Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

by Gary D Schmidt (Author) David Diaz (Illustrator)

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

2013 Pura Belpre Award for Illustration

As 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.

School Library Journal

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, NC

Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"With images of surpassing beauty and power and a text both simple and lyrical, Diaz and Schmidt tell the life of the first black saint of the Americas . . . A visual—and, it must be said, spiritual—delight."—Kirkus "Schmidt's telling, touching in its simplicity, is well matched with Diaz's exceptional artwork, which is bold and referential in equal parts."—Booklist, starred review "An artful and reverent portrait of a lesser-known figure."—School Library Journal

"Diaz's visualization of this story is magnificent."—Horn Book

Gary D Schmidt
Gary D. Schmidt is the author of the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His most recent novel is The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Clarion Books
Publication date
June 20, 2012
Pura Belpre Award Winner - Illustration
Pura Belpre Award
Winner 2013 - 2013
Americas Award for Children & Young Adult Literature
Honorable Mention 2013 - 2013

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