Martina the Beautiful Cockroach paperback
Carmen Agra Deedy delivers a deliciously inventive Cuban version of the beloved Martina folktale, complete with a dash of café cubano.
In retelling a popular Cuban folktale, Deedy (The Yellow Star) shares a secret closely guarded by Cuban grandmothers-at least, by Cuban grandmothers of cockroaches. When you spill coffee on your suitor's shoes, Abuela tells her 21-day-old granddaughter Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, his reaction tells you all you need to know about what sort of spouse he will make. And events prove her right. "¡Ki-ki-ri-kiiii!" storms Don Gallo, the rooster, who seconds before has proposed very prettily to the six-legged beauty. "Clumsy cockroach! I will teach you better manners when you are my wife!" Don Cerdo the pig and Don Lagarto the lizard fare no better ("You are much too cold-blooded for me," Martina tells the lizard, who reveals in his irritation that he has actually planned to eat her). As a note on the book jacket explains, Cuban cockroaches are a lovely green, and Austin's (The Horned Toad Prince) lime-colored Martina, in high heels and a lace mantilla, appears the picture of maidenly charm. ("Daintily, she sat down/ and crossed her legs,/ and crossed her legs,/ and crossed her legs," quips Deedy.) Austin's cockroach dwelling is a desirable piece of real estate, with its stairs made of gum wrappers, its wrought-plastic comb railing, and its exclusive mid-Havana address (it's a lamppost). A friendly sprinkling of Spanish words, warmly drawn relationships and a lot of puns all widen the audience for this spirited story. A Spanish-language version is available as well.