Monday, August 02, 2010

Alpha Martha: Leader of the Pack (Martha Speaks) by Susan Meddaugh

"I think dogs should get an allowance," Martha said one day as she walked into Helen's room. "I do chores. I clean up all the food that falls on the floor. What do you think?"

Helen was busy doing homework. "It's a family tree," Helen said. "It shows all your relatives and how they're related."

"Ooh, ooh!" Martha cried. "Where am I? Where is Skits?"

"A family tree is made up of just people, Martha," Helen explained.

Martha is disgruntled. No allowance, no honored place on the family tree! Dogs don't get any respect! With Skits in tow, she heads off to track down her own DOGGY roots. With her animal shelter friend Kazuo as guide, the two visit the natural history museum and learn all about their ancestors, the wolves. Now Martha has a plan.

"We can live like our ancestors, the wolves," she told Skits. "It's time to find our own pack."

Martha recruits her pals Cisco the poodle and Burt the Pug to join her and Skits and heads for the woods, where she explains how they will live like their wild ancestors.

"This is where we prowl for food," Martha whispered.

Martha chased two squirrels up a tree. She tried to explain things to them.

"We're the hunters... and you're the prey," she said. "Our job is to eat you."

The squirrels' response was not surprising.

And neither is the reaction of Martha's pack. One by one Cisco, Burt, and even Skits check out to do their prowling back at their cozy food bowls in civilization. Martha is left a solo predator in the woods, a lone wolf indeed. "The lone hunter spots her unknowing prey," Martha mutters as her ancient instincts begin to take over. She stalks a sound in a nearby clearing. It's a little grounded mallard. Dinner! her wolfly nature whispers to her.

But then Martha noticed that the duck had what looked like a broken wing.

Uh-oh, she thought.

Martha's stomach grumbled, and she knew what she had to do.

Luckily, Martha's domestic dog reflexes kick in, and she herds the little duck straight to the vet. When he's treated, she herds him home to her family, who agree to keep him until he's able to fly away. And then Martha turns to an even more pressing issue: dinner.

"How about some alphabet soup?" said Helen.

Susan Meddaugh's just published Martha Speaks: Leader of the Pack (Houghton-Mifflin, 2010) is a genuinely funny Martha adventure (with a Word Challenge activity appended), a worthy sequel to the author's earlier best-selling hard-bound picture book series. Martha is a wonderful protagonist, a combination of true pooch personality, savvy street smarts, and wonderful literacy advocate which makes her unique in the world of dog characters.



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