A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Last Cuentista offers a glimpse of what it might be like to live aboard a generational starship and travel to a far-off planet. The book offers a chance to discuss authoritarianism and the value of history and storytelling.
The wisdom of our ancestors needs to be preserved. Oral traditions are important. Beware of people who want everyone to think alike.
Positive Role Models
Fourteen-year-old Petra Peña takes her Latino heritage very seriously, especially when it comes to passing along the cuentos (short stories) she learned from Lita, her grandmother. She's close to her 7-year-old brother and to her scientist parents. On planet Sagan, she works to preserve the history of Earth and bravely tries to protect the colonists in danger of being purged.
Strong, resourceful Latina main character, her positively portrayed scientist parents, and important grandmother role model. Preserving Earth's history and Latino stories, folklore, and Latinos' cultural heritage is a major theme.
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Violence & Scariness
Colonists are "purged" if they are deemed insufficiently useful. There is no depiction of the process. The Collective threatens to spray the colonists with airborne toxins.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Collective drinks "tonics" at social gatherings; it's unclear how intoxicating they are.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know to that Donna Barba Higuera's The Last Cuentista, winner of the 2022 Newbery Award, is a dystopian science fiction adventure in which Earth has been destroyed by a comet and a few survivors have reached the planet Sagan. Petra Peña, 14, wakes up early from suspended animation and learns that the sinister Collective has taken over and is pursuing a campaign to eradicate history. There's no discernible sex or swearing, and drug use is limited to some "tonics" that may or may not be intoxicating, Violence takes place off-scene, as when characters are purged from the spaceship's life-sustaining systems.
Is It Any Good?
Storytelling can change the world, and this intriguing interstellar science fiction adventure explores the perils of colonizing another planet. Author Donna Barba Higuera delivers a new twist on a sci-fi staple, the generational spaceship. The antagonists are one-note members of a cult, but they're villainous in an interesting way. Petra is a highly sympathetic main character -- brave, compassionate, and resourceful -- working to save her family and their Latino history.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.