2013 Pura Belpre Award for IllustrationAs the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a former slave, Martin de Porres was born into extreme poverty. Even so, his mother begged the church fathers to allow him into the priesthood. Instead, Martin was accepted as a servant boy. But soon, the young man was performing miracles. Rumors began to fly around the city of a strange mulatto boy with healing hands, who gave first to the people of the barrios. Martin continued to serve in the church, until he was finally received by the Dominican Order, no longer called the worthless son of a slave, but rather a saint and the rose in the desert.
Gr 2-4--Picture-book biographies of Catholic saints are usually limited to those best known, like Patrick, Francis, Joan of Arc, and Blessed Mother Teresa. Martin de Porres was the first black saint of the Americas, and he has a story as inspiring and evocative of Christian virtue as any other. Born the illegitimate son of a former slave and a Spanish conquistador in 1579 in Lima, Peru, he lived with his mother and sister in abject poverty until he was claimed by his father and eventually apprenticed to a surgeon and found to have healing powers that matched his great piety. He was accepted to be a servant at a Dominican monastery, with the explicit understanding that he, a mulatto, would never become a priest. He showed compassion for all people and animals and was said to have miraculous gifts. But it is his extreme humility that resonates with most biographers, including Schmidt, who tells the story of St. Martin's life in simple and eloquent language, emphasizing his humble servitude and great empathy. Diaz's multimedia illustrations are lush and beautiful, reinforcing the narrative and frequently using iconic images and stylized shapes that evoke stained glass. Some drawings of Martin, however, are inconsistent. His age occasionally seems to shift out of sequence, and the changing shape of his nose and eyes in particular results in some visual dissonance for young readers. Nonetheless, this is an artful and reverent portrait of a little-known figure.--Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NCCopyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
"Diaz's visualization of this story is magnificent."—Horn Book