Friday, August 20, 2010

Rebus Reader: Meet Martha (Martha Speaks) by Susan Meddaugh

Sometimes Martha surprises people.

Words can be fun. Words can also be very useful.

Words helped when Martha was in the dog shelter without her collar.

Composing one's memoirs is usually undertaken in the, um, mature years, and Susan Meddaugh's Martha certain qualifies as a mature mutt. She's just turned twenty-one if we count her, er, whelping date from her first appearance in the highly original The Witches' Supermarket as the non-talking but cat-costumed familiar of little Helen, who, dressed as a witch for Halloween, accidentally ventures into a supermarket usually patronized by real witches. The next year Martha made her debut as the logorrheic pooch who starts to talk and doesn't know when to quit in the hilarious hit, Martha Speaks, the first in a series of best-selling, full-color picture books which made her creator Susan Meddaugh famous. For a mutt who must be 147 in human years, Martha is a pretty perky pooch indeed, one who, as the star of her own weekly show on PBS, is certainly celebrating her majority in a big way in 2010!

In her just-published Martha Speaks: Meet Martha (Picture Reader) (Green Light Readers Level 1) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), Martha debuts in her first rebus reader, as she recounts the high points of her life as a picture book diva for the very youngest readers. With a picture vocabulary of 12 words or word combinations (alphabet soup, family, burger, pizza, telephone, all presented in an introduction) Martha revisits some of the high points of her career as Helen's garrulous pet--her first words ("When's dinner?"), her now forbidden telephone pizza orders ("I was going to share!"), and her unfortunate incarceration as a homeless mutt in the doggy shelter (with a plaintive "Come get me, Helen!" on the phone), not to mention her famous foiling of the unlucky home-invading burglar who tries to outwit the family's loyal guardian.

Included in the back of this "Picture Reader" are a set of sturdy punch-out flash cards with the twelve rebus pictures on one side and the matching words in large lower-case type on the opposite side, so that emergent readers can practice their vocabulary, making Martha Speaks: Meet Martha (Picture Reader) (Green Light Readers Level 1), a fun way to "play school" between classmates or between older and younger siblings or to help preschoolers learn to "read" the book along with an older reader or parent. Books for the earliest of emergent readers are an important step along the way to literacy, and as always Martha is the go-to girl when words (or dinner) are being served up.

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