Madonna's Advice For Kids

An undated photo of the dust jacket of Madonna's children's book, "The English Roses," being published by Scholastic, Inc., which makes its debut on 9-15-03. * * MUST CREDIT SCHOLASTIC * * AP

Remember "Sex?" The 1992 book by Madonna and photographer Steven Meisel, with the diva herself posing for various erotic photos?

Her new book is a little different.

"The English Roses," which is being released Monday in 100 countries, is a children's book and is absolutely safe for general audiences.

At least that's the advance word. The book itself has been shrouded in a certain amount of secrecy - with only bits released in advance of its official debut date.

The singer, songwriter, actress and author says the story, which is being printed in 30 languages including Bulgarian, Taiwanese and Portuguese, is about a friendship shared by four 11-year-old girls and their mutual envy of a beautiful classmate.

Madonna hasn't said whether any of the girls is a stand-in for her younger self, and the names of the characters - Nicole, Amy, Charlotte, Grace and Binah - provide no clues.

A better place to look might be the fairy godmother, a feisty sort who loves pumpernickel and enjoys magical travel.

Madonna does say that the story draws on her own experiences growing up in Bay City, Michigan.

"As a child, 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," she said in a statement. "It isn't until you grow up that you realize what a waste of time those feelings are."

Madonna's own mother died when she was young.

The initial print run of "The English Roses" is more than 750,000 copies in the United States, and 1 million worldwide, according to publisher Callaway Editions.

The publisher would not release early review copies, nor did guests at Sunday's launch party in London get finished books. But by Sunday, early buzz had already made the book No. 26 on Amazon.com's sales list.

Madonna couldn't be more pleased about her new venture, which is front and center on her Web site, and is also billed as the first in a series of five books publisher Nicholas Callaway says will "convey important and encouraging messages for children of all ages - even grown-up ones."

"The English Roses" is the latest among a growing number of celebrity-written children's books. John Lithgow's new "I'm a Manatee" is the actor's fourth children's book for Simon & Schuster, and Julie Andrews is heading up her own imprint at HarperCollins.

Madonna, 45, said her teacher in Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, suggested she write children's books to share the spiritual wisdom she gained from studying the subject.

She said she also reads to her daughter, Lourdes, 6, and son, Rocco, 3, to teach them about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Lourdes, whom Madonna calls Lola, was a trusted adviser when it came to writing her debut book, the singer said.

"She was very involved in the creative process. She told me when the story was boring. She asked for the girls to do particular activities (her favorite things to do) and she helped me choose illustrators," Madonna said.

Callaway Editions, based in New York, has licensed book rights to 32 publishing houses, including Gallimard Jeunesse in France and Hanser Verlag in Germany. Penguin Group is distributing the book in the United States, and Puffin will publish it in other English language markets.

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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