Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

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Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Gary D. Schmidt/David Diaz

Martin de Porres was born to an African/Native slave mother and a Spanish nobleman father in the barrios of Lima, Peru. The priest of a cathedral reluctantly baptized him, not knowing or caring that Martin would grow to be a true man of God. Martin lived with his mother and sister in poverty until he was 8 years old when his father came and took them to Ecuador. Martin came back to Lima to be an apprentice to a surgeon (a cirujano) and excelled at it.

Because he was African, people were prejudiced towards him but his skills were obvious. He was gifted lemon seeds for helping a man and after planting them, the next day a tree grew. At fifteen he wanted to become a priest but was denied the opportunity due to his mixed-blood. He offered to clean, wash and care for the monastery instead. People started to notice his gift with animals and his amazing healing powers. He performed miracles. Everyone, from the poor to the rich, came to him when in need. After many years of service he was allowed to become a priest, was finally seen as a brother, and continued his good deeds until his death.

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Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Gary D. Schmidt/David Diaz

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and soft. I also love Diaz’ work in Wilma Unlimited. He has a very distinct style. My favorite spread shows Martin blissfully surrounded by a horse, chickens, mice and dogs. They all show their love and appreciation for him and he gives it back just as much.

To his mother, Martin was always a Rose in the Desert but finally, despite his brown skin and heritage, he was seen as the true rose he was, by everyone. Martin de Porres was beatified in 1837 and finally canonized in 1962. He is the first black saint in the Americas! How fitting this caring and spiritual man of color be named the patron saint of brotherhood, those of mixed race, animal shelters, interracial relations and social justice!

I like finding unique stories. I’m glad to be able to share this one with you for Black History Month. 🙂

 

Recommended for: 1st grade and up
Great for: Catholicism, Saints, Miracles, Mixed-Race, Injustice, Discrimination, Peru, Helping Others, Animals, Community Service, Love, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books, Non-Fiction, Discussion, Biography
Book Info: Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt/Illustrated by David Diaz, 2012 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780547612188

 

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The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran

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Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

I’m a sucker for traditional “folktale” stories! Reminiscent of Cinderella, Shiraz has her hardships and her rewards and The Girl With a Brave Heart shines due to its interesting and magical story with vibrant illustrations. There’s a soothing quality to the format of a well written folktale and this one is great for reading aloud.

The Girl With a Brave Heart tells the story of kind Shiraz, whose father has passed away and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister, acting as a maid for them. One day her cherished ball of wool blows into her neighbor’s garden so she goes to fetch it. A ragged old lady lets her in in exchange for Shiraz’s labor. She tells Shiraz to do three chores that involve destruction (smash all the things in her kitchen with a hammer, for example), but Shiraz understands what she really needs and helps her. The old lady rewards her with specific instructions for dipping into the two pools in the back on her way home.

When Shiraz arrives home, ball of wool in hand, her family doesn’t recognize her because her beauty is stunning! Eager to find out what happened, her greedy stepmother and stepsister Monir concoct a plan for Monir to get her beauty as well. But the character of a person is their most important aspect and Monir…when she rushes to find her “lost ball of wool”she gets exactly what she deserves for her selfishness.

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Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

This book is gorgeous. The cover has gold foil on it. 🙂  I first spotted part of the cover image on Barefoot Books’ Twitter page and asked them where it came from because I had to know more about it. Vali Mintzi has amazing style and isn’t afraid to use color. Her gouache paints are bold; she uses strong lines, dabs of color here and there and with just a few strokes, she brings to life the colorful city of Tehran. I love how she gives her characters long noses and shades half their faces with another color. It reminds me of Picasso’s faces.

Though this story does follows the traditional folktale tradition where goodness is equated with beauty, I don’t fault the story for it. Shiraz’s heart is pure and for her kindness, she’s given a gift. Perhaps your family or classroom can discuss folktales and fairytales that break tradition! This is an excellent addition to any collection.

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Family, Discussion, Folktale, Helping Others, Inner Beauty, Inner Ugliness, Kindness, Morals, Read-Aloud, Relationships, Selfishness, Tehran
Book Info: The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz/Illustrated by Vali Mintzi, 2013 Barefoot Books, ISBN: 9781846869297