Several years ago, Charlotte and Karen Pence worked together on Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a picture book of a bunny in the White House. The tale of the presidential rabbit is almost as good as its parody, published by a writer from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, which describes a bunny's journey coming out as gay and falling in love with a boy bunny.
The Pence family is not alone in their political picture book pursuits. Political figures frequently venture into children's literature, and many of their books follow a predictable pattern: stories of patriotism and hard work and an invitation for the reader to make the world a better place. The books aren't known to meet children in their own world, and they may be a form of political posturing, but they can be hugely lucrative. Sophie Haigney wrote about the odd 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, or politics-adjacent, figures. 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 are not by politicians themselves but that ride the coattails of political celebrity. The hagiographies include I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark; Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg; Revolution Road: A Bernie Bedtime Story; Little People, Big Dreams: Michelle Obama and Little People, Big Dreams: Kamala Harris; Joey: The Story of Joe Biden; 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 Heroes: Colin Powell and Today's Heroes: Ben Carson; My Dad: John McCain (by Meghan); The ABCs of AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z; a series comprised of Donald and the Fake News, Donald Builds the Wall! and Donald Drains the Swamp!; Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless She Persisted; and, most recently, Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America's Doctor. Forthcoming this fall: Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi Calls the House to Order and Pinkie Promises by Elizabeth Warren.
These books are typically upbeat, didactic, and unimaginative. Many of them repackage the same themes and characters; frequently, authors select a set number of historical figures to celebrate. Obama picked thirteen American "heroes;" Chelsea Clinton picked thirteen American women; Gillibrand picked ten suffragists. They often rely on the repetition of certain catchphrases, so there is no way to miss the point, even when the point is remarkably banal.
One might feel compelled to ask why so many of these books exist, but the main reason is obvious: money.Sophie Haigney