March 03, 2003 10:00 AM

Madonna is aiming for a new demographic: the 6-and-up crowd.

Reuters reports that the Material Mom is about to become a children’s book author, having signed a deal with publisher Penguin to write five children’s books, each of which will be illustrated by a different artist.

The first, to be titled “The English Roses,” based on the adventures of a red fox and a little prince, will be published in hardback in September 2003.

“Madonna is an artist with a universal appeal and these books will touch children of all backgrounds everywhere in the world,” John Makinson of Penguin Books said in a statement.

As a Penguin author, Madonna joins such illustrious contributors to the house as the late Roald Dahl, Raymond Briggs, Eric Carle and Allan and Janet Ahlberg. (Puffin is actually the children’s book publishing arm of Penguin.) In America, her new titles will be published by the independent imprint of Calloway Editions and distributed by the Penguin Group.

The financial terms of Madonna’s deal have not been disclosed. Her first (and, until now, only) book, “Sex,” published amid great controversy in 1992, featured X-rated photos of herself and became a bestseller.

Of course, her interest in children may stem from the fact that she has two of her own: Lourdes, 6, and Rocco, 2.

“As with everything she does Madonna is once again going to surprise, delight and lead the way,” said Nicholas Callaway, founder of Calloway Editions.

“These are magical stories for children of all ages,” he added, “even grown up ones.”

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