We all know Madonna, the talented and often controversial entertainer.
But how many of us know her other sides? Madonna, the children's book author. Or Madonna, the — housewife.
She sat down with The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith in London last week and gave a rare glimpse into those other parts of her world, in the first of a two-part interview.
"I get up in the morning with my kids, and that's really painful for me; my husband keeps me up late," Madonna reveals. "I'm with the kids, and then they go off to school, and I stay home and I become a sargeant in my house and go into my office and start going through the lists that have been made by my hardworking, diligent staff and start delegating responsibility. (I) spend several hours doing that, being a taskmaster, and then I do some kind of exercise. Is this boring?" she interrupts herself, asking interviewer Smith a question.
"No," answers Smith, "I had this vision of you padding around in housecoat and fuzzy slippers with a cup of tea."
"No," Madonna quips. "I drink very strong coffee, I have Chinese slippers, and I usually wear juicy tracksuits. Are you getting the picture? Hair messed up, grumpy expression on my face until I've had a cup of coffee."
But Madonna has found time to write four highly successful and insightful children's books, with a fifth on the way.
What does it do for her to write these books, Smith wondered. "It's another outlet for me to share my stories," Madonna answered. "I sit in front of the computer and stick my little statue, who's my writing muse, next to my computer and, OK, I'm going to write — and it comes. …It's a statue of a kneeling woman, but she has a really thoughtful expression on her face."
"A woman on her knees?" Smith interjects.
"Oh, God, don't read that into it," Madonna shoots back. …You had to go there, Harry."
"That's a Madonna response," Smith pointed out. "I was about to say that's about supplication, someone asking for some maybe even divine guidance."
"Yes," Madonna said. "That's what I do on a regular basis."
Smith told Madonna he felt that, by reading the children's books, he felt like he "had an insight into who's inside you."
"Probably," Madonna observed, "because there's more stillness in writing; with a book, you can hear me probably more clearly."
Madonna's first three children's books launched within one year of each other, and have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.
Callaway Books has released a boxed-set of her first three children's titles, "The English Rose," "Mr. Peabody's Apples," and "Yakov and the Seven Thieves."
The first of them, "The English Rose," was released simultaneously in 30 languages and over 100 countries in September, 2003. It became the biggest and fastest-selling book ever by a first time children's author.
It's about four 11-year-old girls who are best friends, but jealous of another girl in the neighborhood. "She's more aloof," as Madonna described her to Smith, "mysterious. …She seems like she has the perfect life. She's prettier, she seems like she's really good, so they decide to not include her in the group because she's too good at everything. A very common thing, I think with girls.
"The idea for the story came from my daughter. There was a clique of girls when she was in first grade, and the teacher called them the English roses. She told me that sometimes girls treated her different at school because I was her mother."
The four wind up getting a surprising lesson from a fairy godmother about the difference between appearance and reality.
"The English Rose" was quickly followed by "Mr. Peabody's Apples" in November, 2003.
It's a story of the power of words and the importance of teachers. The story takes place in 1949 in Happville, USA. Mr. Peabody, a beloved elementary school teacher and baseball coach, one day finds himself ostracized when rumors about him spread through the small town. Mr. Peabody silences the gossip with an unforgettable and poignant lesson about how we must choose our words carefully to avoid causing harm to others." The book is said to have been inspired by a story told to Madonna by her Kabbalah teacher. Kaballah is a form of Jewish mysticism.
"That's another story I think most people can relate to," Madonna said to Smith. "We all love to gossip, even really evolved people like me," she laughed, as did Smith. "The story's about having people stop and think every once in awhile about what they're going to say to someone and what this might do to someone," Madonna continued.
In June, 2004, "Yakov and the Seven Thieves" was released. According to Madonna, I'ts the story of how all of us have the ability to unlock the gates of Heaven, no matter how unworthy we think we are. For when we go against our selfish natures, we make miracles happen, in our lives and in the lives of others."
Last month marked the release of Madonna's fourth children's book, "The Aventures of Abdi." Like her other three, it was written for readers aged six and up.
"The Adventures of Abdi" is the story of a little boy who has been given a very big task: to deliver the most precious necklace in the world to the queen. Along the way he is robbed in the desert, thrown in a dungeon and has a surprising encounter with a snake. But no matter what obstacles he faces, Abdi never gives up hope, guided by the words of his teacher, Eli: "Everything that happens is for the best."
Madonna's fifth book, "Lotsa de Casha," is scheduled for release in June. It's the last in the five-book series. She's also coming out with an audio edition of all the books.
Madonna and Smith wrap up the first part of the interview with a discussion of how British newspapers came to call her "Madge," a nickname she dislikes. When it's pointed out to her that "Madge" could be short for, "Her Majesty," Madonna relents and says that might not be such a bad moniker, after all.
Tune in to The Early Show Tuesday for the second part of Smith's interview. They'll discuss Kaballah, and how it's helped her marriage.
Asked by fellow co-anchor Hannah Storm what surprised him about Madonna, Smith said, "So smart. So funny. Amazing sense of humor. And...We were
sitting there looking at the tape late Friday night, and I said, 'I am completely beguiled.' She charmed my socks off."