A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
|Author||Marlon Bundo with Jill Twiss|
|Audio read by||Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer, RuPaul|
|Cover artist||EG Keller|
|Publisher||Chronicle Books (Book), Partially Important Productions (Audiobook)|
|March 18, 2018|
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (commonly known as A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo) is a 2018 children's book written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller (pseudonym of Gerald Kelley). The book is about a fictional day in the life of Marlon Bundo, the real-life pet rabbit of Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence and details the same-sex romance between Marlon Bundo and another rabbit named Wesley.
The book and its LGBT-inclusive theme was written by Jill Twiss (with Marlon Bundo credited as co-writer), who is a comedy writer for the television show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, aiming to deride Vice President Pence over his controversial anti-LGBT views, such as his alleged support for conversion therapy of gay adolescents and opposition to same-sex marriage. It was released on March 18, 2018, one day before the release of Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President, another children's book featuring Marlon Bundo made by members of Pence's family, and of which A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is also a loose parody. The audiobook version features Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer, and RuPaul. Freelance children's book editor Alli Brydon acted as consultant and editor, and the book was designed by Andrea Miller.
On the day of release, John Oliver promoted the book on Last Week Tonight at the conclusion of an episode mainly dedicated to Pence and his positions on LGBT issues; it became a bestseller and the No. 1 book and e-book on Amazon the following day, receiving notable praise and selling much better than the crew of Last Week Tonight had expected. All profits from the book are being donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United.
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo was conceptualized as a loose parody of Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a children's book written by Mike Pence's daughter Charlotte Pence and illustrated by his wife Karen Pence. Their book also tells about a fictionalized day of the Pence family's pet rabbit, but without the LGBT themes of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. Writer Jill Twiss stated she got interested in Bundo due to his name, and once she learned about the upcoming book, "we thought we could use the opportunity to support some really great charities while also hopefully putting out an inclusive, loving children’s book in the process.” Helped by input from the whole writing staff of Last Week Tonight, Twiss' work was done in a few months, faster than the normal picture book process.
On March 18, 2018, the publication of both books was used as a comedy piece on Last Week Tonight to raise awareness of Mike Pence's stated anti-LGBT attitudes. John Oliver stated that Pence's pet rabbit was the one thing he liked about Pence, and that because of this, he had taken issue with the real-life Marlon Bundo having to make a stop at the anti-LGBT organization Focus on the Family during an upcoming promotional book tour with the Pences. With the Pences' book scheduled to appear on March 19, John Oliver announced the publication of a "better Bundo book" at that very moment (so preceding the Pences' book).
According to the publisher, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is an actual children's story "about marriage equality and democracy", rather than a "straight-up" parody of the Pences' book. Twiss added that she hoped the book would resonate with children "feeling out of place or having a family that looks different than that of their friends". It nevertheless contains some stabs at Mike Pence, with the Marlon Bundo character claiming that Pence "isn't very fun" and a stink bug character sporting a white hairdo looking like Pence's.
John Oliver acquired two domain names to promote A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. According to Oliver, the domain betterbundobook.com contrasts the book with the Pence-family-written Bundo book and focusonthefurmily.com satirizes the anti-LGBT organization Focus on the Family.
In the March 18 broadcast, Oliver said that aside from sending an inclusive message, he was hoping to annoy Pence over the competition for his family's book and the fact that Last Week Tonight is donating all proceeds of its book to LGBT-friendly organizations (The Trevor Project and AIDS United).
Marlon Bundo, a black-and-white rabbit sporting a colorful bow tie, lives in the home of "Grampa", vice president Mike Pence. Marlon is lonely, but one morning after breakfast, he meets Wesley, a bespectacled brown rabbit. They spend the day together, hopping around in the garden and the house. They decide to get married, because they never want to hop without each other again.
Marlon and Wesley tell their animal friends, who respond enthusiastically. But the stink bug, who is “In Charge and Important” (and bears a striking resemblance to Mike Pence, with white hair and a suit and tie), yells at them that boy rabbits can only marry girl rabbits. He calls them different, and says that different is bad. The other animals speak up and tell him how each of them is different in their own way. They decide to vote on who is In Charge and Important, and the stink bug is voted out. Marlon and Wesley have their wedding, with their friends in attendance. They go to sleep in anticipation of their "bunnymoon".
One day after its release, the book overtook James Comey's book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership to become the No. 1 book on Amazon. It also topped the e-book sales, thus making the two versions of the book No. 1 and No. 2 on overall Amazon book sales, with the printed edition selling the most of the two. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo sold much better than the Pence book it was a parody of, which was ranked eleventh in book sales on Amazon on its first day, climbing to No. 4 later in the week. In the first two days, 180,000 copies were sold. Last Week Tonight had not anticipated a large demand and the printed version sold out after two days. While it was being reprinted, it remained possible to order the book on Amazon and it continued to be available as an ebook version for Amazon Kindle and its variant platforms. As of March 20[update], the audiobook version with voice acting from Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer and RuPaul was No. 1 on Audible. The book's distributor reported to have 150,000 books on back order three days before it was scheduled to be available in stores, on March 23. On March 28, publisher Chronicle Books reported to have over 400,000 copies in print.
Independent booksellers expressed disappointment with Chronicle Books for its handling of the book's launch, making it available via Amazon prior to supplying other retailers.
The publication sparked large numbers of reviews and comments on Amazon. These were overwhelmingly positive, though only about a third of the reviews were left by actual buyers of the book. On its launch date, a number of one star reviews with negative comments were left on the page of the Pences’ book by non-buyers who favored the Twiss book, while Pence fans counteracted with five-star reviews. Later that day, it was no longer possible to review the Pences' book without purchasing it and one star ratings from non-buyers had been removed.
In a segment on the book on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen DeGeneres praised it and presented John Oliver with a $10,000 check from HBO for The Trevor Project, calling on her viewers to buy the book in support of the project. Will & Grace creator Max Mutchnik donated a copy of the book to every elementary school in Indiana, saying he wanted to counter Pence's "message of intolerance" about gay people, hoping to "provide positive role models and a story of inclusion for children in Pence’s home state".
Reaction from Charlotte Pence and Regnery Publishing
Charlotte Pence, Mike Pence's daughter and the author of Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President, supported A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. She posted on Twitter a picture of herself and the real-life Marlon Bundo wearing a bow tie identical to the one in Jill Twiss' book and said in a television interview: "His book is contributing to charities that I think we can all get behind... I'm all for it." The official Instagram of Marlon Bundo also spoke of Twiss' book in a positive light, stating "Not gonna lie, I do look pretty fly in a bow tie. The only thing better than one bunny book for charity is...TWO bunny books for charity." The proceeds from the Pences' book were also given to charities, namely The A21 Campaign which works to fight human trafficking  and Tracy's Kids, an art therapy program for hospitalized children.
Regnery Publishing, the conservative book publisher who published the Pence book, initially criticized the release of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, saying that it was "unfortunate that anyone would feel the need to ridicule an educational children's book and turn it into something controversial and partisan". When the success of both books became apparent, Regnery congratulated John Oliver and Chronicle Books with their sales figures, stating: "There's plenty to go around for everyone and, like Charlotte [Pence] said, we can all be happy the proceeds are going to a good cause."
Common Sense Media gave the book a four star rating and considers it appropriate for children of four years and older, giving it its highest marks for "positive messages" and "positive role models and representations". Susie Wilde of The News & Observer noted that Twiss "understands how to tell a simple story with comic touches and pacing, creating a parody that children might actually enjoy", while Keller's "details are playful and give a strong sense of motion, which works well for the two rabbit heroes who never want to hop without each other." Katy Waldman in The New Yorker called the book "full of the attentive details and poetic grace notes that distinguish good children’s books", while noting its "subtextual treats for adults". Kirkus Reviews remained unconvinced of the book's value for children, calling it "yet another tiresome political picture book that’s nominally for children but really winks at other adults over their heads" and giving it a "skip it" rating. However, The Globe and Mail's Anna Fitzpatrick wrote that "while an unabashed political parody, it also stands on its own as a children's book".
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