Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

( 8 )


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 ...

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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 Roger's older brother belongs to?

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a compelling 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.

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Editorial Reviews

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. (Aug.)
VOYA - Jan Chapman
This graphic novel is based on the heartbreaking true story of lives wasted in Southside Chicago during a gang-related slaying in 1994. Robert "Yummy" Sandifer is just eleven when he shoots and kills an innocent bystander during a territorial gang dispute. His story is told by a fictional classmate, Roger, who is trying to make sense of what happened. Yummy's childhood is an all-too-common story of parental neglect and abuse. The only family he knows is his gang, The Black Disciples, and he will do anything they ask of him. Yummy still clings to vestiges of his childhood, particularly his beloved teddy bear, but this child also carries a gun for a ruthless gang, which in turn will sacrifice him when the public outcry becomes too great. Told in stark panels of black and white, this stunning graphic novel tells the tragedy of Yummy but also indicts a society where there is only an outcry against the endless cycle of violence when one particular horrific incident captures the imagination of the community. The powerful artwork, full of shadows and deep contrast, emphasizes this terrible story of wasted childhood and senseless murder. The narrative, simply told and conveying a young boy's anguish, complements the artwork perfectly. Teens who enjoy standalone graphic novels will be drawn to the compelling story and art, and moved by the tragic unfolding of events. This novel would also be an excellent resource for a classroom discussion on gang violence. Reviewer: Jan Chapman
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Based on the real-life story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an eleven-year-old boy who became a poster child for youth gang violence after murdering a fourteen-year-old girl, Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty challenges readers to form their own understanding of gang violence. Using a fictitious eleven-year-old as a narrator, Neri gives readers a look at "Yummy's" early days as an abused child who took to stealing and carjacking before being inducted into "The Black Disciples," a Chicago gang that used underage "Shorties" to commit crimes for older members. They will see Yummy from the perspective of his grandmother, friends, and media reporters. And they will read about how Yummy's crime eventually made him an enemy of more than just the police., Neri tries to make Yummy more than just a morality tale by depicting Yummy as an ignorant and insecure child rather than a remorseless killer (although Neri admits in an author's note that this depiction is based as much on speculation as it is on research). Ultimately, the graphic novel is most effective as a cautionary tale about how ignorance and a toxic environment can lead to an entire community's pain and suffering. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Library Journal
"So young to kill, so young to die" read the 1994 Time magazine cover with Yummy's photo. Yummy was a real 11-year-old Chicago kid, with father in jail, abused by his mom, and sucked all-too-readily into the Black Disciples gang. "The disciples ain't stupid," comments a character in Neri's account. "They got this endless supply of young ones with no daddy, just looking for attention"—pit bull puppies who could escape felony convictions because of age. Given a gun and sent on small jobs, Yummy was a bundle of thug ego with a kid's immaturity, and he accidentally killed a teen girl bystander while threatening supposed rivals. Now a liability as a magnet for unwanted attention, Yummy was executed by his own gang. While Neri invents a fictional narrator as tour guide for the reader, the story is based on public records, media reports, and personal accounts. VERDICT Neri's re-creation paints a compelling and sympathetic portrait of how a youngster became too eager to please the wrong people, and DuBurke (Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography) provides skilled, semiphoto-quality inks and shadows that do his subject justice. Strongly recommended for tweens and up.—M.C.
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
Kirkus Reviews

A haunting, ripped-from-the-headlines account of youth gang violence in Chicago provides the backdrop for a crucial mediation on right andwrong. 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 ofhis 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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584302674
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 89,482
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: GN510L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

G. Neri is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and new media producer from Los Angeles, where he also worked with inner-city youth. He is the recipient of the International Reading Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award and Chess Rumble was recognized as an ALA Notable Children's Book. Neri now lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida with his wife and their daughter.

Randy DuBurke is a full-time artist, whose work has appeared in books for young readers, DC and Marvel comics, The New York Times, and MAD magazine. A native of Brooklyn, New York, DuBurke now lives in Switzerland with his wife and their two sons.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2014

    I loved this book. This book was very intresting and was took pl

    I loved this book. This book was very intresting and was took place in my own city. If you love graphic novels then I would reccomend this book to you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    The protagonist is an eleven-year-old male, yet his story seems to be that of an older teen or person in young adulthood. As the reader follows Yummy's life he or she will be exposed to the type of life many youth are faced with. If you are unaware of the life of Yummy (a nickname for the main character) this graphic novel will be educational and enlightening. *Well written. *Emotional. * Informative reading.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Response to Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

    Yummy was one of the easiest readings I have ever taken on. I read it twice to make sure I didn't miss a single detail! Robert "Yummy" Sandifer's life and death are told through a nontraditional comic text layout. The illustrations and pertinent, selected text grab your attention from the very beginning and never let you out of the story. The author, G. Neri, used several sources, including public records, media reports, and personal accounts, to recreate the story with some fictional events to fill missing information. I loved following Yummy's life, from being raised by parents who frequented jail and abused their children to running the streets with a prominent Chicago gang known as the Black Disciples to his untimely death at the young age of 11. Yummy grew up through a troubled life and most times had to fend for himself by thieving others and running from the law. Neri's words, coupled with Randy DuBurke's illustrations, paint a story with multiple sides. The reader is faced with the issue of whether to be angry at Yummy for the criminal life (shoplifting, burglary, violence & murder) he partakes in or to feel sorry for his lack of guidance (criminal and drug abusing parents, lack of help from the correctional institutions he frequented, or the moral less gang he joined and called family) which resulted in his wayward path to death at the hands of the Black Disciples (the gang he called family). If you are a visual learner, this book is for you! Without the illustrations, this is just another report on a child's life ravaged by gang influences and violence. G. Neri is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and new media producer from Los Angeles. Neri worked with the inner-city youth and taught in South Central Los Angeles. When the events of Yummy's story first started to unfold in 1994, Neri was teaching students that hailed from dysfunctional homes, had families similar to Yummy's and lived lives marred by gang related violence and death. He notes that he "even worked with a teen who, when he wasn't around gangs, acted like any sweet, innocent kid. But on the streets, he had already become a hard-core gangbanger" (Neri, pg. 95). I believe the reason why Neri wrote this particular text was because he related so closely to the situation and circumstances surrounding Yummy and his life. Neri didn't tell the story through one source however. Instead, he created Roger who tells the story as Yummy's friend in the Roseland area of Chicago and tries to guide readers to make sense of the events that occurred. References Neri, G. (2010). Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty. New York: Lee & Low Books Inc.

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  • Posted March 1, 2011

    What a Graphic Novel Should Be

    Yummy was really moving. No kidding, I welled up at the end. G Neri did a nice job with the story and the narrative, using the POV of a fellow kid in Yummy's neighborhood. And the art was great! Good visual storytelling, and a really nice feel to the art that not only reflects the time and place in which the story takes place, but also has a gritty yet personal feel for the characters and subject matter.

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  • Posted October 5, 2010

    Gritty, real, accessible...a must read

    Graphic novels published by mainstream book publishers are a tough sell for me, for many reasons: I usually sense they don't understand the market, and have editorial understanding of the genre. Art placement - that is, the juxtaposition of the art and storyline, how each advances the other, is a difficult task for most of them, even with a skilled graphic storyteller.

    How refreshing to be wrong once in a while! This book is engrossing, and real. There is fine character development, well rendered and with a great narrative, and it is visually interesting and exciting. In fact, the stark black and white images, thanks to the great detail and deliberateness of the artist (not at the expense of subtlety when called for) goes a long way to really make this story accessible. Life is like that: Deliberate, but with nuances thrown in, each making us choose a different path.

    Yummy is real. Not just the story, but the character. Neri and DeBurke are a terrific combo and have created a satisfying and emotionally evocative story with this graphic novel, which will hopefully create a new standard to which future graphic novels can be held.

    Get this book!

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  • Posted October 3, 2010

    A story to linger with you

    What a powerful story! I started reading and couldn't put it down. The story of Yummy is such a dark tragedy, and I have found that my mind keeps drifting back to his story, long after I had finished.

    There aren't very many books out there that tell the true stories of this minority of children -- children who are forced to grow up too fast, and who have to fight to survive. I teach in a neighborhood not quite as gritty as Yummy's, but very close. There hasn't been a single day yet where I haven't been greeted by police cars near the entrance of the school. Yummy reminded me of many of the children who walk in and out of our doors every day. The character was both innocent and guilty, adult and childlike, angry and scared. it's rare to find books where characters are that 3 dimensional. I was reading about a real boy, who existed, and I felt like I knew him as I was reading. So many characters in books for teens are caricatures of real people. There's the mean girls, the nerds, the jocks, etc. However, the impression I felt after reading Yummy was that I was reading a story about somebody I knew. Because of that-the tragedy of the story struck a deeper chord in me. I am certain that middle grade readers, with this book in their hands, would read with their eyes wide open, and a mind bursting with much to say about it afterwards.

    I appreciated the author's approach to the book. He didn't just cover the facts, but he went further back-to his childhood, his parents, his teddy bear, and his home. There were so many complex factors that went into what happened in the story. The narrator states at one point, "Which one was the real Yummy?" Was it the cruel bully who terrorized the neighborhood? Or was it the child, excited by candy and frogs? It made me think-what were the stories of the other people around me? The ones I hear about on the news, or see on the streets? I think the value of a book like Yummy is that it leaves such an impression on the reader that it moves you to change your perspective. There aren't many books that accomplish that, particularly in the middle grade fiction arena.

    I would highly recommend this book to teens, 11 and older. Additionally, I'd recommend it to any adult as well! This book will spark discussions, arguments, and most importantly, change.

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  • Posted August 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Whoa. This is something different

    Yummy is an amazing book. If you love graphic novels or non-fiction, urban stories or heart wrenching tales, this is the one. LOVE it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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