Pandemic creates a ‘pundemic’

Ten-year-old creates a book of Vineyard-centric puns, with help from mom and dad.


There is a delightful new self-published book out for children and families that will bring a smile to your face. “Martha’s Vineyard Puns to Bring a Smile” is the brainchild of 10-year-old Merwan Robinson, with help from his father, Walter, and mother, Lanie. Walter explains that he was initially familiar with the Vineyard from when he lived here from 1978 to 2008. He returned in the summer of 2018 with Lanie and Merwan, who in 2019 attended Pam Benjamin’s Sense of Wonder summer camp. There, Walter says, “Merwan thrived. He thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. He developed a real passion for fishing, nature, and swimming.” Merwan and his father spent the summer exploring all the places his father had known from thirty years of living on the Island.

COVID disrupted their trip back this summer, but Walter decided he could recreate an art program experience on their own. Inspired by Merwan’s recent love of play on words that sound alike, they came up with about 110 puns, at least 70 percent of them being Merwan’s own.

Walter then thought, if they were going to do a book, then what could galvanize the most friends? It dawned on him to make it Vineyard specific: “I thought what we would do is select the fifty best puns and tweak them to the Vineyard. Then we’ll get animal characters and name them from different Island location names.” The Chappy Turtle, a flying bird titled Menemsha Air Patrol, and Pilot Hill Owl appear among the pages.

Printed on the cover of this handsome, large format, spiral-bound book is the message: “Hello! Since smiles are contagious, let’s start a PUN-demic where healing smiles are spread around our planet!” The puns are attached to photographs, whimsical hand-painted and drawn images, as well as shell-created creatures that Merwan crafted on his own.
A taste of this handsome visual book includes a page about Cat Emergencies where the question is posed: “What’s the fastest way I can get my pet cat safely off-Island to a vet hospital on the Cape?” Below the question is a portrait of Merwan photoshopped with a cat’s face and a thought bubble with the answer: “By catamaran. I try not to overcharge for my water taxi services, especially in a catastrophe, but for regular categories of emergencies I charge $75. Roundtrip OB to P-town.”

Another layout has a photo of the Edgartown Harbor from the Chappy Ferry dock with a Menemsha Minnow underneath who asks: “What does West Tisbury Dumptique have in common with the distance between Edgartown and Hadley’s Harbor, Naushon?” The standing Blue Barque Wise Owl answers: “A day sale.”

On another page a hand-drawn M.V. Hippocampus Erectus seahorse asks the owl across from it: “How have humans created such great music?” To which the bird responds: “They have many fine organs. Some of their organs are well-preserved antiques and are more than seventy years in age.” For added measure, the Watchha Pond Minnow below adds its two cents, saying: “The American human heart beats all other organs in having created a musical current, a stream originating from the Gulf states, whose net results contain the most spiritually enriched, delectable examples of pure sole.”

Walter says that though the project is not generating profit, “To have a 10-year-old have a book out on the Vineyard for the summer of 2021, and it’s a project with all this art he generated, made both of us very good, even if we don’t make a dime.”

Merwan explained the purpose of creating this entertaining book, “Making people happy! The book helps people who are stuck inside and can’t go out or to their friends because of the virus, bring out smiles even through the pandemic.”

And the book is indeed sure to bring around a few smiles.

“Martha’s Vineyard Puns to Bring a Smile,” by Merwan, Dad, and Mom. Available at Edgartown Books, Bunch of Grapes, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and for loan at many of the local libraries.