cover image Martha and Skits

Martha and Skits

Susan Meddaugh. Walter Lorraine Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-05776-4

In this fifth Martha adventure, the talking dog hears a phrase well known to middle-aged pets: ""Meet your new brother."" Martha's owners introduce a brown puppy, Skits, who chews random household objects, attacks the vacuum cleaner and launches himself upon ""anything airborne."" (""Bad dog!"" shout the humans, echoing the key line in Martha Walks the Dog, while Martha looks on in fond amusement.) Martha and Skits become friends, although Martha asserts ""alpha dog"" status when Skits spills her alphabet soup, the potion that enables Martha to speak. Martha wonders why the soup doesn't grant Skits the same ability (""Martha worried about Skits's brain. Was it too small?""), until she discerns that his talents lie elsewhere. Using her customary combination of deadpan commentary, comical voice-bubble asides and witty drawings, Meddaugh takes an accurate look at puppy behavior. It's almost a shame when, with the flick of a page, Skits transforms from big-eyed, charmingly stupid youngster to oversize lummox. Yet the gangly, full-grown SkitsDdashing headlong into big troubleDprovides an amusing contrast to tawny-coated, plump and pragmatic Martha. Meddaugh gently shifts the weight of the book away from Martha and onto the two dogs as a team. Her fitting addition to Martha's family acknowledges time's passage, invigorating both her canine heroine and her series. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)