Retold by Carmen Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Michael Austin
Reviewed by Children’s Library Volunteer Kristen Crans
Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha is a beautiful cockroach living in Havanna, Cuba who needs to find a husband. Her Cuban grandmother gives her some wise advice as she begins her search: spill coffee on the suitor’s shoes as a test to reveal his true colors. Martina does not take to the idea, however after meeting her first suitor, Don Gallo, she realizes “the coffee test” might be just the trick. After Don Gallo, the rooster, comes Don Cerdo, the pig, followed by the lecherous Don Lagarto, the lizard. It goes from bad to worse. However just when Martina is about to give up on finding her perfect mate, she spots Perez, the shy little mouse living down in the garden. Because Martina instantly likes Perez’ kindness, she is reluctant to do “the coffee test” on what seems like a perfect suitor. Will Martina’s Cuban grandmother get her way and force Martina to spill coffee on perfect Perez’ shoes? You will have to read, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, A Cuban Folktale, to find out!
This beautifully illustrated book also comes with an audio CD where you can enjoy the full oral storytelling of this Cuban folktale or listen to the author do a reading of her book in English or Spanish. Children of all ages will delight in the illustrations and the outlandish reactions of each potential suitor as he succumbs to “the coffee test”.
Carmen Agra Deedy also wrote the comical tale called The Library Dragon, about a librarian who is none other than, a dragon! Both Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, and The Library Dragon can be found in the Children’s Library in the Easiest Readers, with the call number ED. Go check them out!