I picked up these books on a whim (and also because John Oliver makes me laugh/The Trevor Project is a lovely organisation). The first was from John Oliver's show with proceeds from the book going to The Trevor Project and AIDS United.
The book is titled A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo and was written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. The illustrations are in a watercolor style with soft colors. The story is fairly uplifting...although the stinkbug (the bad guy in the book) absolutely is reminiscent of VP Pence. That's fine with me of course, I think Pence is able to withstand some ribbing.
It's a short book (40 pages) and is written for children (or at that level). It's really adorable.
Marlon Bundo is VP Pence's rabbit and in this story, Marlon falls in love with another bunny named Wesley. Wesley and Marlon really enjoy hopping around the garden and decide to get married so they can hop together forever. They tell all their friends who are enthusiastic (and if you have the audio book, you'll get some great actors voicing their friends here as well as Marlon and Wesley). Enter the stinkbug (who claims to be Important and In Charge), who is against this marriage as it's different and "Different Is Bad." This is upsetting to Marlon and Wesley of course and their friends rally around and decide to have an election. The stinkbug is defeated in the election (via popular vote..snark withheld) and Marlon and Wesley get married and prepare to go on their 'bunnymoon.'
The book is adorable. The message is great. The artwork is beautiful. The story itself is clever (some adult jokes sprinkled in that children won't get). While it's not a coffee table book...it is a book on my coffee table that gets picked up by my visitors often (even the conservative family members that drop by...they like it too. Go figure).
There was another Marlon Bunny book released by Pence's daughter, Charlotte Pence, around the same time. Charlotte handled the success of both books really graciously, saying "His book is contributing to charities that I think we can all get behind... I'm all for it." So that's two members of Pence's family I might like (the bunny and maybe Charlotte). Her book's proceeds also went to charity but her publisher took awhile to come out saying nice things (but they're a conservative publisher...so...). One of her charities was Tracy's Kids (which is showing up as possibly hacked in a google search? So I didn't click on that). It's an art therapy charity for children with cancer. Looking at their CEO, he worked for Margaret Thatcher (ew) and is friends with Karen Pence (ewwww) but he seems able to work with lots of different people on getting things he needs for charity (part of the game) and he does celebrate LGBT+ people on his social media...so okay then.
The second charity Charlotte donated to was the A21 Campaigne which fights human trafficking. It was also founded by a leader in the Hillsong Church...which is a megachurch that has some issues with sexual abuse, possible financial tax/conservative party issues in Australia, LGBTQ+ hostility, . Basically the church is a conservative evangelical church masked as a marketing production. I'm not linking to the A21 page because I'm not getting a detailed breakdown in their financials and I won't give to charities unless I get a good breakdown. For all I know they have 10 million of expenses listed but the detail would be 9.9 million to a shoe collection or they won't give out money unless the trafficked people convert (they were listed as an evangelical charity on some stuff). So Charlotte, I had hope...but apparently Marlon Bundo is the only Pence I like.
Also, it's important to check out organizations that you spend time and money on. Who created them, what their board composition is, how their money is spent (for example, do they pay a living wage to their staff? That's important), what's their cash flow situation, how political are they, is their EIN number correct? Perhaps the two up above don't bother you...I'm not too bothered by Tracy's Kids on the surface (although I'd want a more complete financial breakdown)...although someone should tell them about their website issue but A21 gets a hard pass for me.
The John Oliver produced Marlon Bundo book also gives its proceeds to two charities. One is the Trevor Project. This organization runs a help call line for LQBTQ+ youth who might feel suicidal. Their founders are three screenwriter/producer/filmmaker/actors it also has connections with a lot of Hollywood and production companies (for example, HBO). Unlike the two unrated above, the Trevor Project is rated 4 stars on Charity Navigator and 80% of it's expenses goes to the programs and services it provides. It also has a great score for transparency. (Another site, Charity Watch gives them an A, Philanthropedia lists them as one of the top charities and the Trevor Project itself lists its Annual Reports on their website.
The second charity John Oliver and co. picked was AIDS United. While I've heard of the Trevor Project, AIDS United was new to me. It's creation (2010) was from the merging of two separate non-profits (both established in the 1980s). They're working to end AIDS in the United States which is huge goal (as an aside, HBO did a great documentary of the AIDS crisis and the private push for a cure...I don't know if it's available but I really learned a lot from that). AIDS united has a great rating on Charity Navigator as well (4 stars!) with over 90% of the program expenses taking up the budget. They also list their audited financials on their website. I think sometimes people forget that AIDS affects everyone. Any income bracket, sexuality, race, etc. can contract AIDS. It's an unfair disease in so many ways but the stigma around it really hurt the research and information spread in the beginning.
The documentary I watched was called The Battle of Amfar, and it's about 'Hollywood superstar Elizabeth Taylor and research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim – joined forces to create amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), America’s first AIDS research foundation.' It might not sound edge of your seat worthy but I was riveted.
I didn't mean to go off on a rant about charity financials and transparency but it's been on my mind recently. I had to give an impromptu presentation on why the charity group I'M in needs to be more transparent with financials and volunteer work. It's easier to solicit money from businesses and people when you can clearly say 'We've logged xxx many hours and have raised xxx amount of money and xxx percentage of that went towards our outreach.' They're better but I have no desire to spearhead anything there other than to pop on occasion and point something out. They listen to me 50% of the time, so that's a charity for you.
The other 'coffee table book' I have is greatly appreciated by my millennial (of which I am one) friends. I picked it up in Target and it's called And Then You Die of Dysentery. It's a funny book making fun of some generational issues in the format of the Oregon Trail (with pixelated illustrations).
I'm not sure what to say about this book other than some of the lessons in adulting are hilarious. It mixes pop culture or quips with video game scenarios. For instance "YOLO" is paired with fording a river in a covered wagon and oxen. The back of the book mentions "absurdist nostalgia" which I think fits the theme of the book.
That being said, I kept sending pictures of it to my friends because it is funny. The illustrations are in the style of computer games (8-bit) with a reserved palette. It's such a great idea for a book. As I mentioned, it's a favorite amongst my generational friends although my younger cousin asked me what the Oregon Trail video game was. I think I said it was historical minecraft (because that's all he's into). I'm not sure how well it translates down...