Synopsis: In this verse novel, follow along with the 12-year-old Mexican-American narrator, called Güero, as he traverses life in the borderlands. As a border kid with pale skin, freckles, red hair, and nerdy interests, Güero grapples with issues of prejudice, bullying, acceptance, and self-pride while also navigating the halls of 7th grade with his buddies, “Los Bobbys.” Güero’s “woke” teachers and family members help him navigate struggles with his complexion and the need to prove his Mexican-American heritage until he ultimately discovers how his heritage and the borderlands mean more than just home; they mean connecting to a turbulent history and important family traditions. For Güero, poetry serves as his outlet, using “words instead of fists,” as he guides readers through his experiences with an array of poetic forms, from rhyming sonnets to free verse, from haiku to ballads and raps.
Interest Level: Grades 5-8 (ages 10-14)
Themes: family traditions, difference and diversity, pride and acceptance, racism and colorism, heroism, traditional gender roles
Maximilian & the Curse of the Fallen Angel (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures #4) by Xavier Garza
Synopsis: Continuing his lucha libre escapades, Maximilian, now fourteen years old, finds himself alongside his family in Mexico City for the summer after being given the chance to act in a film with uncle Tio Rodolfo, a lucha libre star. While there, Max learns that Tio Rodolfo is retiring from his acclaimed wrestling role as the Guardian Angel to pursue his marriage to the former luchadora, Silver Star. Confused and upset over his uncle’s decision to retire from lucha libre, Max, whose life has nearly always revolved around the expectation that he would replace the Guardian Angel when he is grown, wonders now who is to become the Guardian Angel’s successor. As the famous luchador’s final match to the vicious Fallen Angel approaches, Max grapples with some challenges facing his own future as heir to the Guardian Angel throne. Along the way, he gains unexpected wisdom not only about himself but also about others. Yet, the question remains: Who will continue the legacy of the Guardian Angel?
Interest Level: Grades 3-8 (ages 8-14)
Themes: Lucha Libre, Accepting Change, Growing and Changing, Coming of Age, Overcoming Jealousy, Making Difficult Decisions, Sacrificing for One’s Dreams, Choosing Family/Love Over Career/Work, Continuing a Legacy
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Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Julia calls her diary her “everything,” so it makes sense that in her diary, she writes about everything: her family, her friends, her hopes and frustrations, and the fear and confusion that come with living in Juárez, “the city that steals cars, girls, and our dignity.” Julia struggles to understand the strange dynamics of her family: her mamá’s silences, her father’s long absences, the family’s frequent need to relocate. As both a writer and a young woman coming of age, Julia wants to uncover the truth that the adult world tries to keep hidden from her. When her father goes missing, she is not willing to add his name to the list of all she has lost. Instead, she sets out to find the truth about her father, her family, and herself.
Interest Level: Grades 7-10 (ages 12-16)
Themes: Coming of age, family, dealing with secrets, organized crime, issues surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border
Rise of the Halfling King (Tales of the Feathered Serpent #1) by David Bowles
Synopsis: Sayam, a halfling boy, has a destiny that he must fulfill. First, however, he needs to hatch! Join Sayam, his grandmother (a witch), and his monkey Maax as they seek to fulfill Sayam’s fate while fighting a giant snake and besting a stubborn king and a sneaky sorcerer at three tests!
Interest Level: Grades 3-6 (ages 8-14)
Themes: Maya mythology, following your destiny, facing challenges
Access the guide here