Books by Susan Meddaugh

JUST TEENIE by Susan Meddaugh
Released: April 10, 2006

Life is about perspective, suggests Meddaugh in this tale of a little girl—a really little girl—who'd not only like to grow up, she'd just like to plain grow. "Teenie" is so small that if she were to fall out of a chair, it might prove fatal. "The whole world doesn't fit," she moans. A fortuneteller answers Teenie's wish to grow by giving her a plant, a plant that grows by leaps and bounds. As the plant bushes out and spirals up, it becomes a bit of a rascal, snatching small things—a watch, a pail, a pair of undies—into its branches. Last to be nabbed is Teenie. From on high, Teenie sees things anew, and her place in the world changes dramatically. She now protects rather than needing protection. Meddaugh's text and artwork are wonderfully artless: In her hands, a talking dog or a magical walking stick or a girl the size of a cat are all quite natural. It's just a matter of angle and perspective, like life and the pursuit of happiness. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 29, 2005

Meddaugh's wacky, and highly pleasurable, Cinderella-like tale doesn't need any prince for Margaret (as our Cinderella is known) to escape the demands of her lazy and cruel siblings, just a near-spent magic walking stick. The stick belongs to a witch who has used it to make a thousand miserable wishes come true. Almost out of steam, the witch is about to turn a dog into cat when the dog snatches the stick, thinking she wants to play. Meanwhile, across the forest, Margaret is having another wretched day being bossed around by her brother and sister. She runs away. A rolling series of comical incidents ensue, as Margaret learns of the stick's powers, gives her brother and sister the what for, ameliorates her circumstances and returns the stick just as its powers disappear. Sorry, witch. Meddaugh's droll, economical prose is matched to perfection by her wonderfully expository artwork. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
PERFECTLY MARTHA by Susan Meddaugh
Released: March 29, 2004

Martha, the dog who took alphabet soup to new heights, smells a rat when the dogs in her neighborhood start behaving too obediently after a course with Otis Weaselgraft's Perfect Pup Institute. They sit, they roll over, they lie down on command, which runs counter to Martha's understanding of the dog brain: big sleep, eat, and play lobes, with a minor lobe, about the size of a dust mote, tuned to obedience (nicely illustrated by Meddaugh's declarative art). Martha learns the trick to the professor's system, a brain-blocking microchip inserted into the dog's collar: "Lasts about a month," admits Weaselgraft when Martha turns the tables on him, "just long enough to take your money and move to the next state." Martha is the perfect mutt to raise the slogan "Question Authority" to an art form: really, if you're not drinking from the toilet or scattering trash, are you being true to your inner dog? (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
HARRY ON THE ROCKS by Susan Meddaugh
Released: April 28, 2003

Meddaugh's newest is a William Steig-like tale of a lonely castaway who inadvertently becomes a parent. Washed ashore on a remote, rocky island, Harry finds only a large egg and a windblown tree for food. Discovering that the latter's leaves taste like "broccoli boiled in skunk cabbage oil!" he turns to the egg. Unwilling to eat it raw, he tries to bake it in the sun, whereupon it hatches into a lizard-like creature with stubby wings. Hoping to train it to catch fish for him, Harry—portrayed in the simply drawn, minimally detailed illustrations as a dog in human dress—coaches it into learning to fly, but then fearfully drives it away after it breathes fire to cook the subsequent catch. Weeks later the dragon, grown to huge size, returns in a storm to rescue Harry, fly him to the mainland, and utter its first word: "Mmmmm . . . Mmmmmm . . . MOM!'" More perceptive readers may vaguely detect some symbolism in this sketchy episode, but for tales on the theme of unlikely parentage, Lynn Reiser's Surprise Family (1994) still sets the standard. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
MARTHA AND SKITS by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Meddaugh tucks an unobtrusive lesson about valuing differences into this tale of doggy devotion, her fifth featuring the ever-popular Martha. From her favorite easy chair, Martha looks on benevolently as Skits, a new little companion, creates total puppy chaos indoors and out, developing from an "equal opportunity chaser and chewer" to a specialist in snagging "anything airborne." Soon "little" Skits is little no longer—but not even two bowls of the alphabet soup that gives Martha the power of speech produces in him anything beyond a bark. Feeling his family's disappointment, Skits wanders disconsolately out to the yard and incautiously snaps at a yellow jacket. By the time the pain eases, he is a long way from home. With some of Martha's comments placed in dialogue balloons, Meddaugh's sketchy, expressive illustrations capture the entire family's worry as they hunt for their lost member, leading up to a joyful reunion at a climactic Frisbee contest that (thanks to some timely help from Martha) Skits wins jaws down to regain his self-respect. So what if his conversational range extends from "arf" to "woof"? If it flies or floats, it's history. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
THE BEST PLACE by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Could it be that the grass really is greener on the other side of the porch? The wolf dearly loves his cozy screened-in sanctuary, but a seed of doubt planted by his friend, a bird who has seen more of the world, leads him to sell his house, pack his bags, and go searching for an even more idyllic spot. Humorous drawings capture the wolf's expressive reactions to his disappointing experiences, along with his frustration and wistfulness when he discovers that he can't go home; the rabbits love his old house too much to sell it back, even at twice the price. Several misunderstandings ensue before the wolf finds a perfect perch, and a way to make amends with his neighbors. Meddaugh (Martha Walks the Dog, 1998, etc.) tells a funny tale, with lesson that even young listeners will appreciate; the story's surprising twists and unpredictable outcome will make children turn to this one again. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
MARTHA WALKS THE DOG by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Words can heal—that's the moral Martha (Martha Blah Blah, 1996, etc.) the talking dog unexpectedly learns when she tangles with Bob, the "BAD DOG" of the neighborhood. Pragmatic Martha never lets flattery go to her head and is always ready to stick up for her friends, even when it means facing off with the most ferocious canine the neighborhood has ever seen. When Bob gets off his chain, Martha has to run for her life; cornered under the bushes, she is waiting for the feel of Bob's jaws around her throat when rescue comes from an unexpected source—a parrot that Martha has been instructing in kind phrases. Bob calms down in the face of the parrot's praise. This humorous portrayal of the power of words to alter behavior is one that even very young listeners will appreciate. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
CINDERELLA'S RAT by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

This spinoff from the Cinderella story is an instant classic—children will love it, while adults who read it aloud will admire the imagination and talent Meddaugh (Martha Blah Blah, 1996, etc.) exhibits in this highly original tale. The story is framed thus: ``I was born a rat. I expected to be a rat all my days. But life is full of surprises.'' The familiar tale is the backdrop for the rat's story: He was caught in a trap, but his captor is a fairy godmother who turns rats into coachmen. He goes along to the ball, and is drawn to the larder, where a fellow servant almost stomps the hero's sister Ruth, still a rat. There begins a series of zany events that only readers fully understand, leading to an ending—a happy ending- -that no one will predict. Humor permeates the tale, while clever twists shape it; as in William Steig's best work, the language is spare and catchy, the telling is droll, and pictures and text combine perfectly. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
MARTHA BLAH BLAH by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

Corporate downsizing has a dismaying effect on the loquacious, alphabet-soup-slurping heroine of Martha Speaks (1992) and Martha Calling (1994). After the new owner of Granny's Soup Company lays off half her alphabeticians (including Alf, who makes the letter A) and changes the motto from ``Every letter in every can'' to ``Letters in every can,'' Martha's utterances suddenly become incomprehensible: ``Good soup today'' comes out ``Goo-oup-o''; ``Something is wrong'' emerges as ``Ohigiwog.'' Only Martha's disconsolate ``woof'' and her rather portly figure remain unchanged. In Meddaugh's fluid ink and watercolor scenes, Martha doesn't stay down for long; lapping up the last can of original Granny's, she races off to the factory and tricks the owner into rehiring the laid-off letter punchers. Martha says it all at the end: ``What would people do without dogs?'' Without this particular dog, they would have fewer laughs. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

Annie wants to be the most beautiful kid in the world for her grandmother, who is coming to dinner. The starched green ensemble her mother recommends just won't do: It's itchy and tight, with no Çlan, no pizzazz. So Annie cobbles together an outlandish costume of her favorite pieces of clothing and jewelry, chosen for comfort and shine. When Grandma enters, she is likewise decked out in high style, and her first words declare Annie the most beautiful kid in the world. Ericsson (No Milk!, 1993) takes this ode to dressing up right out of real life; Annie's behavior has nothing to do with rebellion or rugged individualism but with a small girl's absolute focus on the articles of dress that she believes will look nice. The text may be too minimal to inspire children who don't share Annie's interests; to them she may come across as frenetic in the extreme, despite the best efforts of Meddaugh, whose illustrations are all sharp black outlines and splashes of candy color. (Picture book. 3+) Read full book review >
HOG-EYE by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Meddaugh (Martha Calling, 1994, etc.) introduces us to a piglet heroine worthy of Mary Rayner's porcine family (Mr. and Mrs. Pig's Evening Out, 1976, etc.) in a delightful adventure, presented in cheerful watercolors and scathing parental asides. The young pig who narrates this tale avoids the trip to school with her obnoxious busmates by taking a different bus, but makes a mistake and must walk home through the woods. A big bad wolf is waiting, but he is no match for her. He ties her up to make soup, but is illiterate and must ask her to read the cookbook. Her version of the recipe requires him to make a number of trips to distant, harrowing spots, during which times she tries to escape. On the last trip she sends him into the poison ivy patch and when he returns, she threatens to get him with her ``hog-eye'' and make him itch if he doesn't let her go. She gets home to tell the tale (editing it, of course, to make it interesting). This is a good feminist adventure, an easy-to-swallow pitch for literacy, and entertaining use of dramatic irony in the interplay between the deadpan text and the revealing pictures. A charming picture book, for all shelves. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
MARTHA CALLING by Susan Meddaugh
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Martha, a dog, takes command of the human language after eating a bowl of alphabet soup. But she still gets no respect— the diner bars her entry, the butcher throws her out of his shop. It isn't long before Martha discovers the joys of the telephone: gabbing with her pals, ordering take-out, even winning a call-in radio contest, a weekend for four at the Come-On-Inn. Here again she meets the ugly face of discrimination—the hotel's no-dogs policy. Regardless, her family smuggles her in, but the ruse is quickly discovered when a chambermaid finds Martha snoozing after downing 20 pounds of steak ordered from room service. About to get the bum's rush, Martha starts to lecture the assembled, reminding them of the 10,000 years of loyalty from her species. All for what? A kennel while everyone else enjoys the ``family'' vacation. Consciences are pricked, policies are righted, and Martha goes on gabbing. Meddaugh's (The Witches' Supermarket, 1991, etc.) humor is as bright as her artwork. Rarely do sequels have such zip. (Fiction/Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THAT TERRIBLE BABY by Jennifer Armstrong
Released: April 1, 1994

Clad in black-and-white stripes and with an impish gleam in its eye, the baby prowls, ripping Eleanor's poster from the wall and a tablecloth from under Mark's house of cards and causing both sibs to cry, ``Stop that baby.'' Baby howls, Mom comes running, Baby smiles beatifically, and the older kids are blamed and made to clean up. They dream of revenge, but Armstrong's denouement is more poetic. Confined for their apparent misdemeanors, they see the baby go out the cat door and break parole to catch it just before it tumbles down the steps. After it climbs back through the door Mom finally admits that ``That's one speedy crawler.'' Meddaugh catches the children's true-to- life mix of frustration and concern for the baby's safety in witty cartoon-style illustrations. Anyone, child or parent, who's tried to keep up with a rogue infant is sure to chortle at this one. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE BEST HALLOWEEN OF ALL by Susan Wojciechowski
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

From his first year, Ben's parents assiduously provide him with homemade Halloween costumes—clever, but usually casting him as sidekick to older brother Michael (rabbit to his magician or angel to his devil) and not always comfortable—the wooden cheese wedge (Michael is a mouse) is too heavy and the robot (paired with its scientist creator) too hot inside. Finally, at seven, Ben sensibly declares his independence and makes his own costume: he's ``an intergalactic-space-starship robotron armed with a laser-pulverizer-beam rod,'' simply and comfortably engineered from one paper bag and two paper-towel rolls. A mildly satirical story that amusingly reflects realistic child development. Meddaugh's bright, cartoony art nicely extends the action and humor. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Helen is wearing a witch costume and her dog Martha is disguised as a black cat when they follow a lady who has dropped a coupon for a free broom into what turns out to be an emporium full of weird customers and gruesome groceries (lots of clever names: ``fast,'' ``traditional,'' and ``state-of-the art'' brooms; candies like ``Hot Cauldrons,'' ``Hava-Kava-T,'' and—in a touch of black humor—``Cherno-Belle Chewies''). After Helen (and readers) have had a chance to explore the delights revealed in the lively illustrations, she's discovered—but the mayhem Martha generates among the witches' cats allows dog and girl to escape to the street. Imaginative Halloween fun. (Picture book. 4-8)*justify no* Read full book review >
NO NAP by Susan Meddaugh
illustrated by Susan Meddaugh, by Eve Bunting
Released: Sept. 23, 1989

With Susie left in his care, Dad spends the afternoon trying to get her tired enough to nap—until Dad falls asleep. Irrepressible Susie is endearingly true to life; Meddaugh's cartoon-like illustrations catch the situation's humor, as well as Mom's consternation when she comes home to a mess—and the still wide-eyed child. Read full book review >