I’ve Got the P.M.A!, Written by Paul “HR” Hudson, Illustrated by HE Creative, 32 pgs.

Children’s books as an art medium is usually seen as something “anyone can do.” And unfortunately, it seems that HR from Bad Brains is one of those people. Although, the book seems so disingenuous and disconnected that I wouldn’t be surprised if HR didn’t actually collaborate but rather just signed off on having his name on it. Using the lyrics from one of the most famous Bad Brains songs “Attitude,” the entire message was that no matter what happened, no matter what obstacles came up, the character still had their PMA (positive mental attitude).

The problem is that the acronym of PMA is never explained until the very end of the book as more of an author’s note and throughout the story the lesson completely falls flat. The concept of PMA is obviously an abstract one and although the illustrator attempts to portray what PMA would look like, it comes off strange and convoluted. On one page, for example, it shows the main character falling on his skateboard but he has a big smile on his face and the text above reads, “I know everything will be okay, I’ve got that PMA.”

This is how the whole book reads—with short, cliché sentences and confusing, vague lessons hidden in the busy drawings where the main character is surrounded by floating peace signs, flowers, and hearts. When most young children see a character fall off the skateboard, the reaction they’re expecting—and the reaction educators would encourage—is some expression of pain and/or sympathy of that pain and then a way to make it better. They are just now learning about basic emotions and problem-solving. The concept of PMA has potential to be the basis of a story, but it would need to be shown in a very literal way. When a child sees a character fall on their skateboard, they’re more likely to think, “I know everything will be okay, I’ve got those Band-Aids!”

While there are a lot of “cool” elements (skateboards, boomboxes, record player, random HR cameo), there is an obvious disconnect from children, what children like to read about, and generally what makes a good children’s book. The ending, finally explaining what PMA stands for, felt particularly alienating by repeatedly mentioning “the Lord”—among other religious verbiage—further showing just how oblivious the author is to the world of children’s literature, especially when it comes to marketing (you definitely won’t see this book in a public school).

The book feels more exploitative of the children’s book industry than about actually “teaching tomorrow’s adults about the message of Positive Mental Attitude,” like it tries to “sell” on the back cover. We can appreciate HR for whatever he contributed to the punk scene over the last forty years, but children don’t care who he used to be. So, while I’m sure this book will be gifted to some pregnant punk rockers and retired crust-punk grandpas, I predict that it won’t ever be a bedtime story request. –Rosie Gonce (HE Creative, hecreative.com)