Unto the Least of These: Martin de Porres--The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt
Anna carried the baby into the cool dark of the cathedral. But when the priest unwrapped him, he frowned. "Is the child's father Spanish?" he asked.
Anna's heart beat quickly.
"And you are African?" he said. Anna nodded.
The priest frowned again. The baby's father was a royal conqueror. His mother was a slave.
"Who is this child?"
"He is a rose in the desert," said Anna.
Martin's mother struggled to raise him and his sister in deep poverty in sixteenth century colonial Lima.
Hunger lived in their home. Illness was their companion.
But even there, there was compassion. Martin's father took him into his household in Ecuador, saw to his education, and took him to a cirujano to learn the skills of healing and care, and soon his abilities began to amaze those whom he helped. One man whose grave wounds Martin healed gave him lemon seeds, and the tree that grew amazingly produced fruit in the first season and continued to bear the year around.
"Who is this strange boy," the neighbors asked.
Back in Lima as a young man, Martin presented himself for the brothers of the Monastery of the Holy Rosary.
"You are not of pure blood. You can never be a priest," they said.
But Martin simply requested a position as servant, and while he swept and cared for sick and hurt animals in the country round, his fame as a healer spread. Not only did Martin cure and tame the stray dogs in the area, but he also used his skills to cure the people, some in seemingly miraculous ways, until stories of Martin's powers took on legendary qualities. His lemon and orange trees bloomed and bore fruit all year, and the bread he brought to feed the poor never seemed to be gone until all were fed. Some even said they had seen him walking with angels. By the time he closed his dark eyes for the last time in 1639, Martin de Porres was venerated by churchmen, nobles, and poor alike.
Noted author Gary Schmidt and artist David Diaz have combined their considerable talents in a story of service and compassion in their forthcoming Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert (Clarion Books, 2012). Schmidt's narrative is lyrical, with repeated phrases which become more meaningful as the account progresses, and David Diaz's illustrations are lustrous and primitive in their power. Together the two build a powerful story of compassion, redemption, and caring which resonates with people of every faith and ethic. "A visual—and, it must be said, spiritual—delight," says Kirkus, and in their starred review, Booklist adds, "Schmidt's telling, touching in its simplicity, is well matched with Diaz's exceptional artwork, which is bold and referential in equal parts."
Gary Schmidt is a Newbery Honor, Michael Printz, and National Book Award honoree (for The Wednesday Wars, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, (Readers Circle (Laurel-Leaf)) and Okay for Now. David Diaz received the Caldecott Award for his illustrations in Eve Bunting's Smoky Night.