I am good with that) and an anti-human trafficking group called A21. It is hard to argue against A21’s goal of eliminating slavery everywhere, even though Chief of Staff John Kelly stated “”I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man. He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.” There was a compromise that fell apart that would have allowed for slavery to continue. Is that what Kelly is supporting? Enslaving others was a personal choice of conscience?
Robert E. Lee was responsible for the deaths of thousands of patriotic American citizens. Although his reputation has been improved through historical revisionism by racists. In reality, he was the slave master of nightmares. He ignored the traditional respect for slave families, breaking up every single one under his control. This caused more harm than his legendary and extreme brutality towards slaves. Lee was a monster and a traitor to the United States, and in no way an honorable man.
The president himself seems unclear about the Civil War, saying “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” There is actually no question as States made it clear in their declarations- the war was about their desire to maintain the system of slavery. There is no compromise possible on slavery.
According to the Ted Sherwood Charity Review of A21, their accounting is not particularly transparent (they do not reveal how they spend their money or make it clear how much actually goes to their primary activities), and they have not listed their actual accomplishments. I would not personally donate money to them just based on this report, but it is their views that are a deal breaker. The believe that pornography has lead to the increase in human trafficking, especially the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. They seem to see no difference between adult and child pornography, and or between illegal pornography and legal pornography. They are a Christian organization founded by an evangelist that sees sexuality through the anti-sex prism of conservative Christianity. They promote the usual bullshit about pornography addiction (comparing it to heroin) and how adult softcore pornography acts as a “gateway drug” leading eventually to child molestation. Founder Christine Caine wrote: “Pornography is poison. It peddles three toxic lies: Sex is cheap. Sex has no consequences. Sex requires no covenant. If our society continues to buy and believe these lies, then we can expect a slow, painful demise. It’s not too late, however. But we must wake up and take a stand.” I don’t know what A21 actually accomplishes, but I do not want my money going to go to anti-sex crackpots.
The publisher is Regnery Children. This is an imprint of the extremely conservative book publisher Regnery, best know for poorly researched and often outright fraudulent hit pieces on Democrats and progressive ideas. The company was founded by William Regnery II using his immense inherited wealth. He is a noted racist and homophobe. He is a racial separatist who would love to create an ethnostate with no people of color allowed (even most Jews would not be acceptable.) I would never want a penny of my money to go to this reprehensible publisher.
Anyway, back to bunnies. Skip the bunny book from the Pences. There is a much better alternative, and it comes from the good people (emphasis on good) at HBO’s Last Week Tonight. It is titled A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. It was not written by John Oliver, as some have reported, by by staff writer Jill Twiss. The illustrations are by EG Keller.
The proceeds go to two charities I do heartily endorse. The Trevor Project works to prevent LGBTQ suicide and does a lot of important work, literally saving the lives of LGBTQ youth. They are an important organization and they get a four star rating from Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator is my go to for checking out charities. They were unable to review A21 as they did not have enough documentation. Money also goes to AIDS United, which works to end AIDS in the United States and also gets a four star rating from Charity Navigator.
I bought a copy of the book to read on my Fire tablet. The illustrations are charming and fun- actually even better than I imagined considering the relatively short turn around time to get this book to market.) You want to hang out with this bunny a lot more than the one on the other book cover. Spoiler alert- this bunny turns out to be gay, and falls in love with another male bunny. All of the animals are supportive, with the exception of the Stink Bug, who sports Mike Pence white hair and a similar attitude about gay people. I don’t want to ruin the plot, which is admittedly very simple, but it does have a happy ending. Well, not for the Stink Bug. It focuses on love, acceptance, and civic responsibility.
What is most surprising is that this quickly produced response to the Pence book actually is good children’s literature. It is delightfully written, funny, and tells a good story. It deserves its best selling status and high positive ratings.
I also paid under $2 to add the Audible version, money very well spent. Jim Parsons is outstanding as the main narrator, Marlon Bundo. John Lithgow makes a memorable turn as the Stink Bug. Also in the voice cast are Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, Jack McBrayer, and RuPaul. Has any read aloud book for children had a greater voice cast?