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Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty Paperback – July 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1994, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, a 14-year-old girl named Shavon Dean was killed by a stray bullet during a gang shooting. Her killer, Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, was 11 years old. Neri recounts Yummy's three days on the run from police (and, eventually, his own gang) through the eyes of Roger, a fictional classmate of Yummy's. Roger grapples with the unanswerable questions behind Yummy's situation, with the whys and hows of a failed system, a crime-riddled neighborhood, and a neglected community. How could a smiling boy, who carried a teddy bear and got his nickname from his love of sweets, also be an arsonist, an extortionist, a murderer? Yet as Roger mulls reasons, from absentee parenting to the allure of gang membership, our picture of Yummy only becomes more obscure. Neri's straightforward, unadorned prose is the perfect complement to DuBurke's stark black-and-white inks; great slabs of shadow and masterfully rendered faces breathe real, tragic life into the players. Like Roger, in the end readers are left with troubling questions and, perhaps, one powerful answer: that they can choose to do everything in their power to ensure that no one shares Yummy's terrible fate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up–In 1994, an incident of Southside Chicago gang-related violence captured national headlines. Eleven-year-old Robert "Yummy" Sandifer shot and killed his 14-year-old neighbor Shavon Dean. Neri's retelling is based on public records as well as personal and media accounts from the period. Framing the story through the eyes and voice of a fictional character, 11-year-old Roger, offers a bittersweet sense of authenticity while upholding an objective point of view. Yummy, so named because of his love of sweets, was the child of parents who were continually in prison. While living legally under the care of a grandmother who was overburdened with the custody of numerous grandchildren, Yummy sought out the closest thing he could find to a family: BDN or Black Disciples Nation. In the aftermath and turmoil of Shavon's tragic death, he went into hiding with assistance from the BDN. Eventually the gang turned on him and arranged for his execution. The author frames the story with this central question: Was Yummy a cold-blooded killer or a victim of his environment? While parts of the message focusing on the consequences of choice become a little heavy-handed, the exploration of "both sides of the story" is unflinchingly offered. In one of the final panels, narrator Roger states, "I don't know which was worse, the way Yummy lived or the way he died." Realistic black-and-white art further intensifies the story's emotion. A significant portion of the panels feature close-up faces. This perspective offers readers an immediacy as well as emotional connection to this tragic story.Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 16 years
  • Grade Level: 9 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 510L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (July 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584302674
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584302674
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

G. Neri is the Coretta Scott King honor-winning author of Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty and the recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for his free verse novella, Chess Rumble. His novels include Surf Mules and the Horace Mann Upstander Award-winning Ghetto Cowboy. His work has been honored by the Museum of Tolerance and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Antioch University, the International Reading Association, the American Library Association, the Junior Library Guild and the National Council for Teachers of English. Neri has been a filmmaker, animator, teacher and digital media producer. He currently writes full-time and lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Sometimes stories get to you; this one left my stomach in knots. After three days of reporting, I still couldn't decide which was more appalling: the child's life or the child's death." - John Hull, TIME Magazine, Sept. 1994. When true stories get turned into graphic novels for kids, they tend to take place in the distant past. Books like James Sturm's Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, for example. Contemporary stories, or tales that have taken place in the last 20 years, are few and far between. Picking up "Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty" by Greg Neri, I hoped against hope that the book in my hands would be appropriate for middle grade readers. I love comics for kids, but there are really only so many tales involving kids finding magical distant lands that you can read before you want to pluck out your own eyeballs. Yummy in contrast was something entirely new. Gritty, real, willing to ask tough questions, and willing to trust that young readers will be able to reach their own conclusions. The central question is this: Can a child murderer be both victim and bully all at the same time? Don't look for easy answers here. Neri's not handing them out.

The real world facts are available. Here's what we know: That Robert "Yummy" Sandifer was eleven years old in 1994 when he went on the run after accidentally killing a neighbor girl. Gang violence was at its peak in the Roseland area of Chicago, and in this book a fictional neighborhood boy watches what happens to Yummy and to his own brother, both members of the same gang. The book asks hard questions as we watch Yummy's life and strange toughness, even as his story turns tragic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jesse J. Watson on September 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Powerfully drawing you deep into the emotional turmoil of the events surrounding the real life story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, G. Neri is a master of HOOK and SUBSTANCE. To simply call this book a cautionary tale would be criminal. This book is like the streets. There is no master key to check your answers against. Like the streets, you draw your own conclusions. And, like the streets, the cautions are painted on the walls right in front of you.

Neri is less an author and more of a wizard, stirring his cauldron of words into a tonic that once drunk, sucks the you into that world completely. Even after closing the last page of the book, you remain deep in the realm of, in this case, south side Chicago in 1994. Yummy haunts you. Yummy's face appears when you look at your kids, playing in their safe, crime free neighborhood. Yummy calls to you from beyond the grave with not answers, but more questions.

A confident writer can pen a book that asks more questions than it answers, yet still satisfies to the core. And this is one of those books. There is no shortage of commentary on this event, but Neri only uses those various voices as fuel for the readers' own conclusions. And, in this day and age of nonstop bombardment of opinions coming from parents, teachers, media sources, politicians, everywhere.... it must be nice for a kid to pick up a book that truly honors their ability to draw conclusions using their own mental capacity. In short, Neri trusts the kids that will pick up his book. And that is an honorable trait in an author.

The use of this book's narrator is effective because you are not getting the answers from Yummy himself. You, like observers at the time, are on the outside peering in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By cottage dweller on September 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
This graphic novel is really groundbreaking work - both for children's publishing and for the YA genre. Part of what is so remarkable about the story is that it is able to express so many viewpoints about this unfortunate killing. Subtly, but in very direct 1st person language, it paints a picture of the failed legal and social welfare system, poverty, and lack of adult supervision and that can thwart young people's healthy development and ultimately lead to gang shootings and collateral damage that are sadly, all too common. For children like yummy, Gangs become a substitute family, a place where one can gain some feeling of self worth. (While basically being ruthlessly exploited as underage criminals that cannot be tried as adults.) The story raises many questions, but never becomes didactic - no easy feat given the subject matter. It was a very smart choice to base this on a true story - and one set in the 1990's. It makes it easier for kids to take in than something that might have been set in the present, but the themes and messages will hopefully touch kids who are wrestling with these issues today. Striking black and white art - most notable for expressive faces that underscore the book's emotional intensity - round out this fine story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Mansfield on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Reason for Reading: This was a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a Cybils graphic novels panelist. However, all the panelists received a copy from the publisher except me. I guess it got lost in the mail or, maybe it was a Canada thing. Anyway I was unable to find a copy before our shortlists were due but this book was unanimously voted by the others as the first book chosen to go on the shortlist, I happily deferred to their wisdom. A copy just recently came into my local library and I am just now able to read it. Happily, after I read it I heard it had been chosen as the Teen category Cybil Award Winner!

Simply put, this is the true 1994 story of 11yo Robert Sanidfer, nicknamed "Yummy", a part of a gang called the Black Disciples Nation, while intending to shoot and kill someone else accidentally shot and killed a 14yo female bystander, Shavon Dean, who had a bright future ahead of her. This is the story of the social conditions in extreme poor black neighbourhoods in urban cities and the gangs found there. The tale of one boy who was beaten and abused so much by the age of three that he never had a chance at life. He had no love and looked for it where he could find it, unfortunately it was within the acceptance of a violent gang.

The story is narrated by a fictional character who was in Yummy's class at school and his thoughts on what is going down. He has many questions but never any answers of his own. He goes around the neighbourhood and finds plenty of different answers from all the folk who live there, fellow classmates, and listens to the newscasters, lawyers and politicians debate the situation on TV. However, ultimately it is left for the reader to decide whether Yummy was a hardcore killer or a victim or possibly both? Very powerful story!
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