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4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: The Last Cuentista w/ Crayon Rock Activity

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera is a juvenile fiction book for 4-8th graders that has won the 2022 John Newbery Medal and the Pura Belpré Awards.

Once upon a time an almost thirteen-year-old girl named Petra Peña, wished to become a storyteller like her abuelita. But fate had other ideas. As Halley's Comet soars toward Earth, Petra and her family are forced to flee in a colossal space ship, where she and the rest of the passengers are put to sleep until their new home can be found.

Hundreds of years later Petra wakes up and realizes that she is the only one who remembers Earth. During her time in stasis, a group known as, the Collective, have taken over with the goal of uniformity and obedience. They have wiped all memories of Earth from memory and those they couldn't make forget, the "purged."

Now Petra is the only one with the memories of life before, can she escape the Collective before her memories are purged as well?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

  2. Some would argue that this book is a dystopia. What is the difference between a dystopia and a utopia?

  3. Petra and her family are given the opportunity to leave Earth for Sagan. What is happening to Earth and why does Petra argue with her parents about staying?

  4. What is a Cuentista? How does storytelling play an important role in the book?

  5. On page 18, when talking about The Collective, Petra’s dad says: “Equality’s good. But equality and sameness are two different things.” What do you think is the difference between equality and sameness?

  6. Javier and Petra will be learning a lot about botany and geology while they are in stasis. If you could suddenly become an expert in a topic, what would it be?

  7. When Petra wakes up from stasis, she learns that everyone she has ever loved has been purged. How did this make you feel?

  8. What is Petra’s relationship with Epsilon-5? Did you see this coming?

  9. Petra argues that by honoring the past, our ancestors, our cultures— and remembering our mistakes—we become better. Do you agree with her? Do you think memories and stories are a way for us to better ourselves?

  10. The Last Cuentista won the 2022 John Newbery Medal and the Pura Belpré Awards. Let’s talk about why we think this book should or shouldn’t have won?

Activity: Crayon Rock Cycle

Supplies: 3 different color crayons; Cheese Grater; Wax paper; Aluminum Foil

Directions: (thanks to little bins little hands for the idea!)

  1. Peel the paper off of three different color crayons. These represent your igneous rocks.

  2. VERY carefully, use a cheese grater to grate your crayons into a pile on top of your wax paper. This represents sedimentary rocks.

  3. Wrap your crayon shavings in the wax paper and apply pressure. The heat of your hand will make the piece start to stick together to make a loose mass, this is the start of your metamorphic rock.

  4. With parental permission, preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Form a piece of aluminum foil into a bowl shape and transfer your “metamorphic” crayon rock from the wax paper to the foil.

  5. Put your foil bowl in the oven for 5 minutes so that it melts and forms a new shape.

The Science: “There are three main types of rocks: igneous rock, metamorphic rock, and sedimentary rock. These rocks can change into other rocks through “cooling, melting, heat, weathering and erosion, pressure...” Sedimentary rocks are formed when other rocks break down into tiny particles. When these particles squish together, they form sedimentary rocks. "These types of rocks often look like they have layers. Common sedimentary rocks include sandstone, coal, limestone, and shale.”

Metamorphic rocks started out as one rock and through heat, pressure, or both, turn into another type of rock. “Common metamorphic rocks include marble, granulite, and soapstone.”

Igneous rock forms when “hot, molten rock crystallizes and solidifies. The melt originates deep within the earth near active plates or hot spots, then rises toward the surface, like magma, or lava. When it cools igneous rock is formed. Common igneous rocks include basalt, pumice, granite, and obsidian.”


How'd it go:

This was bittersweet because we are going to be taking a hiatus for the summer, but I think everyone had fun and we had a successful STEM activity for a change!

That's all for now!



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