I began my journey outside my comfort zone with G. Neri's Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. When I learned that this graphic novel was based on a true story, it made me so excited to read it. It may just be the history geek in me, but I love reading about things that really happened. For this reason, and many more, I absolutely LOVED this book! Not only did I find the story interesting, but Neri asks some hard questions that really made me think. One question that the narrator Rodger posed really stuck with me. He said,
"I tried to figure out who the real Yummy was.
The one who stole my lunch money?
Or the one who smiled when I shared my candy with him?
I wondered if I grew up like him, would I have turned out the same?" (Neri, 63)
This quote stood out to me because while I was reading, I had a hard time determining whether or not Yummy was a victim or the bully. Although he clearly made poor choices and committed horrible crimes, I don't think I can agree that it was entirely his fault. Even if I wanted to dislike him, I couldn't. However, I was hoping that Neri would provide some sort of answer to this question. At first, I was a little frustrated that he didn't. But after I had put the book away, I realized how awesome it is that Neri trusts his readers to reach their own conclusions. Not only was that a great moment for me, but as a teacher, I think it is important for kids to also learn that they're capable of answering the tough questions too.
Typically when I read, I am so concerned with the author's words that I completely ignore the illustrators contributions. I knew that when I read Yummy, I would have to slow down and allow myself to acknowledge and appreciate the illustrations in the book. Even though this was a little awkward for me at first, I was so glad that I pushed myself to do it because it improved both my reading experience and my overall understanding of the story. Also, I realized that the illustrator can convey messages as well. For example,in the beginning, when Neri is talking about all that Chicago is known for, the illustrator, Randy DuBurke, inserted Rodger into these scenes. He's on the court with the Chicago Bulls, arresting Al Capone, and so on. To me, this was DuBurke's way of making it clear to the reader that Rodger, and all children, have a connection and a role in the history of the city. The fact that I was able to gain so much from just a few pages made me realize how critical it was to not only look at the illustrations, but to question the illustrator as well. By doing so, I was able to realize that the illustrator has things they want to say to the reader as well. This is a huge "ah-ha!" moment for me.
I think these images of pages 4 & 5 are interesting because they don't have the words. This really allows you to focus on the illustrations and what the illustrator is trying to say.
I am so relieved that venturing out of my comfort zone was a rewarding experience. I look forward to reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and to reading more graphic novels in the future. If you have any recommendations for some to add to my list, please put them into the comments! I would greatly appreciate it :)