June 16, 2004
Madonna is getting the hang of this kiddie book thing.
Yakov and the Seven Thieves (Callaway Editions) is the third instalment of Madonna's five - book series for the publisher and it's the best, mostly because there is nothing Material Girl - ish about it. (Her first book, the rather boring The English Roses, focused on a catty group of girls illustrated in a very fashion - forward manner.)
The fairy - tale artwork in Yakov, by Russian painter Gennady Spirin, brings authenticity to the story about a sick boy, desperate dad and wise old man in an eastern European village in the 18th century.
Madonna, who cites the influence of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, in all her books, says Yakov was inspired by the Baal Shem Tov, a Ukrainian teacher.
"It's a story about how all of us have the ability to unlock the gates of heaven - - no matter how unworthy we think we are. For when we go against our selfish natures, we make miracles happen, in our lives and in the lives of others," Madonna writes on the cover jacket.
While that's an exaggeration of how important and symbolic this book really is, the story moves along nicely and gets its message about redemption across without being too preachy. it's also appropriately written for its target audience of six - year - olds.
Yakov is the father of Mikhail, who is literally on his death bed. With few options left, Yakov goes to visit the mysterious old man who lives on the outskirts of the village and is rumoured to perform miracles. Unfortunately, the old man's first attempt to help the boy fails. He has an idea, though, to ask all the town's thieves, pickpockets and criminals to put their rather unusual talents toward a good cause.
Of course, being a children's picture book, there is a happy ending with a healthy Mikhail and reformed rascals.
And, it's worth noting that the only female scoundrel, Petra the Pickpocket, bears a striking resemblance to Madonna herself.