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Friendship and fashion

Madonna's book aimed at children, `The English Roses,' draws on her daughter Lourdes' struggle as the daughter of a superstar



Madonna arrives at the launch party for `The English Roses.'

ONCE UPON a time, there was a girl named Madonna who loved to sing, dance and dress up. As a grown-up, she sang, danced and dressed up in ever-new and flamboyant styles, and the world loved her for it. But she wanted to do more. She tried acting — the world didn't like that so much. So she thought she'd write a book for children.

The result is The English Roses, the first of five planned children's tales written by Madonna and zestily illustrated by American fashion artist Jeffrey Fulvimari. A slight volume, about and largely aimed at young girls, the book was published in superstar quantities — 1 million copies in 30 languages, from Estonian to Faroese. Proceeds from sales are going to charity.

The titular Roses are four young school friends who live in an idealised funky, leafy London, full of picnics, ice-skating and pyjama parties. They have fabulous clothes and great accessories, but they envy and ostracise another girl, Binah, who is pretty, athletic, kind and has "silky hair and skin like milk and honey."

By story's end — with the help of a fairy godmother and some magic dust — the Roses mend their ways and discover that Binah's life is, well, no bed of roses.


Madonna's authorial tone is matter-of-fact and agreeable, if a tad flat. The book is not likely to be a vocabulary-builder, but it trots along pleasantly enough, with the occasional interjection from the author: "Now," she writes at one point, "stop interrupting me."

Fulvimari's fashion background shows in his angular, boldly coloured illustrations — the Roses dress as stylishly as supermodels — and he borders each of the pages with little roses or bright patterns, giving plenty for young readers to look at.

Madonna has said the tale draws on the teachings of Kabbalah, the school of Jewish mysticism she has studied for several years. She has said she based the characters on her six-year-old daughter Lourdes' London classmates, and the story on Lourdes' struggle as the daughter of a superstar.

"In school, children can be quite mean and ostracise her because I'm her mother," Madonna told Britain's Sunday Times. "Everyone thinks, `She's got everything so we won't pay attention to her."

The English Roses has a simple moral: don't judge people by appearances, and don't envy others' apparent good fortune.

"Easy for her to say," you might think. But that would be unkind, wouldn't it, children?

Courtesy: AP

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