Explore the life of a border kid in Bowles’ spirited verse novel.
For the 12-year-old Mexican-American narrator that everyone calls Güero, the borderlands (that “strip of frontier, / home of hardy plants”) means more than home. On Saturdays, he crosses the border into Mexico with his dad and chats with the locals. He goes marketing in the boisterous pulga with Mom and listens to his abuela Mimi’s scary folktales. Seventh grade soon begins, and Güero reunites with los Bobbys (or, as his sister Teresa calls them, “los Derds—Diverse Nerds”) for some reading, mischief, and girls (a new interest). His English teacher even gets Güero interested in poetry! In this slim verse novel, Bowles splendidly translates border life via loosely connected vignettes in an eclectic mix of poetic forms. Güero’s voice brims with humor, wit, and bits of slang, and a diverse cast of characters offers hints of other cultures. The author, however, does inject some complex themes and topics for rich discussion, touching on immigration, prejudice, and even the narrator’s nickname, “güero,” a term used to refer to light-skinned men and boys. Güero occasionally faces flak from a few schoolmates on account of his pale, freckled skin and copper hair, resulting in a revealing exchange with his dad: “M’ijo, pale folks catch all the breaks / here and in Mexico, too. Not your fault. / Not fair. Just the way it’s been for years.”
A valuable, too-brief look at the borderlands. (glossary) (Verse fiction. 10-14)