Review: Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt

martin de porres

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by David Diaz

Martin de Porres was born to a former slave and a Spanish nobleman in Lima, Peru.  He lived in severe poverty in the barrios until his father took him back to Ecuador with him.  As Martin grew older, he returned to Lima and started learning to tend to the ill.  His healing power revealed itself while he was there.  Thanked for his healing, he was given the seeds of a lemon tree as a gift.  After planting the seeds, a tree grew overnight and had ripe fruit.  Word began to spread about this amazing boy.  Still, his mixed race prohibited him from becoming a priest, so he joined the Dominican Order as a servant.  He continued to heal others, eventually proving his ability and worth and becoming a priest after all.  Other stories of miracles surrounded him and he was finally canonized as a saint.  Through vivid writing and rich illustrations, the story of the childhood of this saint is told.

Schmidt’s writing warmly celebrates the wonders and miracles of Martin de Porres.  It is a story that starts with a boy who is the poorest of the poor, rejected by the priesthood and eventually ends with sainthood and life led in service to others.  In a world divided just as much between rich and poor, this story will resonate with modern young readers.

Diaz’s illustrations are filled with colors that are saturated and deep.  The deep hues of Martin de Porres’ skin are celebrated in the pages here.  Other parts of the illustrations have a feel of stained glass with sun pouring through.  The images are beautiful and celebratory.

A shining example of a picture book biography of a saint, this book will speak to modern readers as well as celebrate an amazing person.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

every day

Every Day by David Levithan

A wakes up as a different person every morning.  All A knows is that it is going to be someone different and somewhat nearby the last person.  After living life this way for 16 years, A has gotten used to it and doesn’t know any other way of life.  A can jump into either a girl or a boy, straight or gay, abused or adored, each day is completely different and each life and family exists for just a day.  There is freedom in this life but also loneliness.  A has rules, trying not to do any damage to the person whose life is being borrowed, trying to pass tests and live a normal day.  But then A meets Rhiannon as A spends a day in her boyfriend’s body.  The two of them spend an amazing day together at the beach, skipping class.  A is in love for the very first time, but how can a person who moves from body to body even go on a first date? 

This beautifully written book is told in the first person from A’s point of view.  The concept of the book is immensely strong and makes for a read that is so strong and vibrant that it lingers with you and you think about it afterwards.  A is an amazing character whose life is wildly different from our own and yet it’s a life that also sheds light on what we should be celebrating as we live our more stable lives.  A manages to show how truly broad human experience can be.  Moving from body to body, there are no longer judgments about straight and gay, race or religion.  It is all about being immensely and breathtakingly human.

Levithan also examines many facets of being human, from family ties and relationships to being different in profound ways to self acceptance.  His writing is a gorgeous mix of fast-paced storytelling and lingering thoughts.  It is in those moments where he puts words to love, life and being human that his writing is transcendent. 

A strikingly bold concept, a vibrant main character who is impossible to define and amazing writing make this one of the best teen novels of the year.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital review copy received from NetGalley.