Skip to comments.'Apples' is a bruise on Madonna's new career
Posted on 11/10/2003 10:39:06 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs
Poor Madonna (news - web sites). In her new career as a writer of children's books, lightning has not struck twice. Her first effort, The English Roses, had skeptical critics baying with praise at how effectively she examines the subtle but cruel ways girls exclude those they envy or pity. The book has been translated into 37 languages, and it has been on the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list since Sept. 22. Its highest rank was No. 7.
In the second of Madonna's expected five books, Mr. Peabody's Apples, illustrated by Loren Long, the pop star and mother turns her attention to young boys, Little League baseball and telling the truth. You know there is trouble ahead when the adorable juvenile protagonist is called Billy Little. (Yup, he's short.) Though we all know that Madonna has a son, this tale lacks the emotional resonance and echoes of Madonna's own motherless childhood that enriched The English Roses.
The result is a dreary, heavy-handed tale about the importance of finding the truth before spreading stories. Although this tale is supposedly inspired by a 300-year-old story told by Madonna's Kabbalah teacher, the message is pedestrian and predictable.
The plot is simple. Billy Little loves to play baseball on Saturday mornings with his coach, Mr. Peabody. He's the kind history teacher who makes the boys feel good even when they lose a game.
Clearly, Mrs. Guy Ritchie (news) has not logged a lot of time on the typical American sandlot. There are no screaming parents, harassed referees or sobbing children.
Each Saturday after the game, the coach goes to the local market, Mr. Funkadeli's. He picks out a lush apple, puts it in his bag and does not appear to pay for it. This apparent shoplifting is observed by Tommy Tittlebottom. He promptly goes off and tells his friends.
The next Saturday, Tommy's pals are also on the lookout. (Clearly Madonna sees Tommy as a reporter in training: One expects to see the gang armed with telescopic lenses to photograph the apparent crime.) Gossip spreads that Mr. Peabody is a thief. By the next Saturday, no one will play for Mr. Peabody. They believe he's a shoplifter.
Disillusioned Billy Little arrives on Saturday to tell the coach the rumor going around that he is a shoplifter. Instead of immediately calling his lawyer to sue the Tittlebottom family for slander and defamation of character, the coach takes Billy to see the grocer, who explains that Mr. Peabody pays for his apples when he buys his milk. Then Billy tells Tommy, who promptly apologizes.
Mr. Peabody then asks Tommy to meet him on the baseball diamond and to bring a feather-filled pillow. Mr. Peabody then instructs him to release the feathers. They flutter through the field, illuminating how lies and gossip can pollute an entire landscape.
While the illustrations are pleasant enough, they are less zippy than those of The English Roses and the book displays a humorless, ham-fisted morality. Most children know that spreading rumors without trying to find out the truth first is wrong.
Maybe Madonna intended the book for the media instead.
I'll go out right now and purchase morality tales from this obvious paragon of virtue!
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