The Last Storyteller – Donna Barba Higuera

Get strapped in for a space travel like no other! With the world about to be destroyed in 2061, Petra Peña and her family are among the chosen few to journey to a new planet to start civilisation again. Waking up 380 years later, Petra finds Earth has been forgotten about and the new inhabitants of the space shuttle have some secrets to hide. Yet, Petra holds the stories of the past. Can she make the stories live again?

Había una vez, a book called The Last Storyteller was published. A book which is so utterly mesmerising, it made me feel so happy I’ve become a book blogger to get more books into my school or else I may not have discovered this beautiful sci-fi cuento. When I was explaining the plot to my wife, it intrigued her as it’s rare to find a story combining folklore and science fiction but yet here, it is utter perfection.

From the opening pages where Petra and her grandmother (supreme storyteller Lita) are saying their goodbyes, you’re hooked. Donna immediately has created an unbreakable family bond but also one where the reader feels heavily invested in what happens next to the Piñas. You feel this even more when Petra awakens in the future: like her, you are disorientated and trying to discover whether things went to plan and who else is there. Throughout this narrative, we constantly return to Lita and key stories she has told Petra in the past. It’s a beautiful combination of past and present as Petra discovers her ability to tell stories – nothing ever truly leaves us.

As an avid reader, The Last Storyteller is a wonderful celebration of stories (particularly Mexican folklore) and the power and connection that telling them brings. One particular conversation really resonated with me: Books became our language. Books became our home. Books became our lives.

I don’t want to say too much but it really is an unforgettable space adventure exploring acceptance, resistance and what it means to be human. Lita acknowledges that not all stories are happy and The Last Storyteller certainly has plenty of shocking twists but by the end, hope remains.

From a teaching point of view, this book is certainly one which will gain more sophisticated conversations in KS3 classrooms but equally, I know Upper Key Stage 2 would enjoy this too. I’m really grateful to Piccadilly Press for sending me an educator’s guide to accompany the book so if you want to share this with your class, get in touch with them and I am sure they’ll help you too. Inside the guide, there’s comprehension questions, exploration of different themes (grief, government control, planetary disaster and loss of individualism) as well as pre- and post-reading activities you can complete.

Suggested reading age: 10+

The Last Storyteller is written by Donna Barba Higuera and is published by Piccadilly Press. It’s available now so I strongly recommend adding this to your classroom and/or home.

Published by Tom G

Avid reader. Dad of 2. Husband. Assistant Headteacher.

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