The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

Published by Levine Querido

Amazon.com: The Last Cuentista: 9781646140893: Higuera, Donna Barba: Books

Summary:  With Halley’s Comet hurtling towards Earth, Petra and her family are among a small group chosen to travel to the planet Sagan, a journey that will take over 300 years.  They’re put into a deep sleep, with people on board who will look after them and keep creating a new population of caretakers.  Alas, not only does a group called the Collective take over the ship, but something goes wrong with Petra’s sleep.  When she wakes up, she learns that she is the only one left who remembers life on Earth.  Petra is determined to help the other kids in her group remember, and she begins telling them the cuentos (stories) that she learned from her Mexican-American grandmother.  Although she does her best to blend in, members of the Collective soon become suspicious of Petra, and she realizes it’s up to her to lead an escape plan and try to find the group of Earthlings who were scheduled to arrive first.  It’s not clear whether or not Petra and the other kids make contact, but the book ends on a hopeful note.  336 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  This beautifully written book explores what it means to be human and the important contributions different cultures and stories make to that humanity.  It’s a rare year that a science fiction books wins the Newbery, but this could definitely be a contender for that award, as well as for the Pura Belpré.

Cons:  Would people in 2061 really name a planet after Carl Sagan?

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