cover image Martha Blah Blah

Martha Blah Blah

Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-79755-6

While Meddaugh's Martha Calling essentially reprised the hilarious Martha Speaks, this third volume teaches the talking dog new tricks. And, without losing entertainment value, it puts corporate strategies and deceptive ads in perspective for young audiences--no mean feat. After reminding readers that Martha requires daily helpings of alphabet soup to be able to speak, Meddaugh introduces a dilemma. Granny's Soup Company has fired 13 letter-crafters to cut costs (""Why do we need all those letters? This is soup, not school!""), and the resulting broth includes only half the alphabet. Suddenly Martha begins speaking gibberish, and when she tries to use the phone or order burgers at a drive-through, humans regard her with amusement, not amazement. Shocked, the chatty canine realizes that she's about to become ""just another dog, scratching on the door to go out."" Meddaugh appends asterisks to Martha's attempts to talk, helpfully translating ""Wogo!"" as ""My words are gone!"" Then, after building suspense with a careful balance of text, cartoons and voice-bubbles, the author-illustrator solves the predicament in a shrewd, witty way. The workers return to their jobs, the missing letters are restored and Martha learns that her family loves her, voice or no voice. Souperb. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)