Newbery Medalist and Pura Belpré Award Winner Donna Barba Higuera

Click here to watch the 2022 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Donna Barba Higuera, Rajani LaRocca, Darice Little Badger, Kyle Lukoff, and Andrea Wang to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Hello, Donna Barba Higuera! Congratulations on winning the 2022 Newbery Medal and the 2022 Pura Belpré Children’s Author Award for The Last Cuentista. I love hearing about the CALLS. What was running through your heart when the committees were clapping and cheering for you?

Donna Barba Higuera: I was assured this Zoom call was “a marketing meeting of sorts with Barnes and Noble”. So, I went through a gale storm of emotions within those first few moments. First, complete confusion that all the people couldn’t possibly be a B & N virtual visit team. Then complete disbelief when the head of the committee announced they were actually the Newbery Committee. I went full deer in headlights when the head of the committee (who I now know was Thaddeus Andracki) said The Last Cuentista had won the Newbery Medal. There was a bit of silence as he graciously let it sink in for me before the crying began. (The crying was mostly me, and I think my editor, Nick Thomas, although he may deny it.)

By the time all the clapping and cheering started, I was already a blubbering mess. I could see others were emotional too. To have a group of people show so much love for your book all at once? I suppose my heart feels like that very first time in Kindergarten when Mrs. Chitwood put a shiny golden star sticker on my forehead. If anyone remembers how that first affirmation felt, then you know exactly how my heart felt.

What does the Newbery Medal and Pura Belpré Award for The Last Cuentista mean to you?

Donna Barba Higuera: It’s so much easier to see how I view others who have received these medals, than it is to see myself. When I was a child and saw those stickers on books, they felt extra magical. If The Last Cuentista brings even a little bit of magic or escape to a child who needs it, like its predecessors did for me, I have fulfilled every dream young Donna could have had for herself. And The Pura Belpré? Will a child pick up the book and see themselves in a character like Petra? The Pura Belpré is special on a different level. It’s an acknowledgement not just for me, but one in which a child can see themselves in a character like Petra and know if Petra’s story is worthy, then theirs is too.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Story is nourishment, that feeds the imagination of dreamers and takes readers, young and old, to places they may never travel but can now feel at home; introduces them to people they may not understand but can now call friend.

School librarians are mystical humans and magical storytellers like Mrs. Hughes who fight to bring the outside world to a child’s domain, take them to other countries, across the universe and to imaginary realms, and are just waiting to hand the next adventure to a freckly little ragamuffin who can’t keep her nose out of a book.

Congratulations, Donna! 

Donna Barba Higuera grew up in Central California and now lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has spent her entire life blending folklore with her experiences into stories that fill her imagination. Now she weaves them to write picture books and novels. Donna's first book, Lupe Wong Won't Dance, won a Sid Fleischman Award for Humor and a Pura Belpré Honor.

Her second novel, The Last Cuentista, received the John Newbery Medal and the Pura Belpré Award. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Wall Street Journal, and TIME.


Popular Posts