This Newbery Medal-winning novel was originally published in the US as The Last Cuentista and it blends Mexican folklore and science fiction in a gripping and thought-provoking story. Petra Pena has grown up listening to the stories of her beloved grandmother and wants to be a storyteller herself, not a scientist as her parents hope. When life on Earth is about to be destroyed by a comet, Petra and her family are among those chosen to journey to a new home on a distant planet. Hundreds of years later, Petra awakes from the long-induced sleep to discover that Earth has been forgotten and her family has not survived the journey. A sinister Collective, intent on erasing the past mistakes and memories of humanity, has taken over the spaceship during the journey and Petra is the only one who remembers the stories and memories of the past. Now known as Zeta-1, Petra is tasked with using her knowledge of botany to explore the new planet for the benefit of the Collective. Instead, she uses her skills and story memory to fight against the conformity of the Collective and to plan a life of hope and community for her fellow Zetas on a new planet.
This novel tells a compelling story of a threatened future with suspense-filled action sequences and challenging themes of memory, resistance, identity, history and the importance of art and story in making us human. Fantasy, folklore, and science fiction combine to give the novel the atmosphere of a fable. The action sequences are gripping but a considerable suspension of disbelief is required as the plot progresses. The narrative includes Spanish words, phrases, and story extracts; these are not translated, although the general meaning can usually be understood. Overall, this thought-provoking story, with its emphasis on the value of storytelling, will lead young readers to think about the importance of memory, knowledge, adaptation, and reflection in building a hopeful future.