Mayor Catherine Pugh displays a “Healthy Holly”-affiliated bib on March 28. Still via live stream from Charm TV/Facebook.
Mayor Catherine Pugh displays a “Healthy Holly”-affiliated bib on March 28. Still via live stream from Charm TV/Facebook.

Amid all of the furor surrounding the nearly $800,000 that Mayor Catherine Pugh’s LLC took from health care firms and others for copies of her “Healthy Holly” books, it’s easy to forget the value in trying to educate children, as an emotional Pugh attempted to explain days before taking an indefinite leave of absence.

But rather than take the mayor’s word for it, let’s hear from Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada.

In a newly published review, Lozada gives a scathing take on the first in Pugh’s series of self-published children’s books, “Healthy Holly: Exercising is Fun!”, highlighting missed punctuation and styling, and also having his kids pick apart the illustrations, anthropomorphism and dialogue therein.

The young critics have issues with the characters’ exchanges, such as Holly telling her mother, “I will be healthy. I like having fun.”

“The dialogue… it doesn’t sound so real,” Lozada’s 11-year-old son responds. “I mean the phrase ‘I like having fun.’ Isn’t it obvious that one likes having fun? You don’t just walk up and say: ‘I like having fun! I like doing things that I like!’”

They also point out that it’s kind of weird for Holly’s mother to remind her, as she’s jumping rope, “You are jumping rope,” and, “You are exercising.”

“Duh,” Lozada’s 8-year-old daughter plainly says.

But far more biting is the adult critic’s broader commentary, written in mocking elementary tone. There’s this, about the sad reality behind Pugh’s business dealings as an author:

“Publishing children’s books—and selling so many copies—is usually hard work, too. Many authors try and try for a long time. But success is so much more fun and exciting when you don’t rely on bulk purchases from private corporations and state agencies, and when books arouse real interest, not just conflicts of interest, right, kids?”

Props to Lozada for finding a copy to borrow from a friend here in Baltimore. If you’ve got any editions of “A Healthy Start for Herbie,” or “Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow” stowed away, feel free to drop us a line.

UPDATE: Lozada’s colleague, longtime Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, filmed his own blistering commentary on “Healthy Holly.” See below.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...