Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: a Cuban Folktale

MARTINA THE BEAUTIFUL COCKROACH: A CUBAN FOLKTALE; Retold by Carmen Deedy;Illustrated by Michael Austin; Atlanta: Peachtree, 2007; unpaged. Picture book.

Martina really is a beautiful cockroach, and when she decides to wed, many suitors come calling. Her grandmother gives her good advice on how to separate the wheat from the chaff: spill coffee on his shoes and see how he reacts. Although skeptical, Martina does as her grandmother suggests. The rooster, Don Gallo, reacts with anger and promises to teach her better manners when she is his wife; the pig, Don Cerdo, promises that she must not only clean up the coffee, but many other things when she becomes his wife. At last she meets the mouse of her dreams, and the coffee test seals the deal in a surprise ending. Deedy's lyrical and syncopated prose tell Martina's story in a pleasingly rhythmic Cuban fashion. Michael Austin's sumptuous illustrations are a rich complement to the text, and the reader, believe it or not, becomes quite fond of Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, the lovely little cockroach from Havana. Pura Belpre author honor award 2008.

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