Saturday, June 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on September 25th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 29 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 29

What Kids Are Reading - Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

By Gary D. Schmidt - recommended for ages 5 through 12


Illustrated by David Diaz

Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating Hispanic culture, and recognizing and affirming the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States.

Sept. 15 was the anniversary of independence in 1821 for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize attained their independence on September 16, 18, and 21, respectively.

What better time to read wonderful stories about remarkable people of Latino and Hispanic heritage? Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, written by Gary D. Schmidt, is just such a story. The book’s illustrator, artist David Diaz, is the 2013 recipient of the American Library Association Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, honoring works by a Latino illustrator.

Diaz’s glorious, jewel-toned watercolors integrate beautifully with Schmidt’s lyrical text. Diaz’s vivid palette incorporates primary colors as mood-setting devices. Red represents the warm South American climate and is a metaphor for important people. Blue is used to create calm scenarios, and yellow symbolizes Martin’s growth as a person just as his favorite lemon tree grows and bears fruit.

Having been raised as a Catholic, I knew of Saint Martin de Porres (1579-1639), Peruvian born of humble origins who was the son of a Spanish nobleman and an African-Peruvian slave. Schmidt tells how Martin grew up in squalid conditions on the streets with his sister and, as a small boy, was bullied because of his mixed race.

When he was 8 years old, his father arranged for him to be an apprentice to a surgeon. Because of his racial background he was not permitted to become a priest, as he wanted. But eventually he was allowed to enter the Dominican order. He was a remarkable healer who established orphanages and was said to be able to communicate with animals.

Saint Martin de Porres was canonized in 1962, the first black saint of the Americas. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, he was known for his work with both animals and the poor. He is the patron saint of interracial relations, social justice, those of mixed race, and animal shelters.

Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert is a beautiful collaborative work that brings to life the story of an exceptional man whose selfless contributions affirm his legacy to the history of the Hispanic people. This book would be an excellent addition to any child’s bookshelf and a terrific contribution to your local school library.

“What Kids are Reading” is a regular feature in the Sun, highlighting children’s books available for young readers in Santa Maria. This week’s recommendations are made by local writer, humorist, educator, and grandmother Ariel Waterman.

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