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Sonderbooks Book Review of

Martin de Porres

The Rose in the Desert

written by Gary D. Schmidt

illustrated by David Diaz


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Martin de Porres
The Rose in the Desert

written by Gary D. Schmidt
illustrated by David Diaz
Review posted February 18, 2013.
Clarion Books, 2012. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Pura Belpre Illustrator Award

Picture book biographies are always in danger of going unnoticed. They aren't really written to help kids do reports; they're written to appreciate a remarkable life.

This book is all the more lovely in that it tells kids about the life of a saint. Who better to inspire children?

The Author's Note at the back tells why Martin de Porres was important:

His greatest gift was his ability to ignore the boundaries his world had erected and to reach toward the poor and the ignored. . . . He was beatified in 1837 and canonized in May 1962 -- the first black saint in the Americas -- when Pope John XXIII named him the patron saint of universal brotherhood. He soon also became the patron saint of interracial relations, social justice, those of mixed race, public education, and animal shelters.

The main text of the book is more poetic, and appropriate for children. The author doesn't come out and say that Martin did miracles, but he tells what people said about him:

Soon, all the people of the barrios knew who the young cirujano was. When a man was hurt, he was carried to Martin. When a child grew pale, she was brought to Martin. When a slave was whipped, he staggered to Martin. And when the infirmary of the monastery was filled with the poorest, Martin carried his patients to play with the panting dogs in the shade of the wonderful lemon tree.

The paintings that go with the story are worthy of the Belpre Award.

This is a lovely book about an inspiring life.

After thirteen years, every soul in Lima knew who Martin was: Not a mongrel. Not the son of a slave. "He is a rose in the desert," they said.