Martina the Beautiful Cockroach

A Cuban Folktale
by Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Michael Austin
Thanks to award-winning author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy, you’ll never look at a cockroach the same way again.  
  • ISBN: 9781561453993
  • Publication date: 09/01/2007
  • Page Count: 32
  • Size: 11-5/8" x 10
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Price:
  • ISBN: 9781561453993
  • Publication date: 09/01/2007
  • Page Count: 32
  • Size: 11-5/8" x 10
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Price:
  • ISBN: 9781561457878
  • Publication date: 03/01/2014
  • Page Count: 32
  • Size: 10-3/8" x 9"
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Price:
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Price:
  • ISBN: 9781682631416
  • Publication date: 09/01/2019
  • Page Count: N/A
  • Age Range: 4-8
  • Price:
  • Age Range: 4-8
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Thanks to award-winning author and storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy, you’ll never look at a cockroach the same way again.

“Lively and funny…this telling has magic all its own.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Spirited.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Masterful.” ―Booklist

The beautiful Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha doesn’t know coffee beans about love and marriage, so when suitors come calling, what is she to do? Luckily, she has her Cuban family to help!

While some of the Cucarachas offer Martina gifts to make her more attractive, only Abuela, her grandmother, gives her some useful advice: spill coffee on his shoes to see how he handles anger. At first, Martina is skeptical of her Abuela’s suggestion, but when suitor after suitor fails the Coffee Test, she wonders if a little green cockroach can ever find true love.

After reading this award-winning retelling of the Cuban folktale, readers will never look at a cockroach the same way again. Also available in Spanish and in audio (read by the author), Carmen Agra Deedy delivers a delightfully inventive Cuban twist on the beloved Martina folktale, complete with a dash of café Cubano.


Carmen Agra Deedy


Carmen Agra Deedy, a New York Times bestselling author, has been writing and traveling around the world telling stories for more than twenty years. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. Carmen has performed in many prestigious venues, but children are her favorite audience. Born in Havana, Cuba, she came to the United States as a refugee and like most immigrants sees the world from multiple perspectives. She lives in Georgia.

Michael Austin


Michael Austin is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, a creative director, and the illustrator of several books. He lives in Georgia.


“Deedy’s text sparkles with sly humor… The stunning acrylic illustrations are full of color, light, and humor… This wonderful book will delight children.” ―School Library Journal

“Austin’s cockroach dwelling is a desirable piece of real estate, with its stairs made of gum wrappers, its wrought-plastic comb railing, and its exclusive mid-Havana address (it’s a lamppost). A friendly sprinkling of Spanish words, warmly drawn relationships and a lot of puns all widen the audience for this spirited story.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Lively and funny… Fun to compare with other versions, this telling has magic all its own.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Deedy’s masterful retelling of this Latino folktale has a rollicking voice imbued with sly tongue-in-cheek humor. The acrylic illustrations, in a hyper-realistic style reminiscent of a softer William Joyce, are rendered in a vivid tropical palette. Shifting perspectives and points of view add vitality to the compositions, and facial expressions reveal both emotions and character traits. A scattering of Spanish words adds zest to this fine read-aloud.” ―Booklist

“The skillfully crafted acrylic illustrations capture the island’s ambience… The text flows easily.” ―Criticas, Starred Review

“Every page crackles with funny rhymes, silly sound effects, and wordplay that even adults will find irresistible.” ―Atlanta Magazine

“Gorgeously illustrated” ―Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“The humorous use of language, Cuban setting, and beautiful illustrations add to the book’s cultural authenticity.” ―REFORMA Newsletter

“Beauty and charm are not what we expect in a cockroach, but author Carmen Agra Deedy creates a sweet maiden in her re-telling of a Cuban folk tale about selecting a husband.” ―The Sacramento Bee

“It is an excellent way to introduce youngsters to the beauty of insects…” ―Sun Herald

“Children love the animals… The illustrations are WONDERFUL… Great for teaching a lesson on puns, whether for reading OR writing. Also has a great character development component to it about acceptance, kindness, and understanding. Also great to include in a folktale unit…” ―Write Wild

“Audio books have also gained acceptance as a type of reading, thanks to great recordings like ‘Martina the Beautiful Cockroach,’ written and narrated by Carmen Agra Deedy…” ―Jon Scieszka, Ambassador for Children’s Literature


Pura Belpre Medal (Honor Book) ―American Library Association, Association for Library Service to Children, REFORMA, National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos, 2008

Odyssey Award (Honor) ―American Library Association, Booklist, Young Adult Library Services Association, 2009

Best Children’s Books of the Year ―Bank Street College of Education, 2008

Notable Children’s Recordings ―American Library Association, 2009

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―National Council for the Social Studies, Children’s Book Council, 2008

Amelia Bloomer Project (Nominee) ―ALA Booklist, Feminist Task Force, 2008

B. White Award (Nominee) ―Association of Booksellers for Children, 2008

Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award for the Best Picture Book of the Year (Honor Book) ―Bank Street College of Education, 2008

Society of School Librarians International Book Awards (Honor Book, Language Arts, Picture Books) ―Society of School Librarians International, 2008

International Latino Book Awards (Best Children’s Picture Book, English) ―Latino Book and Family Festival, Latino Literacy Now, 2008

Americas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature (Commended Title) ―National Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP), 2008

California Young Reader Medal (Primary) ―California Reading Association, CATE, CLA, CSLA 2010-2011

Children’s Book Award ―Florida Reading Association, 2008-2009

Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee, Picture Book) ―Association for Indiana Media Educators, 2009-2010

Texas Bluebonnet Award (Master List) ―Texas Library Association, 2009-2010

Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (Starred, Primary) ―Kansas National Education Association, 2008

Monarch Award (Master List) ―Illinois School Library Media Association, 2011

Virginia Readers’ Choice Awards (Master List) ―Virginia State Reading Association, 2010-2011

Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (Nominee, Picture Book) ―Maryland Educational Media Organization, 2008-2009

Charlotte Award (Nominee, Primary) ―New York State Reading Association, 2010

Georgia Children’s Picture Storybook Award (Nominee) ―University of Georgia, 2010-2011

Golden Sower Award (Nominee, Primary) ―Nebraska Library Association, 2010-2011

Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Award (Nominee, Grades 3-5) ―State Library of Louisiana and Louisiana Center for the Book, 2010

North Carolina Children’s Book Award (Nominee, Junior Book) ―North Carolina Reading Association, 2009

Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award (Nominee) ―Oregon Reading Association, 2015-2016

Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards (Nominee, Grades K-3) ―Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, 2009-2010

South Carolina Picture Book Award (Nominee) ―South Carolina Association of School Librarians, 2009-2010

Treasure State Award (Nominee) ―Montana State Reading Council, 2010

Volunteer State Book Awards (Master List, Grades K-3) ―Tennessee Association of School Librarians, 2009-2010

Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award ―Westchester Library System, 2008

Books All Young Georgians Should Read ―Georgia Center for the Book, 2014

Hispanic Heritage Month Recommended Reading List ―Just Read, Florida!, 2013

Read On Wisconsin! (Primary) ―Read On Wisconsin!, 2009

Storytelling World Resource Awards (Winner, Stories for Young Listeners) ―Storytelling World, 2009

Mockingbird Award (Nominee) ―Abilene Independent School District, 2008-2009


Resources: Teacher's Guide

Teacher’s Guide

More Details

AR Level: 3.1
F&P: GRL P, Gr 3, Genre TL
Lexile: AD720L
Themes: Cockroaches, Cuba, Grandparents, Love
BISAC 1: JUV012020 JUVENILE FICTION / Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
BISAC 2: JUV019000 JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous Stories
BISAC 3: JUV002140 JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / Insects, Spiders, etc.