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The last cuentista
2021
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"Habâia una vez...There lived a girl named Petra Peäna, 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 sinisterCollective 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, anyhope for our future. Can she make them live again?"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Winner of the John Newbery Medal
Winner of the Pura Belpré Award


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

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.


"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? - (Grand Central Pub)

Winner of the John Newbery Medal
Winner of the Pura Belpré Award


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

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.


"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? - (HARPERCOLL)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In 2061, with Halley's Comet making a deadly and unstoppable journey toward Earth, a small group of scientists and their children prepare to begin civilization anew on new planet Sagan, more than 300 years away. Among them is Petra Peña, almost 13, who, while she sleeps through the next several lifetimes, will download the biology knowledge of an expert. But Petra's true love is the cuentos—the stories—that her grandmother, who stayed behind, told her, and she's downloading folklore and mythology, hoping to bring all the stories of the world they're losing. But on the journey, something goes wrong: Petra wakes to discover that in the last few centuries, the small group of people living on the ship as caretakers have become the Collective, a unit singlemindedly focused on redirecting humanity by erasing everyone's memories of Earth—and even purging entire people, including Petra's family, altogether. Petra alone retains her memories, and her yearning for a community pushes her to seek out the first ship of Sagan settlers and to try to reach her fellow shipmates through the cuentos she still remembers. In a measured voice that weighs enormous loss against dazzling moments of hope and connection, Higuera braids Mexican folklore with science fiction to craft a tale that remembers storytelling as the beating heart of a people. Easy to sink into and harder to leave, this gorgeously sad, keenly contemplative novel embraces what it means to truly survive. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 5 Up—The magic and power of stories and storytelling help a preteen in a terrifying future. In 2061, with Earth about to be destroyed, 12-year-old Petra Peña and her scientist parents and younger brother Javier are just barely aboard the ship that will take them to the planet Sagan when a group of zealots called the Collective, wanting absolute equality at the expense of any diversity, take over. Almost 400 years later, Petra is one of the last four "sleepers" revived, and the only one who somehow retains her memories of Earth. She uses the stories her family shared and a precious copy of Yuyi Morales's Dreamers to try to save the others in her cohort, her newly rediscovered brother, and what seems to be the last Collective child. Life on the ship, made even more claustrophobic by Petra's declining vision from retinitis pigmentosa, and filled with the translucent, drugged Collective, is particularly chilling. Mexican American Petra is a strong, heroic character, fighting incredible odds to survive and protect others. The ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel. VERDICT A keep-you-up-all-night, compulsively readable science fiction novel that offers much food for thought.—Mara Alpert, Los Angeles P.L.

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal.

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