The Children's Book Compass

A Realistic Graphic Novel

Posted on: November 5, 2010

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.  Illus. by Randy Du Burke.  (2010).  94 pages.  Lee & Low Books Inc.  Grades 6 and up.  Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction.

The graphic novel format is an excellent choice to dramatize the true story of an eleven year old boy, Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, who murdered a girl and then was killed by his own gang.  The black and white illustrations give the story a gritty realism.  Neri creates a narrator, Roger, who is Yummy’s classmate.  In telling Yummy’s tragic story Roger tries to sort out how such a thing could have happened.  Roger describes his neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside as feeling like a war movie.  Gangs ruled the neighborhood, “if you go out at night, you might get yourself shot.”  The gang was the only real family Yummy knew.  To belong he carried a gun and followed the orders of his gang leaders.  After he mistakenly shot a 14 year old girl instead of the intended gang rival, his gang hid him from the police.  When the police pressure became too intense the gang executed him.

In this note in the beginning of the book Neri writes, “I invite you, like Roger, to sort through all the opinions that poured in from the community, media, and politicians, and discover your own truth about Yummy.”  Neri gives a detailed list of these sources at the end of the book.

The even manner presentation of Yummy’s story shows that there were no winners, only losers.  Neri asks in his Author’s Note at the end, “So, was Yummy a cold-blooded killer or a victim?  The answer is not black-and-white.  Yummy was both a bully and a victim – he deserves both our anger and our understanding.”  DuBurke’s pictures add power and tragedy to the story.  The multiple illustrations on each page are framed in different sizes and presented in a variety of lay-outs on the page which moves the story along at a fast pace.  Close-ups of faces add to the drama.  Speech bubbles alternate with Roger’s boxed narration to clearly show who is speaking.  After youngsters have read this book, guide them in discussing the story to come up with their own answers to the question about Yummy being a cold-blooded killer or a victim.

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