A few weeks ago I highlighted the winner of this year’s Américas Award. Today, with no less pleasure, I want to bring your attention to the winner of this year’s Honorable Mention category: Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, written by Gary Schmidt and illustrated by David Diaz (Clarion Books, 2012).
This was by far one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever come across, both in terms of its narrative and its illustrations.
In the CLASP press release announcing the Américas Awards, the book is described as follows: “Martín de Porres tells the moving story of the first Black Catholic Saint of the Americas. The illegitimate son of a former slave and a Spanish conqueror, Martin grew up in the poorest barrio of 17th century Lima, Peru where ‘hunger lived in their home and illness was their companion.’ The Rose in the Desert tells how the child was taken in as a servant by Dominican Friars, where he became known for his miraculous ability to heal both animals and humans. The poor came to Martin to be healed, and soon Spanish royals began to request his services but ‘learned to wait for him to tend the poorest among the barrios first.’ In spite of his humble spirit and service to the community, the mulatto child was frowned upon by the friars and addressed as ‘son of a slave’ and ‘mongrel.’ Finally, some thirteen years after his arrival at the monastery, he was permitted to take his vows as a Dominican tertiary. Among the Dominican brothers, he performed miracles and healed the sick, until his death in 1639.”
“In San Martin, young readers learn about universal concepts such as charity, poverty, justice and community. Moments of tribulation, compassion and triumph are all present in this simple yet lyrical text. A full palette of emotion is expressed through mixed media illustrations which provide a unique blend of shapes and vibrant watercolors. This story of the patron saint of interracial harmony and social causes leaves the reader with a feeling of inspiration and hope for humanity. (Grades K-4)”
This is truly a beautiful book and one that I hope you have a chance to patiently explore – it is one of those rare items worthy of a quiet evening and slow page-turning.