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on 17 September 2003
The English Roses is beautifully illustrated with a welcome moral message. The voice is good, original and connects well.
For the British market the story could have been improved with a a good editor's tight overview. A number of small adjustments could have improved the text .. "nice" is not a word that is encouraged in descriptive writing in schools, "very" and on one occasion "very, very" is a little clumsy and "neighbourhood" would probably be referred to as town. Children - particularly for SATS are discouraged from writing stories that end "it was all a dream" so it would have been good to have had another vehicle for that element of the story and the introduction of a fairy godmother removes the story to the realms of fantasy. But the book is beautiful, would make a treasured keepsake and if proof were in the pudding my two children enjoyed it - and that's what really matters.
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on 19 September 2003
I was initally unsure whether this is a children's book targetted at adults, or a coffee table book for kids (which misses the point, given that kids don't have coffee tables...).
The characters and writing style is flat, and unengaging, the pictures lack charm and remind me of those new Bratz, Barbie-with attitude-type dolls. And the story lacks any depth or intelligence.
It is the story of four "English Roses" who could be six or seven, could be 12 or 13, could be 15 or 16, who shun one of the girls in their street because she is so beautiful. But, when they discover what her life is like, they befriend her.
Besides the fact that there is little charm to this book - despite its desperate attempts to display some - it seems to fall between a rock and a hard place. My daughter is four, and the right age to enjoy picture books with a story, but is not engaged by a story based on teenage (at best) sentiments and attitudes like this. She simply does not observe the beauty or otherwise of her friends, in the way that this book implies.
But, the 8-10 year-olds who I know - who seem more likely to be a little in tune with the themes here - wouldn't go near a picture book. They're already onto Harry Potter, Amber Spyglass etc. And it's way too childish for teenagers.
The key to Madonna's target audience, I think, is a little bit of small print right at the back of the book, which identifies the font used for the text in the book (who, apart from an artsy fartsy grow-up would be interested in such matters?).
I don't say this with any joy, as someone who has loved Madonna's music in the past and who believes her to be an icon who has made the world a thoroughly more entertaining place over the past two decades. But I found this to be little more than a cynical marketing exercise.
This is not a kids book for adults, or a coffee table book for kids. It is a coffee table book for trendy (perhaps even celebrity) mums and dads, who want to show off how cool their kids are. It is the Sex book for the parent generation.
This will, no doubt, sell pretty well because of the publicity surrounding it and its author. But, by the time the fourth volume comes around, watch the sales plummet.
Anyone tempted should save their money. Buy one of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, The Grufallo or Mr Wolf's Pancakes instead. Or all of them... And, if you must, wait until The English Roses hits the bargain baskets, as it surely will.
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on 18 November 2003
This book is a modern tale for children in today's world. I am glad that Madonna come out with something original. Envy is something children come across in a day to day basis and it is a great idea to illustrate the damage it may do to innocent children in this beautiful book. I am looking forward to the other titles by Madonna. The collaboration with famous illustrators are at great advantage too when it comes to children book publishing.
This is a very enjoyable book.
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on 18 October 2003
This is such a weak book that I can only imagine it being truly appreciated by devout Madonna fans. It's a basic story with basic prose (a beautiful little girl is ignored by her peers because they're jealous of the way she looks, until a fairy godmother teaches them that the little girl's life is actually quite sad and they should be nice to her). As a children's book it offers very little, being too basic for older children (8+) and possibly not quite relevant enough for children who normally have picture books read to them e.g. most 3 and 4 year olds are happy to play with all children (they have no real fully-formed prejudices at that age; in fact younger children usually tend to gravitate towards their more pleasant-looking peers!). The book also begs the question of how children should treat beautiful peers who don't have dead mothers but who actually have quite a fulfilling and fun life. The little girl in the story should be made to feel included because, although she's prettier than most, her mum's dead. If her mum weren't dead though, then what? It's a morality tale that sort of misses the mark (e.g. you should be nice to people whatever and, in fact, it's often the plainer children or overweight children who are ostracised in today's society). There are a lot of excellent children’s books out there by authors who are dedicate to their trade and who aren’t bored superstars dabbling in a new project. Buy those books instead.
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on 3 February 2004
This is the first book I have read by Madonna although I am a fan of her music.I like the book because when you read the first word you are hooked.You can't wait to find out what happens.My mum said she has never known me to keep quiet for so long.
Celia Hulse age 9
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on 31 December 2010
I was given this as a present when it was first released, I was about 10 at the time. (Was released in 2004.)

It is my favourite children's book, it's well illustrated, the story works, the overall moral of the book is a great one, and one of the characters in the book has the same name as me! What more could you ask for?

Not only has Madonna got a great career as a singer, but she has also showcased her talent for writing books. I've not read any more of the books for her 5-part series, but I'm sure they are a collection worth having.

If you buy this for your daughter, niece of grandchild I'm sure she would be overjoyed at receiving it.

The illustrations not only work in the book, but they would also work as wall stickers for children's rooms. So perhaps that is something that the publishers could invest in?
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on 16 May 2015
Meet four girls: Nicole, Amy, Charlotte and Grace. These four are what you might call "clicky" in that they do everything together, rarely think for themselves but just follow what somebody else says. Binah is beautiful, an excellent student etc albeit somewhat sad but the girls choose to ignore her even though she lives just down the street.

One night, at a sleepover, Nicole's mum, gives the four girls a reprimand for their treatment of Binah. That night, all four girls have the same dream, where a fairy godmother invites them to swap places with anyone they would like. Their first trip is to Binah's house where the girls discover the truth! What an eye opener! They realise how mistaken they have been and the next day, immediately set out to make amends.

This is a great book for children who many times when in a group, tend to ignore those on the outside.
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on 18 September 2003
Forget about Madonna being the author. Hey, don't even mention to your kids who wrote this --they probably wouldn't know, and that should teach us a lesson as well. This is a great, entertaining children's book with a nice story, smart ending and brilliant illustrations. Great quality of printing too! Will not become a classic, but as a book with a moral, it does its job perfectly.
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on 16 September 2003
Madonna trying to take the moral stance?
Well let’s examine the evidence:
* The book is about beautiful people (sorry, no ugly un-hollywood looking people here I’m afraid).
* It is plastered with the images of stick thin model like girls the sort that caused uproar in the mid 90s for encouraging eating disorders amongst young girls.
* It’s target age group – young girls?
* It's supposed to be about bullying but seems to be discouraging it only against stick thin beautiful people.
It's a real shame because this could have been such a great book but it oozes with the shallowness Madonna seems to be trying to critisize. I would have thought, taking such a hard moral tone, Madonna would have tried a little harder. This is Cinderella meets Clueless!
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on 13 October 2003
After I read this thin-offering of misplaced morality, I wondered how it had ever got published. And then I remembered, it was written by Maddonna. Now I'm a huge fan of Madonna as a pop icon but she really ought to stick to doing what she knows best. This is an unoriginal, re-hashed tale which merely repeats an often explored theme (i.e. that of trying to put yourself in someone else's place), yet it is written without any skill or depth. The writing is about as basic as you can get and is littered with annoying author asides such as, "Well you'd better believe it because I'm telling you." It also comes across as yet another exercise in Madonna's obsession with herself (and, given Madonna's level of fame it is difficult to read the book without being aware of who the author is) e.g. the beautiful, motherless girl who is the subject of envy. Madonna's foray into the world of children's literature comes across as no more than a passing fad which is being used as a means of satisfying her newfound religious beliefs and allowing her, as a mother, to get a book published for her children. Indeed, I'm sure there's many mums out there who have invented more creative bedtime stories for their own kiddies. And therein lies the main problem with the book - it really doesn't seem to be written with much regard for its readers but more like a project and, in the absence of the fairly colourful pictures, fails to satisfy in any literary sense.
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