They Call Me Güero

By: David Bowles

Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. He writes poetry.



Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. He writes poetry.

Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He’s starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool.

In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd—reader, gamer, musician—who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails.

But trusting in his family’s traditions, his accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart.

Awards and Accomodations

Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award
Best Middle Grade Book, Texas Institute of Letters
Skipping Stones Award
Walter Dean Myers Honor, Young Reader
2019 Notable Verse Novel, NCTE
Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry
Américas Book Award Commended Title
ALSC Notable Children's Book
White Raven 2019
Bluebonnet Award Masterlist 2020-21
Favorites of 2019, Americas Society / Council of the Americas

11 reviews for They Call Me Güero

  1. School Library Journal, Best Books of 2018
    Vibrant and unforgettable, this is a must-have for all middle grade collections. Pair with both fiction and nonfiction books on immigration, forced cultural assimilation, and stories about contemporary Mexican American life.

  2. Shelf Awareness
    With a glossary of Spanish words and phrases in the back, They Call Me Güero makes itself accessible to all readers without ever moving away from celebrating and directly addressing Spanish-speaking children. —Siân Gaetano

  3. Publishers Weekly
    An achievement of both artistic skill and emotional resonance, Bowles’s volume is both a richly rewarding tour through many borderlands, including adolescence itself, and a defiant celebration of identity: ‘no wall, no matter how tall, can stop your heritage.’

  4. Kirkus Reviews
    Güero’s voice brims with humor, wit, and bits of slang, and a diverse cast of characters offers hints of other cultures. … A valuable, too-brief look at the borderlands.

  5. The Horn Book
    Bowles confidently intersperses the voices of Güero’s many family members, using Texas Spanglish colloquialisms with specificity (back matter includes a generous glossary and pronunciation key), in diverse poetic forms, resulting in a welcome contribution to the bildungsroman corpus of Chicana/o literature.. —Lettycia Terrones

  6. Midwest Book Review
    “They Call Me Guero: A Border Kid’s Poems” by David Bowles (a native of the South Texas borderlands, where he teaches at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley) is a compendium of poetry for young readers ages 8-12 and will prove to be a prized and welcome addition to school and community library collections.

  7. Américas Book Award, Commended Title
    While Bowles includes heavy themes of immigration, the sting of racism toward Güero, so called for his pale skin, and the ever-present psychological awareness of being a border kid, lighter moments prevail: the market, music lessons, the best buds’ bookworm squad, and family celebrations. Bowles artfully conveys Mexican culture and infuses Spanish words throughout this connected collection of 49 poems, and readers will resonate with the narrator’s navigation through seventh grade.

  8. Rosanne Parry Blog
    The poems are short and ring clear with emotional and physical details that will strike a chord with any reader.

  9. Sylvia Vardell& Janet Wong, creators of The Poetry Friday Anthology
    Snapchat, texting, woke teachers, K-pop/hip-hop, hybrid cars, and border troubles tie this story to today’s times, but the rich characters who fill Güero’s family, school, and neighborhood—Uncle Joe, Abuela Mimi, Joanna la Fregona, the three Bobbys, Bisabuela Luisa, and a dozen more—are the beating heart of this masterful novel-in-poems rooted in generations of culture, geography, and story.

  10. Margarita Engle, 2017-19 National Young People’s Poet Laureate
    I absolutely love this book!

  11. Reading Style
    This slim poetry collection becomes more relevant with each passing day.—Barbara Moon

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