Reviews of the 2022 Pura Belpré Author Award Winners


The Last Cuentista
by Donna Barba Higuera
Middle School    Levine Querido    336 pp.    g
8/21    978-1-64614-089-3    $17.99

When a solar flare knocks Halley’s Comet off course and sends it hurtling toward Earth, a small group of citizens is selected to leave the planet and colonize a new one to ensure humanity’s survival. Once onboard, the citizens are put in suspended animation for the four-century journey to the new planet, Sagan. When twelve-year-old Petra Peña wakes up, however, she learns that a cult-like group, The Collective, has taken over the ship, “purging” citizens who fail to comply and erasing all memory of Earth and its diverse inhabitants. As an aspiring storyteller and one of the only people who remembers life before The Collective, Petra must rely on her Mexican storytelling heritage to protect the remaining humans from the fate of living life as Collective drones. She follows in her grandmother’s footsteps to become a cuentista, using storytelling to save humanity and remind her companions of the histories that were taken from them. Through The Collective, Higuera chillingly foregrounds seemingly benign attempts to eliminate violence and war via the homogenization of humanity. Through Petra, she effectively showcases how cultural memory, familial bonds, and story are essential to the progression of society, and how cultural difference is indispensable now and in the future. S. R. TOLIVER

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
by Alda P. Dobbs
Intermediate, Middle School    Sourcebooks    288 pp.    g
9/21    978-1-7282-3465-6    $17.99

REVIEW TO COME; read Alda P. Dobbs Talks with Roger







Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua
by Gloria Amescua; illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    48 pp.    g
8/21    978-1-4197-4020-6    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68335-738-4    $15.54

Luz Jiménez was an Indigenous Nahua girl from Milpa Alta, on the outskirts of Mexico City, who grew up to realize her dreams of becoming a teacher and working to preserve the Nahua language and culture. As a child, she was not allowed to go to school — that is, until the government realized that education could be used as a tool to control Indigenous people (“to turn the native children into modern ones, like the descendants of the Spanish who ruled the country, who thought only their ways were right and proper”) at the cost of preserving their traditional ways of life. When the Mexican Revolution came in 1911, Jiménez’s father was killed in the fighting and chaos, and the family moved to Mexico City, where Luz was fortunate to find work as a model for some of the leading artists of the day, including Diego Rivera. When the war ended, she returned to Milpa Alta and found her true calling as a teacher. Tonatiuh’s (Soldier for Equality, rev. 1/20; Feathered Serpent and the Five Suns, rev. 11/20) hand-drawn, digitally collaged illustrations, with an iconographic nod to the Mixtec codices, are rich in color and texture. Indeed, it’s this complicated relationship between old traditions and modern influences that makes his art such a good complement to Amescua’s text. Flowers, a Nahua metaphor for poetry, are incorporated throughout. An author’s note, a timeline, a glossary, source notes, and a bibliography are appended. JONATHAN HUNT

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


De aquí como el coquí
by Nomar Perez; illus. by the author; trans. into Spanish by Farah Perez
Primary    Dial    32 pp.    g
3/21    Spanish ed.  978-0-593-32407-3    $17.99




Read reviews of the 2022 Pura Belpré Illustrator Awards here and of the 2022 Pura Belpré YA Awards here. For more, click on the tag ALA LibLearnX 2022.

Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.