Mr Peabody's Apples Madonna (Puffin) You've got to hand it to Madonna. Whatever she does, she gets a reaction. Take her new book, Mr Peabody's Apples, an illustrated children's morality tale written by the former queen of pop and set in clean-living, 1940s small-town America. Innocuous and harmless enough, you'd think. But glance at the readers' reviews on book-seller Barnes & Noble's website and you'd think she'd either resurrected Enid Blyton's Famous Five and made them even nicer, or penned a sexually explicit version of The Satanic Verses for under-10s. 'We should all be so lucky to have this wonderful writer impart her wisdom and knowledge on our children,' gushes Fabian, a 31-year-old 'musician, actor and dancer' from North Carolina. Linda, a grandmother, begs to differ. 'I have not, nor will ever, read anything that Ms Madonna has written,' she writes. 'Madonna writing children's books - that's just wrong. She is a disgrace and her behaviour is shameful. The fact she will not allow her children to watch anything she has done tells you something.' Initially, my sympathies were with Linda - not because I find anything Madonna has done in the past remotely offensive, but because the first thing she tells you is how her story was 'inspired by a 300-year-old story told to me by my Kabbalah teacher'. In the epilogue she goes on to say that the original story was written by a guru called Baal Shem Tov who was 'born c.1700 in Podolia, a region of the Ukraine'. Rather too much information for your average eight-year-old, you'd have thought. The story itself is nice enough. A teacher, mistakenly branded a thief, shows the pupil responsible for the slur the enormity of his lie by getting him to cut open a feather pillow on a hilltop and telling him to pick up every feather. It's beautifully illustrated and expensively packaged, in the expectation of sales to match those of Madonna's first venture into children's books,The English Roses, which did extremely well. But ultimately it's a one- dimensional morality tale without an ounce of the characterisation or storytelling zeal with which Tov and subsequent generations of Ukrainian Tovs would have embellished the tale.