book review: They Call Me Güero


title: They Call Me Güero : A Border Kid’s Poems
author: David Bowles
date: Cinco Puntos; 2018
main character: Güero
poetry; middle grades
Review base on an advanced reader’s copy


It’s the perfect time for us,
for diverse nerds and geeks, for all woke readers–
heroes whose power
is traveling through these pages
to distant times and pages
to find our proud reflections. (p. 20)

I think what I like most about They Call Me Güero is that it’s not a book about a young boy who’s too good or too bad, who’s trying to save the world or even find his place in it. He’s just a boy being a boy doing stupid stuff boys do, hanging with his friends, enjoying school and spending time with his family. Written actually as a collection of poems, the book provides glimpses into Güero’s life as he enters the 7th grade. If you looking for poverty, abuse, gangs and crime then, you’ll need to look elsewhere. This is a solid middle class family and he’s kid who likes school, asks a girl to fight for him and loves playing with his friends and cousins.

This is clearly an #OwnVoices story, one that serves as a mirror for some and a window for others. Bowles positions TexMex culture, politics, food and language at the center of the story and it’s the joy with which he writes about Güero’s antics that pulls us in, not  whether we can relate to the family structure, love of dogs or freckled face. I certainly knew little about life along the Texas border, but this story provided an easy visit.

The skill here is not just in storytelling or poetry, but in the precision that builds an entire world that is accessible to  middle grade readings with clarity and energy. Organization is an essential part of this as well. Bowles is quite skilled.

Bowles lives and teaches in deep, South Texas. His book The Smoking Mirror was a Pura Belpré Honor Book. In addition to writing, teaching and translating, he also teaches Classical Nahuatl. And, he tweets.

I recommend this book for school, public and personal libraries.