Yummy: The Last Days of A Southside Shorty, by G. Neri & Randy Duburke – Book Review

Yummy: The Last Days of A Southside Shorty, by G. Neri

Yummy: The Last Days of A Southside Shorty, by G. NeriYummy:  The Last Days of A Southside Shorty, by G. Neri & Randy Duburke
Lee and Low Books – July 30, 2010 – Paperback – 96 pages
Source: Review Copy

I can’t recall when I first heard the story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, but I remember that it was sometime earlier this year.  I was captivated and immediately haunted by the story of the eleven-year-old who, in 1994, was executed by members of his own gang after police attention in the wake of the shooting and killing of an innocent young bystander made him a liability.  The sadness I felt at the death of his young victim, Shavon Dean, Yummy’s role in it and his own terrible suffering from severe abuse, and his eventual murder by two teenaged brothers, stayed with me for quite some time.  No child should grow up this way, nor be faced with Yummy’s choices.

In May, I visited the office of Lee & Low Books with friends Amy and Natasha.  We were given advance copies of Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty.  Natasha was excited because she was familiar with the author’s work, but I had not yet made the connection between the graphic novel we were given, and the story that for days had left me with an ache in my heart.  Using a fictitious character, Roger, a young boy Yummy’s age, as a witness and narrator to Yummy’s life, G. Neri and illustrator Randy Burke attempt to make sense where sense can hardly be made.  They succeed, in words and illustrations, by asking the questions that prompt examination and hopefully inspire different choices than the ones Yummy made.

I strongly suggest that you check out this story for yourself.  Both author and illustrator did an excellent job of portraying the complexities and intricacies of Robert Sandifer.  The super sweet child who slept with a teddy bear and loved his grandmother -nicknamed Yummy for his love of sweets, and the unrelenting bully who would eventually kill in his search for a place where he belonged. As familiar as I was with the story, this was still an emotional read for me.  The author did a wonderful job of sifting through the facts and rendering all of the pertinent details in a way that is accessible to young readers while  complex enough for adults.  This is a work that demands discussion.  Prepare for a story that won’t easily let you go.

Highly Recommended.

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17 Comments

  1. Oh dear, this sounds like one that would haunt me! I’m not saying I wouldn’t read it because of this, just that I would have to prepare myself for dreams that often invade my subconscious when a compelling story plants a seed. I think this is a story that needs to be told.

    1. The story is very haunting which is why I am a little surprised that I can’t remember how it first came to my attention. I remember looking up articles on it because I was just floored that an 11 year old was ever in a situation to be executed. No words.

  2. A part of me really wants to read this, and the other part is scared that the story will leave me upset for days and days.

    1. It was very disturbing. It was with me for quite some time after hearing about it. I think it’s a story that you have to be in the right frame of mind for.

  3. Wow, that sounds like some story. I just can’t understand why we as a society can’t figure out how to make lives better for kids so they don’t have to turn to something like that to find acceptance.

    1. I hadn’t heard of it before this year and the story is about 16 years old. It’s really amazing. I wonder how I miss certain things.

  4. I saw good reviews over at Ari’s and Zetta’s blogs but it sure does sound depressing! I think I’m better with books that I don’t *know* in advance are depressing!

    1. It is a tough subject. This story has stayed with me in particular. I think Yummy was 8 when he started with gangs. It is just extremely hard to wrap my brain around this story.

  5. I remember the story of this young boy very well and how it just stunned me to think that a child so young could already be so troubled and so violent.

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