Clever folktales with an amusing message will certainly engage readers. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale (Retold by Carmen Agra Deedy and award winning illustrator, Michael Austin, Peachtree Publishers, 2007) certainly delivers a charming story.
Who would think that a cockroach could capture anyone’s heart? I certainly had my reservations until I opened the book. As I gazed upon the dark green cockroach named Martina and read about her family and her dedication and wit, I immediately was won over. Yes, a cockroach pulled off the leading lady roll without a hitch.
She methodically followed her grandmother’s advice to pour coffee on all of her prospective suitors. Only by observing their reactions to an unpleasant event could she truly judge if the potential husband would be a good match. With some hesitation, she followed what her grandmother suggested. One after another, different animals responded unfavorably. Martina’s disappointment was apparent. Would anyone act in an appropriate and non-offending manner? One was too cocky, another too boorish, and the third was cold-blooded.
The fourth time around she encountered an ideal match. Her companion was also raised by a Cuban grandmother. He likewise splashed coffee on Martina’s shoe. Similar backgrounds created mutuality and understanding.
Wow! Look at this long list of impressive awards.
- Pura Belpre Honor Book
- Pura Belpre Medal (honor book)
- NCSS/CBC Notable Trade Books for Young People in the Field of Social Studies Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (primary – starred review)
- The Best Children’s Books of the Year (Bank Street College of Education)
- Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award for the Best Picture Book of the Year (honor book)
- International Latino Book Awards (Best Children’s Picture Book, English)
- Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
- Read On Wisconsin! (primary age group)
- Volunteer State Book Awards (master list, K-3)
- Junior Library Guild Selection
- Criticas Magazine Starred Review
- Society of School Librarians International Book Awards
- Odyssey Award (honor book)
- Storytelling World Resource Awards
- Children’s Book Award (Florida)
- Texas Bluebonnet Award
- Virginia Reader’s Choice Awards
- Spanish vocabulary-una peineta, una mantilla, un consejo increible, abuela, el perico, senor, adios, hola, si, cafe cubano, mi amor
- Cockroach facts and myths
- Geography and background info- Cuba and Havana
- Family traditions
- Following elders’ advice
- Common culture
- How do illustrations affect a book?
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