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Donna Barba Higuera: What Would You Take with You If You Were Crossing the Universe?

Middle Grade and Picture Book Author Donna Barba Higuera talks about how her Newberry award winning book, The Last Cuentista, arose from a simple writing prompt to take a fairy tale and make it into a sci-fi story. Based on the Princess and the Pea fairy tale, her book’s protagonist is not a delicate princess but a tough, smart girl who takes the now forbidden stories of her family and culture with her as she crosses the universe to a changing humanity.

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Fiction and Fantasy

Donna Barba Higuera

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”
― The Last Cuentista


It’s all about empathy. You have to help a young person understand what life is like for another young person. And books do that brilliantly I think, whether it’s my books or somebody else’s. Books offer us a window into another person’s life that might be very different from our own.  

But I would also encourage young people to seek out members of their community who are refugees or who are immigrants, and who are okay sharing their stories. There are refugee aid organizations in almost every town and almost every place in the United States who are here to help refugees resettle in the United States if they can make it here safely. And it’s really important for young people to reach out to those groups, to volunteer for those groups, to help raise money for those groups, and to meet people from other places, not just in the pages of a book, but to, to go out and bring those people into their own worlds.  

So, I always encourage teachers to bring refugees and immigrants and folks from refugee aid organizations into the classroom who are willing to talk about their experience, but I also encourage kids to get out into their communities and meet these folks. The only way that we stop thinking about refugees and immigrants as other, is when we bring them into our own lives and we become a friend to an immigrant, become a friend to a refugee, just be their friend.