Martina the Beautiful Cockroach retold by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Michael Austin
My mom hates cockroaches...hates them with a passion. Growing up in the tropics, you deal with them on a daily basis, even in the most posh environment. That said, I think she might like them for a second if she reads this beautiful retelling of the classic cuban folktale.
"Martina Josefina Catalina Cucarach was a beautiful cockroach. She lived in a cozy street lamp in Old Havana with her big, lovable family." She was already 21 days old so she was ready "to give her leg in marriage." Every woman in her family had something to give her (a seashell comb, a shawl), but nothing compared with her Abuela's gift: she gave her "un consejo increíble, some shocking advice." She told her to spill coffee on her suitor's shoes to help her find a good husband. "It will make him angry! Then you'll know how he will speak to you when he loses his temper." As suitors line up to try to convince Martina to pick them as a husband, she follows Abuela's advice and spills coffee on them on purpose. Each suitor has a different reaction: the rooster screams that he'll teach her better manners when she's his wife; the pig tells her she'll have to clean after him for the rest of her life; the lizard was so mad he practically confesses he just wanted to eat her. When she's ready to call it a day and head back inside, she notices a little mouse. His name was Perez and had a voice "warm like honey" and Martina was immediately enamored. Abuela brought out two coffee cups so Martina could try the Coffee Test, and as she was about to spill it on the mouse he did it to her first. Martina "was too delighted to be angry" and just asked him how he know about the Coffee Test. "Well, mi amor, my love...I too have a Cuban Grandmother."
It's impossible not to have a smile on your face while you read this delightful folktale. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, so much so, that it even makes cockroaches look stylish. The drawing of the city and the animals have an Old Havana feeling to them. This is a wonderful retelling, a real find.