Reading Level: Lexile 510
Interest and Content Level: High School
- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Lee & Low Books, July 30, 2010. http://www.leeandlow.com/books/392/ pb/yummy_the_last_days_of_a_southside_ shorty
- Book Trailer: http://www.leeandlow.com/p/yummy_ trailer.mhtml
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is the true story of an eleven-year-old who got caught up in gang violence in the Roseland area of Chicago in 1994. His name was Robert Sandifer, otherwise known as “Yummy” because of his penchant for candy and sweet treats. Even though it is based on factual material, there is a disclaimer of sorts in the beginning of the book. “The Essence of Yummy’s story presented in this book has been recreated based on public records, media reports, and personal accounts. A certain amount of fictionalization was necessary to fill in gaps, condense events, and represent what Yummy might have been feeling.” The narrator of the book, Roger, was invented to guide the reader through the events in the story. However, the author, G. Neri, lived through and watched the story unfold all around him in the 1990’s. Almost 20 years later, with the help of illustrator Randy DuBurke, he decided to write it down.
The book tells the story of Yummy trying to earn a promotion in his gang, the Black Disciples, by making a “hit” — shooting someone who is an enemy of their gang. In the process, he apparently shoots an innocent bystander (a fourteen-year-old girl). It was never clear who he was supposed to be shooting. For the majority of the book, he is on the run from the police while the nation’s media become obsessed with his story. There was much debate about what an eleven-year-old killer means for our society. Was his family caring for him properly? Was the gang just taking advantage of him — it was common in street gangs at the time to have minors carry out crimes/hits for gang members since the minors would not be charged as adults and would only be in jail until they turned 21. Illinois has since changed the law so that minors can be charged as adults.
As the story continues, the police aren’t the only ones following Yummy. The Black Disciples want to make sure that he doesn’t reveal too much to the police, so they are hoping to find him before the police do. His picture is all over the newspapers and TV, so it’s just a matter of time before he’s caught. If you are having trouble finding an interesting book, give this one a try and find out what happens when Yummy finally runs out of options.