“A Day in the Life of the Vice President” by Charlotte Pence and illustrated by Karen Pence is a welcome relief. It used to be people could view a movie, TV show, or sports event without having to deal with the political issue of the day. Readers will find this as an escape book for adults and an educational book for children of all ages. Below is an interview with the Pences.
“I have always been a fan of children’s books and writing for children has been a passion of mine,” said Charlotte, daughter of Vice President Mike Pence. “I brainstormed with my mom and we decided the first book should be on the role of the VP. My vision was to make an educational book on the duties of the vice president. We even put in a resource section in the back listing what is done.”
The duties are emphasized through a rabbit’s eyes, the second family’s pet, Marlon Bundo. It is apropos that this book comes out just before the Easter holiday. After all, the Easter Bunny is a folkloric figure and symbol. Charlotte explains how Marlon became a national celebrity like previous hares Bugs Bunny and Peter Rabbit to name a few.
“When we moved out to D.C., we brought him, the first bunny ever to ride on Air Force Two,” she said. “As we were bringing him off that plane, I think that’s when a lot of media saw that we had a bunny, and that became a big story, especially after people found out his name. There was such a level of excitement.” (People should be aware that the liberal TV talk show host, John Oliver has hijacked this book. He stole the name of the rabbit and published his own book. The rabbit on his cover has a bow tie. Please do not confuse it with the Pences’ book.)
How did the name come about? Charlotte needed a bunny for a short movie she was making while a film student at DePaul University.
“I ended up going on Craig’s list,” she said. “The owner told me to make him an offer. It became a ‘Godfather’ joke with my friend who suggested we name him Marlon Brando. I thought we had to put the pun in there, so I named him Marlon Bundo.”
The second lady, Mrs. Pence, told of how the press was enamored with Marlon. “Marlon has become very popular. He now has 17,000 followers on Instagram. He brings people together from all different viewpoints. Because Marlon became a sensation, we decided to use him to explain the vice president’s duties. We never had an agenda.”
She also explained that the Pences had rabbits as pets throughout the years. “We had rabbits even before we had children. They are easy pets to have and can even be potty trained. They are very tame. Maybe we will be able to expand the bunny population as pets in this country. Marlon is friendly and lives with us in the observatory, where the second family resides. He is cuddly and will follow you around like a dog when out of his cage.”
What can people learn from Marlon about the vice president’s duties? A few lines in the book, “But, the most important meeting is first. That’s the one with the president!” Mrs. Pence told of how Mike Pence and “the president have a very close working relationship. Besides having meetings, they speak on the phone once or twice a day. He goes down to the Oval Office frequently. The office of the VP is shaped by the president, and changes over the course of a term, including what should be the focus of the vice president’s attention.”
Readers will discover that VP Pence has three offices. According to Mrs. Pence, “The one in the Oval Office is where he does his work. The one in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building is ceremonial. He uses it for receptions and might meet with people because there is a large conference room. He also has a small office in the Senate. But he is not there frequently because he only comes over when there is a need for a tie-breaking vote. I think there have been nine, close to the record of 13.”
Everyone knows a lot about the president’s residence, but in this book, they can learn about the vice president’s home at the Naval Observatory. At the top is a dome with a giant telescope, where the second family can look out at the stars. During the eclipse, VP Pence invited children to the observatory to view it along with him.
Interestingly, none of the illustrations have the vice president’s face. Mrs. Pence explained how she came about to illustrate the book in that way, “I was an art education minor in school and actually taught art in an elementary school. I found I loved painting homes and I was able to do some custom works of art. Everybody seems to comment on the fact that the vice president’s face is not prevalent. When I was painting homes, I found people are really particular about getting right the nuances of their houses. I realized that painting a human face would be even more difficult. I decided then not to paint faces, which is why there are no faces in this book.”
Sometimes it can be harrowing to work with a parent. Charlotte recounts “That was not the case. It was a lot of fun, and I saw it as a mother/daughter thing to do, where we were able to be very collaborative. For each frame, we worked on it together.”
Mrs. Pence elaborated, “There were times Charlotte would send me a stanza and I would ask her to rewrite a line or shift something around. For example, in the book, there is a line about seeing the Washington Monument from the ceremonial office. Originally Charlotte wrote it as seeing the Jefferson Monument. Charlotte wrote out the whole book first and then I would ask her to make some changes because it was based on how I could frame the picture or where to place Marlon. It was more of a re-working.”
Besides learning some fun facts, people should purchase this book because some of the proceeds will go to great charities. Charlotte told of how she is working with an organization, A21. It creates awareness of human trafficking, helps survivors, and is also an information center. Mrs. Pence is donating to the Riley Hospital For Children in Indianapolis where she was the past honorary chair for their art fair and on their board. She is also giving a portion to Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for children with cancer.
This is a fun book for all Americans regardless of their political affiliation. With all the divisiveness in this country, this book, and Marlon in particular should help people come together. After all, who can’t love a cute bunny that is non-partisan.