Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In the twelve brief, well-crafted chapters of Martín de Porres, Hero, award-winning author Claire Huchet Bishop has encapsuled the life of a sixteenth century Dominican lay brother subsequently canonized by the Catholic church. By 1951, Porres had been adopted as the patron saint of Peruvian social justice, of American friendship houses, and of American pharmacists. Bishop’s story has been given narrative form; its organization is chronological, and the dialogues through which much of the story is conveyed are charming, plausible inventions that nevertheless broadly conform to evidence later gathered by the church for Porres’ beatification. Thirty-five of Jean Charlot’s superb full-page and half-page illustrations, styled to fit their Peruvian subject, afford additional delights for young readers.

Extraordinarily worthy lives are recognized by forms of sainthood in most major religions. While the Catholic church has singled out many remarkable people for beatification, it has denominated fewer than one hundred as saints. Although Saint Martín de Porres is not yet one of the better known of this select band, he left the record of a miraculous, ascetic life dedicated to the benighted populace of Lima, Peru. A gifted Franco-American storyteller—she founded the first Parisian chil-dren’s library—and the author of many books for young readers and a few for adults, Bishop invokes episodes from Porres’ seventeenth century background to...

(The entire section is 472 words.)