Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues

Common Sense Media says

Lively talking-dog adventure fosters vocabulary, compassion.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about a dog's everyday life, from feeding to bathing, as well as the experience of dogs in shelters and tips on adopting them.They'll also pick up some new vocabulary words.

Positive messages

Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues teaches positive messages about listening, caring, and appreciating what you've got. It also demonstrates sensitivity to and caring for pets, and the idea that things are often not as bad as they first seem.

Positive role models

Parents and adults are engaged and present. Kids are likable and realistic. 

Violence & scariness

No pets are injured, but some scenes depict lost and abandoned pets at a shelter. The outcome is positive, but this may require some explaining to kids who don't know how pet adoption works.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues, part of the Martha Speaks series of chapter books, involves a pet who gets lost and ends up in a shelter. The experience is ultimately positive, but more appropriate for kids who already understand (or are ready for) the idea of pets being abandoned or running away, and the shelter and adoption process. Also, the Kindle version has a formatting issue -- the illustrations include text, as they would in a picture book, then that same text appears again on the following page in a different font, presumably to acquaint kids with the typical display of text in chapter books. But it may be confusing or distracting for some. 

What's the story?

Martha thinks she's got it pretty bad when she's forced to take a bath. But when her collar falls out the window and Martha darts after it, finding herself out on the streets and ultimately in the animal shelter, she realizes her definition of "bad" might have been a little bit premature. Making friends with the other shelter pets, she realizes just how lucky she is -- if only she can find her family again and tell them!

Is it any good?


With its comedy-of-errors humor and vibrant, cartoonish watercolor-and-ink drawings, MARTHA SPEAKS: SHELTER DOG BLUES engages and informs readers, offering lessons in gratitude, kindness, positivity -- and vocabulary. Martha the dog finds herself in all kinds of silly binds, usually of her own doing, but through her learning process, readers, too, learn how to navigate the world and act with decency.

Kids who like dogs will love imagining the possibilities of a talking dog, and parents can appreciate the intelligence and compassion displayed in these fun books. Bonus features include a vocabulary quiz at the end and tips on pet adoption.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about pet adoption. Do you have an adopted pet? If so, why did you choose to adopt a pet instead of buying one from the store? What are good reasons for both?

  • How do you think this chapter book compares with the the original Martha Speaks picture book? What's fun about Martha as a character? 

  • Have you ever felt sorry for yourself, as Martha does? What helped you realize that things weren't so bad after all?

Book details

Author:Susan Meddaugh
Illustrator:Jamie White
Genre:For Beginning Readers
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Brothers and sisters, Cats, dogs, and mice, Friendship, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:January 18, 2010
Number of pages:112
Publisher's recommended age(s):6 - 9
Read alone:7 - 9
Available on:Hardback, Kindle, Paperback

This review of Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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