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Madonna and the tweens

September 02, 2007|Kristina Lindgren;Orli Low;Nick Owchar

MADONNA -- entertainer, author and celebrity-mom extraordinaire -- has four new installments due out in her children's book series, "The English Roses." The handsomely illustrated volumes will arrive in stores Sept. 14, says Sara Zick of Penguin Books' Young Readers division.

Launched in 2003, "The English Roses" introduced London grade-schoolers Amy, Charlotte, Nicole, Grace and Binah, a fairy godmother, a quirky teacher and heaps of life lessons for proper young ladies of about 7, which just happened to be the age of Madonna's elder child, Lourdes.

The new books, once again illustrated by Jeffrey Fulvimari, are aimed at the tween set (just as, no surprise, young Lourdes is about to turn 11). The girls learn to cope with a new arrival, crushes on boys and the prospect of loss. They even offer study tips and fashion pointers, and the first of the new volumes, "Friends for Life," has a section for girl readers to write down their likes, dislikes and most embarrassing moments.

-- Kristina Lindgren

What Deneuve had on her mind

WANT to know what that grande dame of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve, is thinking? "Close Up and Personal: The Private Diaries of Catherine Deneuve" (Pegasus Books) offers a glimpse of her thoughts while she was shooting six films abroad.

The book begins with a beguiling epigraph: "Let me warn you that these are mere jottings, personal records of the shootings of films, chronicles of my doubts. Almost all were written outside France, and some a long time ago. Solitary, elated, discouraged, critical. Raw. A little remorse perhaps, but no regrets."

"Private Diaries" contains juicy extras, including director Pascal Bonitzer's 2004 interview with the actress. The diaries begin with her 1999 notes while filming "Dancer in the Dark" ("To Copenhagen. Gazing at fields of rape through the plane window; they're like a Poliakoff painting, jagged. Very sore throat. Feverish.") and extending back to the 1968 filming of "The April Fools." That film inspired the following nugget: "Dreadful costume fitting. I'm starting to think we should use Saint Laurent, and so are they. . . . Surprised to bump into Polanski, who persuades me into a drink at Sardi's, where we meet Warren Beatty -- he's so smooth."

There's much about hair and makeup and food, and fashion, of course. There's set chatter too, especially in the Bonitzer interview, in which Deneuve actually opens up about her reasons for keeping these diaries: "The printed word has the weight of absolute truth. And this weight of truth endures longer than one could ever imagine."

-- Orli Low

Harper Lee keeps it short and sweet

You'd think, from the hype surrounding it, that reclusive author Harper Lee had given a full-blown speech recently at a ceremony to honor fellow Alabamians. But what she said amounted to little, just 11 words:

"Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Lee's comment inspired at least half a dozen stories on the Web, all of them thin. It is nice, though, to see a photograph from the event, showing what Lee looks like today. The boyish, brown hair of 1960s publicity photos is all white now, but her face still has the same amused expression and smile of her youth. Here's Scout in her twilight years.

Lee's off-the-cuff remark didn't really break her silence, as several news reports declare. It was just a reminder that her refusal to discuss herself and "To Kill a Mockingbird" isn't going to end any time soon.

"She's certainly not at a loss for words. That's not why she's been silent all this time," writer Charles J. Shields told Jacket Copy. "She's such a live wire. Friends of hers will tell you that. When she wants to turn it on, she's wonderful."

Shields tried to speak to Lee for his 2006 book "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee" (Henry Holt). He never received an answer from her. He suggests that the stunning success of her novel has enabled Lee to insulate herself from the world. "She enjoys a life of no constraints, no demands, and she has the income to do it," he says. "Her book sells about 100,000 copies a year without any sort of public appearances necessary. She doesn't have to explain herself. She's beholden to no one."

-- Nick Owchar

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