If you have young children, you probably have heard of Susan Meddaugh by now. She is the well-known author and illustrator of an incredibly popular series of childrens books called Martha Speaks that have been turned into a PBS cartoon, making Meddaugh a household name. She has written about a dozen titles centered on the dog whose astounding ability of speech was granted to her by the daily bowl of alphabet soup she eats.
In Perfectly Martha, the sixth in the series, the loquacious canine becomes a fighter of crime by stopping scam artists targeting owners of, let’s say, mischievous puppies. Our hero dog hears of a business that opened nearby called the Perfect Pup Institute, whose owners promise “a perfect dog in one day.” The talking dog is skeptical and disturbed by this advertisement and begins to investigate by enrolling in a class, where she meets the owners Dr. Pablum and Otis Weaselgraft. By taking the class, Martha learns that the dogs don’t become well-behaved but rather they seemingly become robots. They stop doing all the things dogs are known for, including chasing squirrels.
Martha is determined to uncover the institute’s secret but she is instead discovered by one of the owners and dog napped for a study. Her captivity may have been for the best because it was during her incarceration that she learns the institute’s ugly secret, something called the RoboRover Brain Stopper. This device worn around a dog’s neck inhibits all of the dog’s brain, except for the one that controls obedience.
Through this witty story, Meddaugh’s readers may relate to the dog’s frustration with owners who inhibit the young dogs’ spirits. The energetic illustrations in Perfectly Martha and its clever asides make for a winning combination. As in her previous books in the series, Meddaugh uses the same ink and watercolor technique to seamlessly add this book to the talking dog’s line. She uses strong and contrasting colors to create a fantastical world in which all dogs are and look perfect.
Not only will children ages 4 to 8 love Perfectly Martha, but so will their parents because the book’s 32 pages are filled with whimsical silliness that will captivate their little ones. Meddaugh has yet another hit on her hands.