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Review of the 2013 Belpré Illustrator Award winner

Martin de PorresWinner: Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt; illus. by David Diaz (Clarion)
Martín de Porres (1579–1639), son of a Spanish nobleman and an African slave, was a beloved Peruvian Dominican monk who was canonized in 1962 as the patron saint of universal brotherhood. Schmidt’s graceful account of his life focuses mostly on Martín’s impoverished youth among Lima’s slaves and Indians; his father, Don Juan de Porres, after taking the boy to Ecuador, apprenticed him to a doctor/barber back in Lima. Martín’s powers of healing were soon noted, though it was years before the monastery he joined at fifteen sanctioned his promotion from menial to brother. Diaz’s visualization of this story is magnificent, from a powerfully spiritual title-page portrait to a city-wide vista of “slave boys and the Spanish royals and the Indians of the barrio and the priests of the cathedral,” holding hands and singing as Martín closes his eyes for the last time. Rich in Latin American hues of red, turquoise, gold, and dark-skinned brown, the multimedia art extends the text on each lovely spread — thorny roses wreathing the copyright page; Spanish architecture, elegantly realistic or in a Cubist vista; simply rendered figures of heroic stature, including Martín’s mother like a brown Madonna; angels in gleaming silver. Like Saint Francis, Martín was renowned for his love of animals; dovelike birds and affectionate dogs enliven almost every page. Recalling Tomie de Paola’s work at its reverent best, this beautiful book belongs in every library. JOANNA RUDGE LONG

No honor books were selected by the committee.

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