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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

Lady Madonna, a children's book at her feet

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer

Friday, October 10, 2003

In a dramatic departure from her last literary endeavor in 1992 (a rather explicit photo essay entitled Sex), Madonna released her first children’s book, “The English Roses,” Sept. 22. The 48-page book is about the importance of compassion and the rewards of friendship. The story follows four friends, Nicole, Amy, Charlotte and Grace, who are “particularly glued to each other at the hip,” but who become “green with envy” of another neighborhood girl, Binah, whose perfection and beauty receive constant praise. The girls exclude Binah until a “short, plump, and very jolly looking” fairy godmother comes to them in a dream and allows them the opportunity to “peek in” on Binah’s life for a day, revealing the less-than-ideal circumstances of her daily routine. Binah does not have a mother. She lives alone with her father who works all day, so when she comes home from school, she has to clean the humble house, wash clothes and cook dinner, just like Cinderella. This realization inspires the girls to befriend Binah, and in doing so, “they [grow] to love her like a sister and often [go] to her house to help her with her chores.” The girls’ maturity and compassion do not go unnoticed and the neighborhood recognizes them as “really special … beautiful girls” who will “grow up to be incredible women one day.” Inspired by her Kabbalah teacher to share the spiritual wisdom [she’s] learned studying the Kabbalah by writing children’s stories, Madonna drew on her own experiences for the book’s storyline. “As a child,” she explains, “I experienced jealousy and envy toward other girls for any number of reasons: I was jealous they had mothers, jealous they were prettier and richer … it isn’t until you grow up that you realize what a waste of time those feelings are.” Kabbalah is regarded as “the original spiritual wisdom;” its teachings predate any religion or theology. It seeks to open “the minds and hearts of mankind” by teaching powerful humanistic principles upon which the universe operates. Madonna’s daughter, Lola, also lent inspiration and constructive criticism to the book. “The world’s seal of approval could never mean as much to me as my daughter’s,” Madonna declared. “If she fidgeted, fell asleep or reached for another book while I read my ‘works in progress’ to her, I knew I was not finished with my work.” For a rather long children’s book, the work holds children’s’ attention surprisingly well. Renowned fashion designer Jeffrey Fulvimari’s illustrations offer a feast for the eyes. Fulvimari’s runway style carries into the book and each page is perfectly coordinated and accessorized. Detailed borders frame the loopy “humanist” typeface so that each page resembles a scene that one might expect to encounter in a shop window at Macy’s. A happy blend of “Cinderella” and “A Christmas Carol,” enhanced by Madonna’s spunky narrative style, the story appeals to children of all ages – even adults. However, especially for adults, the book’s real appeal lies in its “hype.” The book is meant to be read aloud, and the fun in reading it comes from imagining Madonna reading the same words to her children. One cannot help but be curious of the book that was written by the same pop-star/45-year-old mother-of-two who just months ago was seen kissing Christina Aquilera and Britney Spears on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. The book was released globally in 30 languages and in 100 countries around the world – a record in publishing. It entered the New York Times best-seller list in the No. 1 position for children's picture books as a global best-seller. “The English Roses” is the first in a series of five books, all to be written by Madonna, which publisher Nicholas Callaway anticipates will become “contemporary classics.” “With each book,” Callaway said, “we will continue to surprise and delight and overturn people’s expectations. That’s why we are keeping certain details about them under wraps until publication dates including the choice of illustrators, the frequency of release, and the storylines. But each book will give a hint about what’s coming next – if you look carefully.” The second book, “Mr. Peabody’s Apples,” will be released worldwide on Nov. 10. As in the case of the first, all proceeds of the second book will go to a children's charity.

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