by Greg Neri
Reviewed by The Book Dealer
“They put him in special homes for kids like him. He was in them more than we was out. But even on the inside, trouble seemed to find him. He got picked on for being little and having a teddy bear.”
Yummy is a riveting graphic novel that uses media reports, public records,and personal accounts to tell the story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, the 11-year-old who appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1994. His “claim to fame” was for shooting and killing Shavon Dean, a 14-year-old girl who innocently got in the way of gun fire. It chronicles the events from Chicago, and Yummy’s entrance into the gang. The story is told from the perspective of a fictional character named Roger, who is just trying to make sense of how a seemingly good kid could go so bad. Roger really grapples with the question of good versus evil and has to deal with the fact that the questions from which he is seeking all lead back to an answer in the form of a gang. The gang, in fact, is the one of which Roger’s brother belongs.
Part of what is remarkable about this story is that the reader is able to see so many perspectives about this unfortunate event. It paints a picture of the failed social welfare system and lack of adult supervision that can harm young people and can possibly lead to gang violence.
As a teacher for over 20 years, I know the realities of gangs becoming a substitute family, a place where young people can gain acceptance and support. The story raises many questions about these issues in society. The themes and messages will hopefully touch kids who are dealing with these issues today.
My students have really started to like graphic novels, and although I do not often read them, this one is a must read. It really allows for the reader to consider an event from all sides and forces adults to look at the importance of parental roles in raising children.