Politicians continue to write children’s books. Most are pretty bad.


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 tale of the presidential rabbit is almost as good as it is its parody, published by a writer on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, describing the journey of a bunny who claims to be gay and falls in love with a bunny.

The Pence family is not alone in its political picture book activities. Political figures often venture into children’s literature, and many of their books follow a predictable pattern: stories of patriotism and hard work and a call for the reader to make the world a better place. Books aren’t known for meeting children in their world, and they can be a form of political attitude, but they can be extremely profitable. Sophie Haigney wrote some 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 about politicians 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 Cespuglio . These join the reign of a related subset of picture books that are not about politicians themselves but that straddle the strata of political stardom. The hagiographies include I do not agree: Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves her mark; Mayor Pete: The Story of Pete Buttigieg; Revolution Road: A Bernie Bedtime Story; Little People, Big Dreams: Michelle Obama Other Little People, Big Dreams: Kamala Harris; Joey: The Joe Biden Story; Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some girls were born to drive; Barack Obama: son of promise, son of hope; Journey to Freedom: Condoleezza Rice; Kamala Harris: rooted in justice; Heroes of today: Colin Powell Other Heroes of today: Ben Carson; My father: John McCain (by Meghan); The ABCs of the AOC: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from A to Z; a series consisting of Donald and fake news, Donald builds the wall! Other Donald Dries up the Swamp !; Elizabeth Warren: Yet she persisted; and, more recently, Dr. Fauci: How a boy from Brooklyn became the American doctor. Next this case: Mrs Speaker: Nancy Pelosi calls the Chamber to order Other Pinkie Promises by Elizabeth Warren.

These books are typically optimistic, didactic and unimaginative. Many of them repackage the same themes and characters; often, the authors select a certain number of historical figures to celebrate. Obama has chosen thirteen American “heroes”; Chelsea Clinton chose thirteen American women; Gillibrand chose ten suffragettes. They often rely on the repetition of certain slogans, so there’s no way to miss the point, even when the point is remarkably trite.

One might feel compelled to ask why there are so many of these books, but the main reason is obvious: money.

Sophie Haigney

Read the rest of the essay here.


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