By Samantha Critchell
The Associated Press
One of the biggest boldface names in the world is getting a simple, understated byline in an unlikely place - a children's book.
Madonna's The English Roses is being released in 100 countries today with a lot of secrecy and high expectations. The initial print run of The English Roses is more than 750,000 copies in the United States, and 1 million worldwide.
The publisher would not release 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.
The English Roses, 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 said she drew on her own experiences growing up in Bay City, Mich., for the story.
"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. "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 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 said her teacher in Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, suggested she write children's books to share the wisdom she gained from 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 ... and she helped me choose illustrators," Madonna said.
The English Roses, with pictures by fashion artist Jeffrey Fulvimari, is the first of five books Madonna has written. The second, Mr. Peabody's Apples, will be out in November. Each book is set in a different time and place and features new characters.
Callaway Editions has licensed book rights to 32 publishing houses. Penguin Group is distributing the book in the United States.
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