Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Kendall Barnes
Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha is 21 days old, which means she is ready to give her "leg" in marriage. Martina's Cuban grandmother tells her that she will need to spill coffee on a suitor's shoes to find out how he deals with his temper. This will, in turn, tell Catalina how he will act toward her in the long run. Even though she is leery about the coffee test, she still tries it, and is shocked at how well it works. Her first few prospective husbands all show their "true sides" when she spills coffee on them. At last, she meets Perez, the mouse, who also has a Cuban grandmother. Martina's heart pounds at the sight of him, and she knows she has found her perfect match when he performs the coffee test on her! The illustrations in the book are bright and bubbly and coincide well with the text. In addition, the aspects of Cuban culture that Deedy integrates into this work of animal fantasy make it an effective piece of multicultural literature. Reviewer: Kendall Barnes
Kirkus Reviews
Available in both English and Spanish editions, this new version of a story told in Cuba, Puerto Rico and other LatinAmerican countries is lively and funny, without the sad ending found in some tellings. With the help of her wise grandmother, Martina tries to find the best husband from among the suitors lining up to marry her. With the traditional "Coffee Test"-she spills hot coffee on their shoes to see their response-she is able to see that none of the wouldbe husbands-the haughty rooster, the odorous pig and the cockroacheating lizard-are good choices, judging by their angry reactions. Finally, Abuela (grandmother) shows her a humble mouse, Perez, who has a sweet voice. Martina falls in love at once, although she is surprised when he turns the tables and uses the Coffee Test on her, as instructed by his Cuban grandmother. The acrylic paintings have a dreamy, surrealistic quality, and elements of Cuban housewares and products can be found in Martina's home in a streetlamp. Fun to compare with other versions, this telling has magic all its own. (Folklore. 610)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781561453993
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 184,258
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 11.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

    We love this book.  I read it with my daughter who is four.  We

    We love this book.  I read it with my daughter who is four.  We love the hints of foreign language and illustrations....also a great concept for little girls to learn about how a prospective suitor should treat them! :)  A book for every young girl! .

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  • Posted November 26, 2012

    A delightful and sweet tell that gives children readers a differ

    A delightful and sweet tell that gives children readers a different view of personality types and adds a hint of foreign language awareness. The story mixes Cuban words in with the story and a song to draw young readers in and get them involved with the story. The story shows children the rewards of strong character and a good heart. While there is a romance aspect near the end of the story it is not too mushy or sappy which will still keep young male readers interested. The artwork featured in the picture book was also amazing with the use of line, color, and style the book is given an exotic painting like quality. The Characters seem to come to life as there personality is captured in the artist’s paintings. This is a fun read and I would recommend reading it along with the child reader.

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  • Posted January 11, 2012

    You would like this book

    I liked the book because it was funny. Also, because it was what I would really imagine it would be. It has to do with coffee and I like coffee. It was interesting.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Cute, Funny and Interesting

    The book Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Michael Austin is a wonderful book for younger kids or anyone who enjoys good children's literature. This book has received the Pura Belpre Award and would fall under Modern Fantasy genre. The story is just amazing, cute, funny and interesting the pictures are wonderful and the script is very child friendly. Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha has just turned 21 and is now ready to be married. There are many potential candidates that Martina must meet and deal with before she is enchanted and head over heals for a particular someone. Along the way Martina meets Don Gallo, Don Cerdo, Don Lagarto and a tiny brown mouse. Her abuela her Cuban grandmother; a wise lady gives Martina the key to success for choosing the best potential husband. Martina then follows her abuelas instructions and advice and sticks to the plan till she meets chosen one.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    Beautiful Book for all ages

    As a kid in Puerto Rico my favorite story was "La Cucarachita Martina". I was amazed when my husband gave it to me to put on our daughter's Easter Basket. It is wonderful to see how that story is transformed in this book. The pictures are very colorful and beautiful with touches of those old memories as the "Maja" powder and the "Bohemia" magazine I remember my Grandma using and reading. The story is well written with a nice message not only for kids but for adults trying to find their right partner. My 5 years old daughter loves it and it gave me the opportunity to bond with her by enjoying the same story but also sharing some of my Grandmother's memories. I highly recommend this book to everybody!

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  • Posted August 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book!

    Martina the Beautiful Cockroach is an imaginative retelling of the classic Cuban folktale La Cucaracha Martina. In this version, Martina's abuela advises her of a surefire method to choose the best husband. Eventually, the coffee test reveals the suiter with the best personality.

    I think it is safe to say, cockroaches are some of the most reviled creatures on Earth. Yet, the combination of Carmen Deedy's captivating words and Michael Austin's dazzling illustrations, made me forget about stomping or squashing a cockroach.

    This is definitely a book I plan to include in my "folktale" study.

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