Critics pan Madonna's new book

Detroit News/November 19, 2003
By Neal Rubin

The reviews are in on Madonna's new children's book, and they're pretty much like the reviews of her almost-new children's book.

"Mr. Peabody's Apples" (Callaway, $19.95), released last week, takes a firm stand against saying bad things about people. AP deemed it "a little hokey," the New York Post called it "a slight and preachy tale," and USA TODAY invoked the terms dreary, heavy-handed, pedestrian, predictable, humorless and ham-fisted, in that order.

"If you strip Madonna of her naughtiness," said the Village Voice, "she doesn't have much to offer." That probably helps explain why buyers who ordered "Mr. Peabody's Apples" on were also likely to have purchased "Madonna Nude 1979."

In a moment of fairness before I go back to being snippy, reviews from civilians at generally range from giddy to fawning, though serious academics might question the objectivity of someone who says, "She is amazing at everything she does."

"Mr. Peabody's Apples" is the second in a series of five children's books, all apparently inspired or influenced by Madonna's interest in a trendy form of Jewish mysticism. When she was into lingerie, we got cone-shaped bras. Now it's Kabbalah and we get "Peabody" and its predecessor, "The English Roses."

"Roses" came out in September and reached No. 2 on Amazon's top zillion. It's still No. 47, which puts it 17 places behind "Peabody."

Meantime, "Happy Stories" (Little Salamander, $14.95) by Detroit authors Melanie Gilbert and Snip Francis is on the move. In September, when Gilbert talked to me about the hazards of celebrities writing kids' books, "Happy Stories" was No. 1,449,173 at Amazon. Now it's No. 1,280,016.

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