Smart Thinking

John Oliver’s new book is funny, but it’s culturally significant, too

The British stand-up that loves to take on America has picked his latest battle – and he’s winning…

If you follow American current affairs (we’re presuming as a smart-thinking Jackal reader that they’re bothering you every bit as much as they’re bothering us at present), you might well have caught the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

On said episode, the British comic (who’s adopted America as his second home) introduced his new book A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a touching story for children about two boy bunnies who fall in love and want to get married. Oliver’s book is a spoof on Mike Pence’s new children’s book about his family pet bunny, Marlon Bundo, that’s also just been released. Oliver was prompted to write his own version of the story when he discovered one of the stops on Pence’s book tour includes an organisation called Focus on the Family, which is a group that encourages the use of conversion therapy to reverse homosexuality. We’re rolling our eyes, too.

Yes, Oliver is encouraging people to buy his ‘better Bundo book’ as an amusing way to piss-off Pence and to show-up his apparent homophobia – all well and good. But, Oliver’s also done what he does best here; in taking a social issue on, he’s offered an intelligent solution, too. His book isn’t solely a sarcastic barb at Pence, it’s a sweet, well-written, well-rounded story to help children understand and accept love between any two people – regardless of gender or race.

You might well think that children’s books aren’t a place for politics, but some of the greatest children’s book writers in history have tackled big issues in their stories and broken them down for children. When I was a kid, Dr. Seuss’s book Yertile the Turtle taught me about problems with fascism, The Lorax showed me the importance of caring about our environment, and The Sneetches taught me about how damaging discrimination can be. I guess Mike Pence didn’t grow up reading that one.

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo is a touching story and a genuine tool to teach kids about acceptance. Plus, the proceeds of its sales are to be donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United. You can make donations of your own to receive a free copy of the e-book, which is narrated by Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer and RuPaul. The best part? It’s outselling Pence’s efforts, too. Bravo John Oliver.