Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Last Cuentista

If you're looking for a strong female main character who embodies April's themes, look no further than Petra Peña, from this year's Newbery Medal-winning, The Last Cuentista, by Donna Barbra Higuera. Petra leaves earth on a truly exhilarating and frightening adventure across the universe. When she arrives at her destination and finds herself alone, she doesn't curl up and cry. She doesn't give up. Petra has gumption, and she takes risks. 

I was mildly surprised and fully delighted when The Last Cuentista was announced as the Newbery winner. What tickled me most is that I have actually met Donna, having attended Nerd Camp Bellingham with her twice. We had several workshops together; she was interesting, and knowledgeable, and nice. What follows is my review of The Last Cuentista:

I feel like truly good space-based sci-fi is kind of a rarity in the world of middle-grade books. The Last Cuentista really fits the bill. This story perfectly combines the importance of family with nail-biting adventure, along with a side of traditional storytelling.

When Petra and her family are selected for a mission to save the future of earth, they escape their doomed planet on the last spaceship. They are to be put in stasis for hundreds of years, awakening to a new life on the distant planet of Sagan. However, when Petra does wake up, something has obviously gone wrong. Her parents and brother are nowhere to be found; she is being referred to as Zeta-1, and expected to work for the good of 'The Collective.' Now Petra, guided by her grandmother's stories, must fight not only for her own survival, but for that of all humanity.

The importance of family and individuality are major themes, but above all, this book is an homage to the power of stories and the tradition of story-telling, wrapped in the guise of a thrilling science fiction adventure. 

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