Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert
by Gary D. Schmidt
illustrated by David Diaz
2012. Clarion Books.
Martin de Porres was a brother of the Dominican order who became the first black saint from the Americas when he was canonized in 1962.
The book begins with Martin's baptism as an infant, and spends quite a bit of time showing the limits that were placed on him because he was of mixed race. Then the focus shifts to Martin's work as a healer, and to some of the miracles associated with him.
About the Illustrations
Caldecott Medalist David Diaz is the illustrator, and his pictures didn't do much for me. I wanted more emotion in the figures' faces and more details overall. The images are certainly attractive, and even functional, but it was difficult for me to choose a favorite because none of them really jumped out at me.
The final page of the book briefly summarizes Martin's life and provides the details of his beatification and canonization. There isn't very much to the note - it would have been nice to hear more about why Gary D. Schmidt took an interest in this particular subject.
This is a fine book for introducing a saint to young children. It can also spark discussions about the unfair treatment of children of mixed race during Martin's time, and it can serve as an introduction to social justice at a kid-friendly level. The "rose in the desert" metaphor is a bit overused in the text, which I found annoying, but this is a minor flaw in an otherwise strong biography.