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Winner of the John Newbery Medal
Winner of the Pura Belpré Award
From Pura Belpré Award winner and Newbery Medalist, Donna Barba Higuera—a brilliant journey through the stars, to the very heart of what makes us human.
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?
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
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Cybils Award Finalist
"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)
About the Author
Donna Barba Higuera grew up in Central California and now lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has spent her entire life blending folklore with her experiences into stories that fill her imagination. Now she weaves them to write picture books and novels. Donna's first book, Lupe Wong Won't Dance, won a Sid Fleischman Award for Humor and a Pura Belpré Honor.
Her second novel, The Last Cuentista, received the John Newbery Medal and the Pura Belpré Award. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and TIME.
"Truly good children’s books engage and entertain while also helping young readers come to understand themselves and the complicated world they live in. The best picture, middle grade and young adult books of 2021 deftly rise to that challenge, telling stories about identity, allyship and more... Donna Barba Higuera’s The Last Cuentista asks kids to consider the danger of adopting dogmatic beliefs without questioning authority figures." — Time Magazine
"Petra Peña is twelve when she and her family board one of the last ships leaving Earth just before its imminent destruction by comet. As the remaining Earthlings struggle to survive, all of the cuentos — stories — Petra grew up listening to will turn out to be more powerful than she could have imagined in this thrilling and hopeful work of science fiction." — Boston Globe
"A beautifully told story of what makes us human." — Minneapolis Star Tribune
★ “Pura Belpré Honor-winning author Donna Barba Higuera (Lupe Wong Won't Dance) deftly blends Mexican folklore with science fiction in this thrilling and emotional post-apocalyptic novel.” — Shelf-Awareness (starred)
“Readers will find in The Last Cuentista a promise that the past is not the enemy of the future, but a gift that grants the perspective to meet that future with compassion and bravery.” — Bookpage
"The Last Cuentista is a beautiful middle grade story of a young Latina who must leave a no longer inhabitable Earth and learns the importance of adapting. Although this is a middle-grade dystopian novel, it is poetically magical while honoring the storytelling of our ancestors and Mexican folklore. The story is fun, vibrant, and relatable. Captivating the reader to partake in a voyage of unforgettable cuento (which means ‘story’ in English of what it means to adapt, believe, and find one’s self." — Al Dia News
"Science fiction blended with Mexican folklore. If you leave Earth in the knowledge that you can never return, what will you want to take with you? 12 year old Petra Peña chooses her grandmother’s stories. But on board her spaceship a fanatical Collective is bent on creating a utopia by erasing everyone’s memories and purging those they are unable to reprogramme. If we make a new society by forgetting what we have left behind, will we know what it is to be human? A novel about the importance of remembering stories and passing them on, and of creating our own stories." — Five Books
"The Last Cuentista is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once, and centers family, community, and the oral histories that keep us together.” —Tor.com
"Clever and compelling … wonderfully subversive.” – The Wall Street Journal
"The brilliance of Higuera’s narrative is that it shows rather than tells us the power of story. As Petra shares her tales and they guide her shipmates out of darkness, readers will find corners of their own hearts illuminated as well. This book is gripping in its twists and turns, and moving in its themes — truly a beautiful cuento.” — New York Times
★ “Higuera spins a tale that crosses the depths of space, interweaving Mexican folklore with a mystical strand of science fiction.” — Kirkus (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)