In 1994 the tale of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was headline news, when this small, 11-year-old member of Chicago’s Black Disciple gang shot and killed a neighborhood girl while trying to shoot a rival gang member. Yummy, so nicknamed because of his love of candy, went on the run, and was found dead three days later, executed by members of his own gang, who were afraid he was attracting too much police attention. As his story became known, Yummy became the poster child for kids who grow up on urban streets, and become both victims and victimizers from the gang life they live. Neri uses a fictional narrator, a supposed classmate named Roger, as a tour guide for the story, but bases his recounting of Yummy’s life on public records, media reports, and personal accounts. Through Roger’s eyes we see many sides of Yummy, the boy who stole cars, ran the streets, and was arrested over and over, and the child who loved sweets, had a teddy bear with him in juvenile detention, and who after three days of hiding from the police, just wanted to go home. As Roger struggles to come to terms with the tragedy that is Yummy’s life, he asks difficult questions – Was Yummy a vicious killer, or was he a victim of others who used him for their own purposes? Was he responsible for his actions, or were others to blame for his life? Or was he, in the end, only a child who was too eager to be accepted by the wrong people?
While this story is told in the form of a graphic novel, it would be a mistake to dismiss this as a negligible offering. This story is gritty and real, and provides a haunting and harrowing account of youth gang violence in America. The events of Yummy’s brief life elicit anger, revulsion, and deep sympathy, as he is failed by every individual and organization that he comes in contact with.
Yummy’s story is a haunting and disturbing look at life on the edges of society, and provokes thoughtful consideration on questions of behavior, its consequences, and moral responsibility.This is a book that asks tough questions, and trusts that young readers will be able to reach their own conclusions. One of the most difficult, disturbing, and compelling graphic novels I’ve encountered, this is a story that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. A great choice for opening discussions on many difficult and important topics. Highly recommended.
96 pages 978-1584302674 Ages 14 and up
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director
Eleven-year old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert "Yummy" Sandifer's death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy's life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid? As Roger searches for the truth, he finds more and more questions. How did Yummy end up in so much trouble? Did he really kill someone? And why do all the answers seem to lead back to a gang-the same gang to which Roger's older brother belongs? Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a compelling graphic dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994. This gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong.---from the publisher
Read alike: A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds; I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina; Monster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers