Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Rand DuBurke

What You Need To Know:  This is a fictionalized account of the life (and death) of Robert Sandifer, an 11 year old gang member who shot and killed a neighborhood girl. Although it is beautifully done, this book may struggle to find an audience.

Summary:  Yummy is an 11 year old felon.  A member of the Black Disciples Nation, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, he is well known for stealing cars, strong arming kids for money and having something to prove.  However, he is also known for his love of sweets, his short stature and good manners.  Roger, another 11 year old, tries to unravel the dual nature of this boy after he accidentally kills a 14 year old girl.  While Yummy's gang hides him, Roger listens to the words of his friends, his family, those who knew Yummy, and those who only know him as a symbol or statistic

What Works: This is a powerful story.  The DuBurke's stark black and white artwork manages to convey that power without melodrama.  Neri works hard to give a complete picture of Yummy, a dangerous felon who was still a child.

What Doesn't:  I have some serious questions about the intended audience for this book.  Is it meant for teens?  If so, the choice of a young narrator may turn off readers.  Also, while Yummy's story is indeed powerful, it also happened before most teen readers were born.  Dated slang, dress and cultural references will serve to remove teens from the story.   I can't quite see a younger reader enjoying or understanding this volume, and I think the format will be enough to turn off most adults.  So while the book is arresting and moving, I'm not sure it will reach the intended recipients.

However:  I am a 30+ white girl living in a suburb. While I can't see many of my patrons picking this title up of their own accord, that could be different in a different library.

Who Would I Give This Book To?:  Fans of Walter Dean Myers and urban fiction.  Teens researching gang violence, fans of non-fiction graphic novels.

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