Sunday, January 29, 2012

X-Dog Martha: Secret Agent Dog (Martha Speaks) by Susan Meddaugh and Jamie White

UH-OH! I'd been caught red-pawed.

I fled the scene. I didn't stop running until I'd reached the chief's office. (Do two-legged spies run this much? Where's my fancy car with the windows open and the top down?) I delivered K9-001's message.

"November 29-X?" the Chief repeated.

"That's right. He said it was a code."

"It certainly is, Martha! The case is cracked." The Chief shook my paw.

"Congratulations, Martha! You saved the soup!"

Martha loves a mystery, and when she is summoned by a mysterious pair in dark suits, dark glasses, and a dark limousine, she is delighted to be told that because of her special abilities, she has been chosen by spymaster The Chief to go undercover as a guard dog in the Granny's Soup headquarters. Rumors are circulating that a nefarious band of industrial spies are plotting to get their hands on Granny's secret alphabet soup formula. Martha is on board with the force right away: after all, she's always dreamed of the glamorous life of a secret agent, and besides, she needs that soup daily to keep on talking.

On the job as K9-002, Martha is disappointed that the role doesn't come with a tuxedo, dark glasses, and toilet water martinis, but she willingly agrees to work with the force's K9-001, guard dog Ruff, a rugged Rottweiler already in place at the factory. On her first night of surveillance, Martha, playing a friendly nighttime watchdog, observes the janitor picking the lock to Granny's office, where the secret formula is kept safe in the, um, safe, to which only Granny herself knows the combination. Certain that she has uncovered the undercover agent, Martha and Ruff take the news to Granny, and watch as she rushes to open the safe and make sure her formula is still there.

It is, and when Ruff tells Martha a secret code to capture the crook (the bilingual Martha speaks dog, remember?), she rushes to report it to The Chief. Mission accomplished. Case closed, thanks to souper-dog Martha, she thinks.

But no. Martha soon learns that The Chief was an impostor who played upon her desire to be a secret agent. Ruff, Agent K9-001, was actually part of the mastermind's plot. He observed the combination Granny's safe (which Martha's owner Helen quickly decodes as 11-29-10) and used Martha's ability to translate it into human talk to get it to The Chief, who then knew all he needed to rip off the recipe and end Granny's Soup's preeminence as Numero Uno in the soup biz.

Martha mopes for a minute or two, but then decides it's up to her to save Granny's Soup and keep herself in place as the world's only talking dog, even if it requires really going undercover, disguising herself as a pink poodle and infiltrating The Chief's operation. But this time, it's not Martha's linguistic skills or becoming a master of disguise that save the day--it's her good old doggy sense of smell that finally uncovers the master criminal and saves the soup.

In their forth-coming-in-February beginning chapter entry, Martha Speaks: Secret Agent Dog (Chapter Book) (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), Susan Meddaugh and collaborator Jamie White put their mystery-solving mutt through her paces in a comic little volume in which Martha again cur-tails the crooks and saves the world for talking dogs. Fans of the hit PBS show and Meddaugh's series of picture books and I-Can-Read Martha Speaks stories will love Martha as souper-spy, and the appended glossary and secret agent activities will undercover additional vocabulary enrichment opportunities as they create their own secret code messages and become "masters of disguise."

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