Martina Has Too Many Tías

S. & S./Atheneum. Jun. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534445369.
PreS-Gr 2–Quiet Martina loves her loud, Cuban family full of tías, but when she hears they’re on their way for a family party, the girl groans. She’d rather go somewhere quiet, tell herself made-up stories, and think about the warm island home that she misses. Instead, she has to clean and prepare for Tía Susana, the grand salsa dancer; Tía Leonor, the flashy dresser; and Tía Alberta of the booming laugh. While cleaning, she finds a gold coin and then slips away to the bodega while the hubbub begins. She purchases a daffodil, wanders back into the kitchen, and topples into a pot of hot guava. The steam transports her to her beloved island where she’s able to talk with the animals. Unfortunately, they’re too loud, too. She finally finds a quiet ratoncito to play with who also likes to use his imagination. But eventually, night comes and the animals go to sleep, leaving Martina alone. The island no longer feels like home. Reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are, the girl hears the sound of her raucous tías, smells the yummy scent of guava, and swims back home where she tells her aunts all about it. In this kid-friendly retelling of the Cuban folktale “La Cucaracha Martina,” Otheguy explores how introverted kids can still feel at home in a family full of extroverts—even if they’re the odd person out, readers can find acceptance and love with family. Full of warmth, the narrative is adeptly complemented by Palacio’s friendly art. When Martina is in the realistic world with her family, the colors are bright and vibrant, oranges and pinks. The fantastical island she escapes to is done in cool blues and majestic greens. Martina’s family has a range of brown skin, reflecting the diversity within the Cuban community.
VERDICT A singular offering with many layers of storytelling, this is a must-have for all collections.

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