Cockroaches and ice cream


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Saturday morning I took my daughter to a reading at the Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. It’s a great little bookstore that has Jake’s Ice Cream parlor attached, and consequently is one of my favorite Atlanta establishments. In general, it’s a good place to get presents before the holidays, and an interesting destination to take out-of-towners. (Over Thanksgiving we had friends in from Los Angeles, and we took them there and to Palomilla’s Cuban Grill House and they were suitably impressed.)


The term “reading” seems inadequate for the Saturday morning event. Decatur author Carmen Agra Deedy did indeed read from her new children’s book, Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale (Peachtree Publishers), but she genuinely put on a performance. Recounting the whimsical tale of how a beautiful cockroach chooses from potential suitors of other species, she gave the characters different accents and vivid personalities, while quipping with the grown-ups in the crowd even more than the kids. At her urging, we all called “Ding!” at the end of each page, to signal when it was time to turn to the next, in imitation of those read-along phonograph albums.

Plus, the book’s illustrator, Michael Austin, stood at Deedy's side with a big pad on an easel, like on “Win, Lose or Draw.” While Deedy read the story, Austin drew, with impressive speed, a large-sized rendition of Carmen and her abuela sipping coffee. It was quite the performance, and the book is a real charmer — easily the best cockroach-based tale since the Japanese film Twilight of the Cockroaches.

Afterward, my daughter got a kid’s cone of peppermint ice cream, and I tried the Tiramisu Su Sudio flavor. Great Caesar’s ghost, it was awesome, with a “base” of coffee ice cream flavor and lots of yummy bits within. While eating, it took me awhile to realize that our tabletop, appropriately enough for a literary outing, consisted of laminated pages from old Nancy Drew books, with pictures that are hilarious out of context. My favorite has the caption, “Bess cried out, ‘Nancy, there’s a hairy scorpion on you!’”


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