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Este cuento entró por un caminito plateado, y salió por uno dorado / This story entered through a silver path and left on a golden one

Cover of The Last Cuentista
A review of The Last Cuentista by Donna Higuera

It’s not very often a science fiction book wins the Newbery Award and the Pura Belpré Award but The Last Cuentista did this year. The Last Cuentista is a dystopian story with tales of Mexican folklore woven within. ‘Cuentista’ in Spanish means storyteller and the main character, Petra Peña, is truly the only cuentista left in the world. She has woken up to find that she and three other kids are the last ones to be revived from being in stasis for over 350 years. They are known as Zeta-1, Zeta-2, etc.,  and their roles are to help make a new planet habitable for the Collective, the modified beings who now control their spaceship. Petra seeks out the truth of what happened to all the plans to restart humanity on a new planet and the whereabouts of her mom, dad, and brother. She finds grounding in retelling and remembering the cuentos (stories) of her grandmother, Lita. The cuentos not only gives hope, guides, and persuades Petra to stay strong, but also inspires others to keep dreaming for a better world as well.

For those who think they don’t like science fiction, you’re in for a surprise. Petra’s flashbacks of her family and time spent with Lita will make your heart ache, the magical tales will make you think, “Oh… I’ve heard it this way,” or “ That’s new,” and the descriptions of exploring a new planet will definitely have you looking among the stars wondering, “What if?”

Mar 3, 2022