Narrators 1, 2, 3 (N1, N2, N3)
Friends 1, 2, 3 (F1, F2, F3)
Abuela, Martina’s grandmother
A Cuban folktale about a beautiful bug and a cake with special powers
Learning Objective: As students read this Cuban folktale, they will identify the character traits of Martina and her suitors.
Narrator 1: Beneath a street lamp in Havana, Cuba, lives Martina.
Narrator 2: She’s a beautiful cockroach with pretty green wings.
Narrator 3: Come join Martina’s friends as they prepare for her birthday fiesta.
Friend 1: Martina, today you are 200 days old.
Friend 2: That means it’s time to choose a husband.
Friend 3: Surely many handsome creatures will be interested.
F1: Here’s a new dress for you.
F2: And lovely new party shoes.
N1: But Martina’s abuela guides her to the kitchen.
Abuela: Martina, you must bake a cake.
Martina: But Abuela, everyone will be here soon. I need to get dressed.
Abuela: Do this first. Make the cake just as I tell you, and offer it to your suitors.
N2: That night the fiesta is in full swing.
N3: Everyone admires Martina.
N1: Señor Caracol, a colorfully painted snail, inches up to her.
Caracol (bragging): Hi there. I hope my dazzling colors don’t blind you.
Martina (laughing): I see you are not modest.
Caracol: Just look at how the crowd admires us. Marry me!
Martina: Before I decide, Señor, please taste the cake I baked.
Caracol (shaking his head): A homemade cake? Never. I only eat from fine bakeries.
N2: Señor Caracol slithers away.
Martina (to her friends): Good riddance!
F3: But Martina, he was so handsome.
F1: How could you let him go?
Martina: He is so in love with himself. He’ll have no love left for me.
N3: Soon another creature appears by Martina’s side.
N1: It is Luis, a crab, snapping his claws together.
Luis: Click, clickety, click. How about a dance, Señorita?
Martina: Sí, Señor. I love to dance the cha-cha-chá.
N2: Martina kicks up all of her heels.
Luis: Be my wife, and we will dance all day long.
Martina: First, try some of my cake.
N3: Luis takes a bite.
Luis (spitting it out): This is not cake. It has no coconut, no mango.
Martina: Señor, you insult my abuela. She taught me how to bake.
Luis: When we are married, you will cook food that I like.
Martina (walking away): I can’t marry him. He is far too crabby.
N1: Martina’s friends gather around her.
F2: Why did you let him go? Are you loca?
F3: He seemed like such a good dancer.
Martina: He would never be pleased with anything I did.
N2: Martina turns and bumps into Raul the bat, who just swooped in.
Raul: Well, hello there. It’s the birthday girl.
Martina (giggling): Hello. Would you like some tasty birthday cake?
Raul: Sí, Señorita. Then let’s marry and fly away.
N3: Martina gives him some cake.
Raul (spitting it out): Blech! This is awful. It belongs in the trash.
Martina (hurt): You are very rude!
Raul: And you are a very bad cook.
Martina: Please go away. I would be batty to marry you.
N1: Just then, a small gray mouse bows to Martina.
Pérez: Señorita, you seem very nice. I hope you find your match.
Martina: Gracias. What’s your name? And would you like some cake?
Pérez: Sí. My name is Pérez. But please, try my cake first.
N2: Martina takes a bite.
N3: Her face changes as she tries not to gag.
Pérez: Do you like it?
Martina (pausing to think of something polite to say): I like that you made it and offered it to me.
N1: Martina holds out her cake.
Martina: Will you try mine?
N2: Pérez nibbles the cake and swallows hard.
Pérez: Thank you. Your cake makes me smile. How did you learn to make it?
Martina: My abuela showed me.
Pérez (laughing): Ah, I see. Have you tasted it?
N3: Martina is confused, but takes a bite.
Martina: Oh my, this is awful, Pérez! Why did it make you smile?
Pérez: Because you are so sweet, even if your cake is not.
N1: Martina laughs as Pérez bows low.
Pérez: Martina, will you marry me?
N2: Martina calls out to her grandmother.
Martina: Abuela, come and meet Pérez!
N3: Abuela joins Martina and Pérez.
Martina: Guess what? Pérez is to be my husband.
Abuela (clapping): Felicidades!
Pérez: Abuela, Martina’s cake was meant to be bad, wasn’t it?
Abuela: Ah, you’re a clever one. It’s true. The cake has no sweetness. I left out the sugar.
Martina: But why?
Abuela: It was a test, to show you how these creatures behave. The cake let you see what they’re really like.
Martina: And it showed me how polite and thoughtful Pérez is.
Martina: But Pérez, why did your cake taste so bad? Was that on purpose too?
Pérez (shrugging): I have an abuela as well. One just as wise as yours.
N1: Soon after, Martina the Little Cockroach and Pérez the Mouse marry.
N2: They make their wedding cake together.
N3: And fill it with all that is sweet.
We’re not the only ones to tell the story of Martina the cockroach. Find out why author Carmen Agra Deedy ended up writing Martina’s story in a children’s book, and what her advice is for young writers in this wonderful interview.
More About the Article
Social studies: World cultures
Social-emotional learning: Self-awareness (identifying emotions); responsible decision-making (analyzing situations, reflecting); self-management (goal setting); relationship skills (communication, relationship building)
Character traits, plot, compare and contrast, key details, figurative language, drawing conclusions
1. PREPARING TO READ
Set a Purpose for Reading/Explore Text Features (10 minutes)
Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)
2. FOCUS ON FLUENCY
Bridging Decoding and Comprehension
3. CLOSE READING
Reading and Unpacking the Text
Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes)
Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)
4. SKILL BUILDING
Divide your class into groups and assign each one a scene to perform in class. As students rehearse their scenes, remind them to pay attention to stage directions and punctuation marks in the dialogue. Groups can make masks or other simple props for different animal characters. Record or tape each group’s performance and replay it for the group.
Read the play aloud and ask students to underline details in each scene that show what each of Martina’s suitors is like. Have students share their details.
Ask students to write a letter from Martina, Pérez, or Abuela inviting a friend to the upcoming wedding. In the letter, the character should express his or her feelings about the events leading up to the wedding. Students can read aloud their letters.