Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

Deedy, Carmen Agra. 2007. Martina the Beautiful Cockroach. Ill. by Michael Austin. Atlanta: Peach Tree.

I love this version of the classic Cuban folktale. In Deedy's book, Martina tests her many suitors by dumping coffee on the feet of each. By their responses, she judges the character of each prospect.

"Martina nervously splattered coffee onto the rooster's spotless shoes. 'Oh my!' she said with mock dismay. 'I'm all feelers today!' "Ki-ki-ri-kiiii!' The rooster was furious. 'Clumsy cockroach! I will teach you better manners when you are my wife.' ..... 'A most humble offer, senor,' she said cooly, 'but I cannot accept. You are much too cocky for me.' "

The illustrations are beautiful and lifelike, with feathers, scales, plants and pants shown in great detail. A particularly nice touch are the background features that put the creatures' size into perspective. Martina uses a spoon for a mirror and has a postage stamp on the wall as artwork. Several stacked packages of gum with a jeweled comb handrail serve as her staircase. The dust jacket credits the author, the illustrator, and in a cute touch - "The Real Martina," a description and photograph of the "real" Cuban Cockroach.

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