Several years ago, Charlotte and Karen Pence worked together on A day in the life of Marlon Bundo’s vice-president, a picture book of a rabbit in the White House. The story of the Presidential Bunny is almost as good as its parody, published by a writer from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which describes the journey of a bunny who comes out gay and falls in love with a bunny boy.
The Pence family are not alone in their quest for political picture books. Politicians frequently venture into children’s literature, and many of their books follow a predictable pattern: stories of patriotism and hard work and an invitation to the reader to make the world a better place. Books aren’t known to meet kids in their own world, and they can be a form of political posture, but they can be hugely lucrative. Sophie Haigney wrote about the weird genre in The Drift Magazine:
The project [She Persisted books] is a blockbuster in a genre that has become increasingly popular over the past decade: children’s books by political figures or close to politics. Recent examples have been written by Kamala Harris, her niece Meena Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Charlotte and Karen Pence, Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Sonia Sotomayor, Callista Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. These join the realm of a related subset of picture books that aren’t written by politicians themselves, but straddle the tails of political celebrity. Hagiographies include I disagree : Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes her mark; Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg; Revolution Road: A Bernie Bedtime Story; Small people, big dreams: Michelle Obama and Small people, big dreams: Kamala Harris; Joey: The Joe Biden Story; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born To Lead; Barack Obama: son of promise, child of hope; Journey to Freedom: Condoleezza Rice; Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice; Today’s Hero: Colin Powell and Today’s Hero: Ben Carson; My father: John McCain (by Meghan); The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z; a series composed of Donald and the fake news, Donald is building the wall! and Donald drains the swamp! ; Elizabeth Warren: Nonetheless, she persisted; and, more recently, Dr. Fauci: How a boy from Brooklyn became America’s doctor. Coming this fall: Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi calls the House to order and Pinkie Promises by Elizabeth Warren.
These books are generally upbeat, didactic, and unimaginative. Many of them repackage the same themes and characters; frequently, the authors select a number of historical figures to celebrate. Obama chose thirteen American “heroes”; Chelsea Clinton chose thirteen American women; Gillibrand chose ten suffragettes. They often rely on repeating certain slogans, so there’s no way to miss the point, even when the point is remarkably mundane.
One might feel compelled to ask why so many of these books exist, but the main reason is obvious: the money.
Read the rest of the essay here.