Yummy : The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
by Neri, G.; Duburke, Randy (ILT)

A graphic novel based on the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an eleven-year old African American gang member from Chicago who shot a young girl and was then shot by his own gang members.

*Starred Review* Robert Sandifer‚?"called ‚??Yummy‚?Ě thanks to his sweet tooth‚?"was born in 1984 on the South Side of Chicago. By age 11 he had become a hardened gangbanger, a killer, and, finally, a corpse. In 1994, he was a poster child for the hopeless existence of kids who grow up on urban streets, both victims and victimizers, shaped by the gang life that gives them a sense of power. Neri‚??s graphic-novel account, taken from several sources and embellished with the narration of a fictional classmate of Yummy‚??s, is a harrowing portrait that is no less effective given its tragic familiarity. The facts are laid out, the suppositions plausible, and Yummy will earn both the reader‚??s livid rage and deep sympathy, even as the social structure that created him is cast, once again, as America‚??s undeniable shame. Tightly researched and sharply written, if sometimes heavy-handed, the not-quite-reportage is brought to another level by DuBurke‚??s stark black-and-white art, which possesses a realism that grounds the nightmare in uncompromising reality and an emotional expressiveness that strikes right to the heart. Like Joe Sacco‚??s work (Footnotes in Gaza, 2010), this is a graphic novel that pushes an unsightly but hard to ignore sociopolitical truth out into the open. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

A haunting, ripped-from-the-headlines account of youth gang violence in Chicago provides the backdrop for a crucial mediation on right and¬†wrong. The fictional Roger, Neri's protagonist and moral compass, revisits the cautionary tale of classmate Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an 11-year-old shorty with a sweet tooth, in this dramatic re-creation of¬†his brief life. During the sweltering summer of 1994, Yummy's gang initiation goes horribly awry: A bullet intended for rival gangsters accidentally cuts down Shavon Dean, 14, a former childhood playmate. As the nation—from Time magazine to then-President Clinton—reels with shock, Yummy goes into hiding, setting the stage for Roger to investigate the "Little Killer's" beginnings before the summer, and Yummy's life, comes to a grisly end. DuBurke's raw illustrations evoke the heightened emotions of the time. The artist adeptly balances the contradictions of Yummy's life, as scenes of exaggerated violence (torching cars and looting stores) slowly dissolve into typical childhood vignettes (pet frogs and beloved teddy bears). A much-needed look at the terrifying perils of life on the margins that will have all readers pondering the heady question of moral responsibility. (Graphic fiction. 12 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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