‘What the Collective doesn’t understand is by honoring the past, our ancestors, our cultures—and remembering our mistakes—we become better.’ – Donna Barba Higuera, The Last Cuentista
Donna Barba Higuera’s newest book, The Last Cuentista, flew to the top of my to-read list when I saw the list of 2022 ALA Youth Media Award Winners. The Last Cuentista is the 2022 Newberry Award winner for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature. Donna Barba Higuera was also the 2022 recipient for the Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award. This book is a top contender for my favorite read of 2022.
The Last Cuentista tells the story of a journey through stars to save humanity as we know it, told through the eyes of a young girl named Petra Peña who longs to be a storyteller like her abuelita. Her parents have hopes that she will be a scientist like them. Petra’s dreams are put on hold when the government realizes that there is a comet heading straight towards Earth that will destroy the planet and all life that lives there. Only a few hundred scientists and their children have been selected to evacuate Earth and head to a new planet named Sagan, where they have determined that people can safely live. Petra and her family are among the chosen few. The only hitch in this plan: it will take them hundreds of years to travel there.
The scientists and their children will be put to sleep while Monitors will watch over them and make sure the ship runs smoothly. While they are sleeping, they will be programmed with different informational courses that will allow them to wake up with all the information they will need to survive on Sagan.
Hundreds of years later, Petra awakens on the ship only to discover that she is the only person who remembers Earth. The Collective has taken over the ship and has hatched a new plan to control, essentially, everything. Their desire is to erase all the sins of humanity’s past. They have purged the memories of all those onboard. If they were unable to purge the memories, they eliminated the person altogether. Petra alone carries all the memories of the past. She isn’t quite sure what to do as having that knowledge puts her life in danger. Petra must find a way to save herself and the stories she carries within.
This book is also available in the following formats: