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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Madonna teaches children a lesson
by Elizabeth Yentumi
Age 11

Madonna plays up the English rose theme
Madonna's first children's book, The English Roses, is a charming tale for girls of all ages.

When celebrities write books, they attract lots of readers. Not all the books are good but, I can assure you, this one is.

Madonna's story is about four best friends aged 11 - Amy, Charlotte, Grace and Nicole.

All of them are "green with envy" about another girl in their neighbourhood, Binah, whose life seems perfect.

Later the girls discover from a dynamic, kind-hearted fairy godmother that all is not as it seems, and that the popular, stuck-up Binah, is in fact a lonely heart-broken girl seeking friendship.

Elizabeth Yentumi
Elizabeth really enjoyed the story

The English Roses is an enlightening tale exploring relationships and the complexity of emotions.

It is aimed at children of all ages. I found it appealing as the girls in the story are my age. My parents thoroughly enjoyed it too.

The illustrations help to make the book more thrilling. The sequence of the pictures enables younger readers to follow the story. I liked the colourful images.

I enjoyed The English Roses because the plot was addictive, some parts were humorous and the lively illustrations added to your understanding of the story.

It would have been exciting to know more about their surroundings but I could easily relate to their emotions. I liked the happy ending and the educating moral.

Children's poet Michael Rosen gives his opinion on the book.

If you look at picture books for the young, you will notice they can often be puzzling or peculiar.

Sometimes, a slightly unnerving event may be portrayed.

Into this field steps Madonna, where the rich and famous have trod before.

Think of Prince Charles and his Old Man of Lochnagar or Sarah Ferguson and her Budgie books.

It is not that difficult to come up with a little story that will please a young child.

In The English Roses, Madonna tells one such simple story of four girls who behave badly towards another girl because she is beautiful.

Cover of The English Roses
The illustrations seem quite grown-up
Only when they learn that she is, in effect, a Cinderella, slaving away cooking and cleaning, do they come to realise that they can and should be kind to her.

In telling the story, Madonna takes on the voice of a slightly bossy teacher, telling her readers to not interrupt and to listen carefully.

If you are a fan of Madonna, this is an interesting tone - the controversial pop queen giving a lesson in how to be a good person. Quite a thought in itself.

The pictures are a big surprise. Jeffrey Fulvimari's illustrations are a mix between Disney and the latest clothes adverts.

Doe-eyed babes with skinny-chic legs and little bow lips mince their way through the pages. It is not easy to read thoughts or moods from their faces and bodies.

Presumably the publishers and Madonna think this style will make the book mammothly commercial.

With this in mind, I do not see how The English Roses, and the four books to follow, can possibly fail.

But is the book any good? All I can grasp is that it will not do anyone any harm.

It may not have the ingenuity and charm of Laurent De Brunhoff's Babar or the deep and wild imagination of Maurice Sendak but when you are Madonna, it probably does not matter.

The English Roses is out now, through Puffin.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Is writing another of Madonna's talents or should she stick to singing? BBC News Online users sent in their views.

This book is staggeringly, stupefyingly awful. It's diabolical. Like old-school diabolical: it's a plot to melt the brains of English kids. It's snotty, condescending and trite. The writing is so bad it made reading the book a physical pain. I'm not anti-Madonna, I wish this book had been good, but it is shockingly bad.
Matt, UK

This is an example of an excellent book covering the ups and downs of growing up. It appeals to both girls and boys, women and some men! I'm sure everyone can relate to it, whether having experienced being one of the characters or just listening to one's sister or friend play out any of the character, at school and at work. I admire Madonna for tackling this issue and for trying to teach us all a lesson!
Carol Romaya, UK

I am a huge fan of Madonna. I admire her and have tremendous respect for her. Although it's a sweet and warm-hearted story, this book strikes me as a bit elementary. I feel Madonna could have done more with the plot. However, the ideas and messages she intended to deliver, are delivered well. It's a great message for young children, and overall a cute story.

I also wanted to address the issue/comments regarding Madonna being a negative role model. I think Madonna is an amazing woman and a terrific role model. She has always been very strong, daring and true to herself. I think people get too caught up in the sexual content of some of some of her work, which after all, only depicts a natural side of humanity. I think there is nothing wrong with teaching women, and even young girls for that matter, to not be afraid of their sexuality. Once you get past the controversy, you have to acknowledge her talent, her strength, her business-savvy, and her passion to create and deliver.
Anon, UK

Even though it is a simple story, I enjoyed it. It is not such an original plot but I liked the fact that it sort of teaches children something different to the typical love story between a prince and a princess. I also thought that with its simplicity she did not mean to write something pretentious in order to show off her skills as a writer; her main purpose was to tell a story about love and respect which are very difficult to find and she managed to deliver well. I also loved the illustrations!
Emanuele, Italy

I believe that the book will be a hit, due to the fact that Maddona is still in fashion and the fact that it is a warm-hearted tale.
Ben Smith, Woking, Surrey, England

I, for one, will not be rushing out to buy Madonna's book for my children. I find it absolutely appalling that a pop star/actress is able to have her efforts in children's literature promoted so fully and extravagantly when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of writers who can not even get publishers to cast an eye over their work. It is hardly fair. I would have been much more impressed if Madonna had submitted her script under a false name and then it had been discovered to be a work of special merit. It seems to me that money and celebrity staus speak louder than actual ability - what a shame.
K Tucker, England

I don't care how good the message in the book is, I will not read a book to my daughter written by Madonna. In my opinion, she is one of the worst role models for young girls. I feel it is very hyprocritical for her to be writing a children's book. I am sure the book will sell well though as Madonna is good at grabbing the limelight and people are always interested in what she will do next. I for one will not buy the book.
A Olson, USA

I think that Madonna should stick to what she's good at, MUSIC! She is just using her fame in the pop world to promote a book that a 10 year old could have written.
Eleanor Thompson, England

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