Where in the World is little Holly Healthy!?

Politicians have joined movie stars and rock icons in the ranks of aspiring children’s book authors.  Years before Karen Pence published  A Day in the Life of the Vice President (the book that inspired Marlon Bundo) Catherine Pugh, the mayor of Baltimore and fitness fanatic, created the “Healthy Holly” series to inspire children to improve the physical and mental well-being of themselves, their friends and families. Persuading couch potatoes of any age that eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will make them better, more beautiful people is a hard sell.

One indirect approach to changing eating habits is to write a cookbook for kids, full of easy recipes for dishes that taste good and are good for you.  So nutritious and delicious that everyone will compliment the cook by asking for seconds.  Weave a conversion narrative around the recipes and you get…

Jules Bass. Cooking with Herb the Vegetarian Dragon: A Cookbook for Kids. Illustrated by Debbie Harter. (New York: Barefoot Books, 1999). Cotsen in process.

Herb is relentlessly upbeat about changing eating styles, but he gets it  when aspiring vegetarians fall off the wagon once in a while on their journey.   And if a ragon in chef’s whites can push a wheelbarrow brimming with fresh produce around the Kingdom of Nogard, anyone can!  But it’s his recipes that work magic on people who never thought they could give up m–t.

Herb’s no-meat patties with their dynamite secret ingredient puts the King of Nogard off his favorite wild boar burgers forever.  For his service to the arteries of the kingdom, Herb is knighted. 

Herb’s spicy chili full of textured vegetable protein, kidney beans, and grated cheese makes a believer of his buddy Meathook.  When Meathook has his friends over for dinner, no one can get enough of Herb’s veggie pasta.   Maybe Meathook will pass along Herb’s name to Drogon, Rhaego, and Viserion for the wrap party of Game of Thrones, season eight….

Not all anthropomorphized animals pressed into service as role models are perfect like Herb.  There’s Tiffany Dino, who gorges on pizza, chocolate chip cookies, and peanut butter sandwiches and loves every bite, even though the chair is groaning from the strain.  When her shirts ride up over her belly button, she decides it is time to turn over a new leaf.  Maybe Tiffany can get her act together.  Tiffany Dino belongs to the fallible but loveable category of animal stand-ins for children.  She eats healthy and works out for a week, but when she weighs herself, not one ounce less than six hundred pounds.  She decides to accept her big green self just as she is after making a new, very large friend who likes Tiffany  because there is so much to hug.

So how does Holly Healthy compare with Herb and Tiffany as role models? For a review, see the one Carlos Lozada ran in the Washington Post. At the time of writing this post, it was not possible to obtain a copy of any of the four titles: “Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow;” “Healthy Holly” Exercising is Fun!;” “Healthy Holly: Not all Vegetables are Green;” and “Healthy Holly: Walking with My Family.”  There is some confusion as to their whereabouts–if indeed they were ever written, published, and distributed.   Perhaps putting out this call to the readers of the Cotsen Curatorial Blog may produce the results which will solve the mystery of the picture-book writing major of Baltimore.  Any or all of the titles would be welcome additions to  Cotsen’s collection of children’s books by politicians or their wives…

B. C. Faust’s Catechism of Health (1794): “Children, Brandy Is a Bad Liquor!”

Catechism of HealthIn 1794 Bernard Christian Faust (1755-1842), the court physician in the German principality of Schaumberg-Lippe, published  a book designed to teach children the principles of healthy living.  Its title was Gesundheits Katechismus zu Gebrauche in den Schulen und beym häuslichen Unterrichte.  The same year it was translated into English by John Henry Basse under the title A Catechism of Health.  A Dublin edition also came out in 1794.  An Edinburgh edition was issued in 1797 with a commendation by the eminent physician James Gregory as the best extant popular work of medicine he had seen.   The translation also quickly found a receptive public in America.

Cotsen has just acquired a copy of the first English translation.  It is illustrated with the frontispiece of a boy wearing what looks like a long night shirt.  A garment like this, Faust contended, was less confining and better for growing bodies than the usual corseted bodice and skirts.  He claimed that “The body will become healthier, stronger, taller, and more beautiful; children will learn the best and most graceful attitudes; and will feel themselves very well and happy in this simple and free garment.”

frontispiece of a boy wearing what looks like a long night shirt

Faust had equally strong opinions about what children should eat and drink.  Or not drink. Notice that Faust drops the question-and-answer format the better to deliver a lecture to children about the dangers of consuming strong spirits.  His vehemence on the subject of alcohol makes one wonder just  how widespread underage drinking was during the late Enlightenment…

Catechism of Health excerptCatechism of Health excerptHere is an excerpt from the section on brandy:

Some of Faust’s other recommendations seem downright peculiar today.  For example, he did not consider potatoes nutritious, cautioning his readers that “when eaten too often, or immoderately, prove hurtful to health, and to the mental faculties.” But undoubtedly plenty of advice in twenty-first century books on childcare and parenting that will strike later generations as just as ill-informed or quixotic!

Catechism of Health excerpt