I’m not even a sci-fi lover, and The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera was one of my favorite reads of 2021. This middle grade novel about Petra, a girl who wakes up hundreds of years in the future on a spacecraft that has fled earth, will blow readers away.

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The summary, from Amazon:

TIME‘s Best Books of the Year
Wall Street Journal‘s Best of the Year
Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Best of the Year
Boston Globe‘s Best of the Year
BookPage‘s Best of the Year
Publishers Weekly‘s Best of the Year
School Library Journal‘s Best of the Year
Kirkus Reviews‘ Best of the Year
Bank Street’s Best of the Year
Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best
New York Public Library Best of the Year

From Pura Belpré Honor-winner Donna Barba Higuera—a brilliant journey through the stars, to the very heart of what makes us human.

“Gripping in its twists and turns, and moving in its themes – truly a beautiful cuento.”—New York Times

“Clever and compelling … wonderfully subversive.”—The Wall Street Journal

★ “This tale packs a wallop. Exquisite.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

★ “Gripping, euphonious, and full of storytelling magic.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)

★ “A strong, heroic character, fighting incredible odds to survive and protect others.”—School Library Journal (starred)

Había una vez . . .

There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her abuelita.

But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.

Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether.

Petra alone now carries the stories of our past, and with them, any hope for our future. Can she make them live again?

Buy The Last Cuentista here.

I won’t say that The Last Cuentista is unpredictable. If you’re familiar with dystopian fiction, then you’ll recognize the plot. Petra and her family flee earth with a number of scientists and their families as a comet comes hurtling in their direction. Other scientists will care for them while they are frozen in sleep. When they wake, they will inhabit a new planet. But something goes wrong when Petra is prepared for sleep. When she wakes up in the future, the ship has been overtaken by the sinister Collective. Everyone looks the same, and they are no longer like the humans they are awakening. Petra wants to find her family, if they are still on the ship, and to escape the Collective. However, she’s the only human with any memory of Earth. Everyone else’s mind has been wiped. Through storytelling, can Petra remind the other humans on the ship about their past and help them to escape? And are all the members of the Collective truly dedicated to their cause?
This was such an engaging read. I knew what was going to happen next, but absolutely could not put it down. The theme of the power of stories was so well done. I absolutely loved this 5 star middle grade novel and think readers of all ages will too.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

The Last CuentistaThe Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply WOW. I don’t even like sci fi and could not put this one down.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Why doesn’t Petra want to follow the career laid out for her when she boards the ship?
  2. How come Petra remember life on Earth but no one else does?
  3. How does Petra convince the others to escape with her?
  4. How would you feel if you were in Petra’s shoes?
  5. Why does Voxy befriend Petra instead of staying with the Collective? Why do you think he is different in this regard?

Interested? Buy The Last Cuentista.
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