When Helen Finney feeds alphabet soup to her dog Martha, Martha begins to speak. But having a talking dog is not as fun as it seems.
With the arrival of Martha, Lassie had best look to her canine laurels. This scintillating story weighs the pros and cons of owning a loquacious pet. Thanks to the apparently magical properties of alphabet soup, unassuming mutt Martha is transformed into the Mr. Ed of the canine world. Unfortunately, the novelty for her human family wears off in a hurry: Martha blabs non-stop and commits numerous gaffes--telling one visitor, ``Mom said that fruitcake you sent wasn't fit for a dog. But I thought it was delicious.'' Meddaugh's ( The Witches' Supermarket ; Tree of Birds ) quirky take on the anthropomorphic pooch proves uproarious. Droll illustrations capture Martha's guileless expressions, her joy at the mastery of speech and her hurt feelings after she's commanded to pipe down. The book may be difficult to read aloud because Martha's not-to-be-missed comments, separate from the main narrative, interrupt the tale's flow. Still, anyone who's ever wondered what their pets are thinking will enjoy this imaginative book, its tactless but lovable main character and its triumphant ending. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)