Last Cuentista
by Higuera, Donna Barba

"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?"-

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.

*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.

With Halley's comet barreling toward Earth, humanity's last hope-including a young Latinx storyteller-retreats into the stars. Only a select few have the opportunity to vacate Earth in the year 2061, travel for 380 years in stasis, and start a new life on the planet of Sagan. Tearing herself away from her grandma and her cuentos, or stories, Petra Peña follows her family aboard one of three fleeing spaceships. One ship-reserved for leaders and politicians-is lost. Petra awakens years later to find that the ominous Collective has taken over her ship. Along the way to Sagan, the Collective has ensured the eradication of any Earth-associated memories, reprogramming everyone onboard-and purging some-for the so-called greater good. Petra, however, eludes reprogramming. To survive the Collective's fanaticism, Petra must play her part and participate in scouting missions on Sagan to help the Collective prepare for colonization. As she shares cuentos with other child passengers to stir their Earth memories, Petra concocts a plan to escape, seeking a rumored Collective-free colony of First Arrivers on Sagan. With poetic use of startling imagery and unabashed nostalgia, Higuera spins a tale that crosses the depths of space, interweaving Mexican folklore with a mystical strand of science fiction. It all works thanks to the author's keen appreciation of storytelling's role in shaping cultures, dreams, and lives. An overall slow burner, this tale packs a wallop. An exquisite tonic for storytellers far and wide, young and old. (Science fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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