Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

Yummy is the strong story of a news report many often see but seldom register, the youthful gang member who kills an innocent bystander and provokes local outrage. Yummy is Robert Sandifer, who in 1994 became a poster child for gang violence after being featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He was notorious for his young age as a gang gunman (he was 11), the senseless violence surrounding his life, and his involvement in the Black Disciples gang active in Chicago. He got his nickname for his love of Snickers bars and cookies. In the book we see that he was childish in other ways also , such as sleeping with a teddy bear and being prone to violent outbursts. The story is told from the perspective of a fictional classmate, but it is based on media portrayals, public records, and personal accounts and packs an emotional wallop.

Yummy was written by Greg Neri who writes for middle graders and YA audiences, focusing on works for reluctant readers. He has published two other novels, Chess Rumble and Surf Mules. He writes about his reasons for writing Yummy in this interview and also on this page, which also has a number of positive reviews from Kirkus and other impressive organizations. The black and white art provided by Randy DuBurke sets a gritty tone and works well for evoking emotions. DuBurke has been a published illustrator for the better part of two decades, working for DC Comics in the late 1980s and early '90s but more recently focusing on children's books and graphic novels. His debut The Moon Ring won the 2003 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for illustration.

The reviews for Yummy have been very positive. Doret commented on the craft of the book and the sadness and power of particular passages. The School Library Journal was impressed by the realism and hard questions the book asks in its detailed review while also providing links to interviews and further information. James Bucky Carter added that "It is not a fun read. But, perhaps it should be a required read. Expect to be angered and disturbed."

A preview is available here from the publisher, Lee & Low Books.

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