Martina the Beautiful Cockroach
Retold by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Michael Austin
What it's about:
Martina's grandmother gives her some strange advice to help her decide if a suitor would be the right choice as a husband: spill coffee on his shoes.
What I love:
Martina is a beautiful cockroach, and has many suitors asking, "Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, beautiful muchacha, won't you be my wife?" There is Don Gallo - the rooster, Don Cerdo - the pig, and Don Lagarto - the lizard. Following her grandmother's advice she spills coffee on their shoes and each in turn reveals his true intentions, including the lizard's intention to eat her!
This story has great repetition and rhythm allowing students to predict and help tell the story along with you. It also has wonderful wordplay: the rooster is too cocky, the pig is too boorish, and the lizard to cold-blooded.
I love the surprise at the end when Martina (against her wishes) is ready to spill coffee on Perez the mouse, but he beats her to it, spills some on her and reveals that he too has a Cuban grandmother.
My favorite part:
My favorite part is when Martina asks about Perez, "where has he been?" and her grandmother replies, "Right here all along."
Students love to look back and see that Perez is hidden in illustrations throughout the story right under Martina's nose.
When introducing the Pura Belpre Award, I like to share Belpre's version of Perez and Martina (a little tragic, yes). Deedy's retelling makes a great comparison along with being a Belpre Award honor book as well.