We went looking for Baltimore Mayor Pugh’s ‘Healthy Holly’ books. Here’s what we found.

From 2011 through 2018, the University of Maryland Medical System had a deal to spend $500,000 for 100,000 copies of Mayor Catherine Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” book series.

Since the deal — one of many the hospital network had with members of its board — was revealed, Pugh said she returned $100,000 for the last 20,000 books in her series that are still being written. At a recent news conference, she announced that the fourth book was still in production and 20,000 copies had not yet been distributed.


UMMS said through a spokesman that “production and distribution of the books was managed by Healthy Holly LLC,” Pugh’s book company. At a news conference, Pugh provided bills of lading that indicated that 58,120 copies were sent — in 2011, 2013 and 2015 -- to the Baltimore City school headquarters on North Avenue, with 5,090 shipped to a Pugh campaign office.

This week, health provider Kaiser Permanente said it had paid Pugh more than $100,000 to buy about 20,000 copies of her books.


The nonprofit Associated Black Charities said it collected nearly $90,000 from five separate entities to buy and distribute 10,000 copies of Pugh’s books. It also said 400 copies “were water damaged in 2014 and not delivered.”

That would mean about 92,810 books, an astounding number in the publishing world, have been printed and distributed.

Kromar Printing Ltd. in Winnipeg, Canada, published the 63,210 copies that were sent to school headquarters and Pugh offices but has completed no other orders.

Pugh’s attorney, Steven Silverman, stressed to the The Baltimore Sun that the books she sold to Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities were not those that UMMS already paid her for. He declined to provide documentation that 30,000 additional books were printed.

The Baltimore Sun has canvassed public and private schools, libraries, booksellers, child care centers and agencies, and it’s not clear where tens of thousands of copies went.

Here’s a sampling of what we found.

Places that have not received books

» Enoch Pratt Free Library

» Ivy Bookshop

» Archdiocese of Baltimore

» 14 Head Start centers run by Catholic Charities

In the early stages of her re-election bid, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh has come under fire for revelations that while she sat on the board of the University of Maryland Medical System, the organization paid her $500,000 for children’s books she authored.

» Several Head Start centers run by Dayspring

» Maryland Family Network (represents dozens of child care providers throughout the city)


» Several Baltimore elementary schools contacted by The Sun

» Baltimore County Public Schools

» Public School libraries. The Maryland State Department of Education did a quick survey of some school system librarians to ask if the books were in the collection. No one had a Healthy Holly book to be checked out.

Where books have shown up

» Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters: In 2011, UMMS told the school system the hospital network would be donating copies of Pugh’s first book, “Healthy Holly: Exercising Is Fun,” and the school system acknowledged it would receive them. Pugh’s printer delivered 20,020 copies, per the bill of lading and district documentation. School district officials say several current and former staff members recall some books being distributed to schools in 2011 and 2012. The district has no documentation tracking how the books were distributed, and they have found no copies in system-owned warehouses or elsewhere.

Pugh’s printer sent 18,600 copies of her second book, “Healthy Holly: A Healthy Start for Herbie,” in March 2013. “We are continuing to investigate and to speak with current and former staff members about the circumstances of this shipment,” district officials said in a statement. “We have not been able to locate any copies of this title in the warehouse or elsewhere, and we have no record or staff recollection of this book being distributed to schools.”

» A Baltimore schools-owned warehouse: The printer sent 19,500 copies of the third title, “Healthy Holly: Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow” to school headquarters. District officials believe the entire shipment of these books was moved to an off-site warehouse by Pulaski Highway shortly after it was delivered in August 2015. Nearly 9,000 copies remain in that warehouse, and no other copies have been found in another location. District staff recall Pugh representatives coming to retrieve the books from the warehouse on several occasions over the next three years — though they have no documentation showing when or how many were taken.

Boxes of "Healthy Holly" books are in a vehicle outside the Mayor Catherine Pugh's home in Baltimore.
Boxes of "Healthy Holly" books are in a vehicle outside the Mayor Catherine Pugh's home in Baltimore. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

» Outside Mayor Catherine Pugh’s house: On Wednesday, a vehicle parked outside Pugh’s Ashburton house had boxes labeled with the the “Healthy Holly” titles, including “Fruits Come in Colors Like the Rainbow” and “A Healthy Start for Herbie.” Copies of a third title, “Not All Vegetables Are Green,” and campaign materials could also be seen from outside the vehicle. The exact campaign that the fliers were promoting was unclear.

Neither Pugh nor her lawyer responded to questions about the source of the books or the reason they were there.

The company that printed 60,000 copies of the first three “Healthy Holly” books said that his company packages boxes in groups of 100 and the labels look like the ones his company uses.

» The Book Thing: Founder Russell Wattenberg said his organization, which gives away previously unwanted books for free, has gotten a “few copies in, but that’s it.”

» The Maryland Book Bank: Mark Feiring, the director, said he’s gotten “no more than 50 books,” all within the last few months.

» The Bryn Mawr School: Pugh visited the school and provided about 100 copies in January 2018, according to a letter from Head of School Sue Sadler. They were sent home with younger students and placed in classrooms and libraries. “We did not ask for or anticipate receiving the books,” she wrote.

» Childtime: Three parents whose children attended this child care center in downtown Baltimore said they remembered their children getting copies of at least one of the books, probably more than five years ago.

» Center for Urban Families: Joseph Jones Jr., president and CEO of the Center for Urban Families, said he recalled some “Healthy Holly” books being shared years ago with the family center’s clients. He couldn’t recall how many but knows it wasn’t a large volume.

» Amazon: A handful have popped up for sale via the online retail giant.


» Y Head Start: A staff member recalled some books being donated about six years ago. While the number is unclear, she said there were 300 students in their centers at the time, and so they would not have gotten more than one book for each child.


» Reginald F. Lewis Museum: During an October 2018 event focused on health, Pugh handed out signed copies of “Healthy Holly: Vegetables Are Not Just Green” to children and families. She read excerpts to those in attendance. The event was sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. Museum staff estimated about 100 books were distributed. In addition, about 100 books were sent to the museum by Pugh’s office and distributed at the museum’s annual African American Children’s Book Fair in either 2015 or 2016, staff said.

» Catherine Pugh Library in the Langston Hughes Community and Resource Center in Park Heights: The mayor donated 100 books to the library sometime in the past year and about a dozen are left. Nearly all have been given to children to take home.

» Baltimore Day in Annapolis: Healthy Holly books were being handed out by Kaiser Permanente on Feb. 5, 2019 at a table in the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis. Teresa Woorman, who works in Annapolis, said she picked up a copy of one of them, sitting in a pile next to water bottles and notebooks.

» Associated Black Charities: The organization has stated that it distributed 4,100 of the 10,000 books by packaging them and delivering them to youth organizations and “child care centers”. It delivered 500 books to the charity’s Eastern Shore office. The charity said that Healthy Holly LLC was responsible for distributing the remaining 5,500 books.

» Ariel Investments: The company bought 400 copies from Healthy Holly LLC and distributed them to attendees at a conference in California that Ariel sponsored in 2013 because Pugh was a speaker. It’s Ariel’s custom to hand out speakers’ books, and that year Ariel also handed out comic books from the congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis. Handed out were “Healthy Holly: A Healthy Start for Herbie” and “Healthy Holly: Exercising Is Fun.” Leftover books were given to a school in Chicago where Ariel is based.

» Kaiser Permanente: The company said that since 2015 it has “purchased and distributed Healthy Holly, among other books, to families and children throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. We have purchased and distributed about 20,000 Healthy Holly books, at a cost of approximately $114,000.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Doug Donovan, Ian Duncan and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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