cover image Martha Calling

Martha Calling

Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-69825-9

As fans of Meddaugh's Martha Speaks know, this brainy canine-after chowing down on alphabet soup-can chatter away like any human. This sequel helpfully reiterates the soup secret (``The letters went up to [Martha's] brain instead of down to her stomach''), lets new readers in on Martha's ability to use the phone and introduces her Snoopy-esque peeve: ``no dogs allowed'' policies. Here Martha calls a radio quiz show and wins ``a weekend for four at the cozy Come-On-Inn.'' There's one catch: the inn doesn't admit dogs. So Martha and her owners sneak in, and when the pooch is found out, she appeals to the guilt of pet-owning vacationers: ``A lifetime of canine companionship and what do we get? A week in the K-word while you go off on a FAMILY vacation.'' Meddaugh sticks with her original formula in this unsurprising but amusing follow-up: Martha remains the same slightly tubby ``Heinz 57'' breed, and the characters talk in both printed text and in less formal dialogue bubbles. Kids are sure to be drawn in once again by Meddaugh's witty and unaffected cartooning; those uninitiated in the ways of Martha-speak would do well to answer her call. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)