Friday, March 18, 2011

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, Illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Roger, the likable fictional narrator of this award-winning graphic biography straight out of The Wire, sums up his feelings after he attends the funeral of his 11 year-old classmate Robert "Yummy" Sandifer: "I don't know which was worse, the way Yummy lived or the way he died." Set in Chicago in the mid 90s, Yummy tells the story of a candy-loving kid (hence the nickname) who has been abused all his life and is looking for something that feels like family. The Black Disciple Nation gang meets that need, providing Yummy with what he's been missing. When he pledges his "heart, soul, love and spirit" to the BDN and is rewarded with a gun, Yummy sadly claims "nobody gave me nothin' before," and he sets up to prove himself worthy of gang membership. When he accidentally shoots sweet neighborhood girl Shavon, the local community reacts, and the net tightens as the cops and rival gangs look for Yummy. The BDN hides him for awhile, but when the case gets national attention, the heat is too much and his "new family" has him killed in an alleyway. A gritty exploration of the effects of gang membership based on a true story that made national headlines in 1994 without the language that makes similar creations unsuitable for younger grades. Would also make an excellent tie-in with Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone. Grade 6+