The Last Cuentista

This Newbery Award winner is definitely worth your time. In this dystopian, space adventure, planet Earth is destroyed by a comet, and humanity’s only hope is for a group of Earthlings to resettle on a planet nearly 400 years away. Petra Peña, the 12-year-old heroine, is put into “stasis” along with her family to survive the travel time. When Petra wakes up, nothing is as it should be. A brainwashing Collective has taken over the ship. She is the only one who still has her memories of life on Earth and needs to preserve the past by charting her own course for the future.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

The Last Cuentista Details

Title: The Last Cuentista
Author: Donna Barba Higuera
Publication Year: 2021
Age Group: Late Elementary, Middle School
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Lately, I have been having a lot of trouble finding family read-alouds that my middle school son enjoys. He doesn’t like anything sentimental or sappy. Nothing with an obvious message. There better not just be talking….he requires action and a plot that propels itself forward. The Last Cuentista was a winner for him. He and my 10-year-old daughter both loved this book.

My 8-year-old son is a bit more sensitive. He says that he liked the book too, but there is a surprising amount of death in it for a middle-grade novel. In the first chapter, when they are escaping a comet that is on a path to destroy earth and Petra has to leave her beloved grandmother behind. In the middle of the novel, she finds out both of her parents have been “purged.” When I warned my kids beforehand that not all of the characters we meet at the beginning are going to make it to the end, my 3rd grader was a little concerned that this book was “not for kids.” However, the book does not spend a lot of time focusing on the characters that get killed off, so my kids didn’t get attached to them. It ended up not being too upsetting for my 8 year old, and there is a twist near the end that he found pleasantly surprising.

I actually learned about this book because I was assigned to be the Brave Writer coach leading the book club for it. (Brave Writer always has such great book recommendations. I have been using them since long before I started working for them.) Overall, the reception of this book by middle schoolers enrolled in my class was overwhelmingly positive. Several students seemed to think they weren’t going to like it in the beginning, but by the end, they were sold.

Included on Lists:

  1. Personal Family Favorites: Late Elementary
  2. Personal Family Favorites: Middle School

Related Links:

Best Books for Kids
Personal Family Favorites
Learning Activities for Kids

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