Friday, February 20, 2015

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

When I first found out we would be reading graphic novels this week, I was little unsure about how I would like them. I have only read one graphic novel before and I never considered graphic novels to be "real books." After reading Part One of Jesse Karp's book Graphic Novels In Your School Library, I gained a new appreciation and respect for graphic novels. Prior to reading this section, I had never realized how complex and sophisticated graphic novels are. I was amazed to learn how much time, thought, and consideration goes into creating a graphic novel and just how detailed they are. This new appreciation peaked my interest and made me feel more prepared to step outside of my literary comfort zone. 

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 :)


  1. I'm glad to see someone liked Yummy as much as I did! The question the narrator posed on page 63 stood out to me as well. After reading it, I began to understand that maybe Yummy wasn't the bully that I believed him to be in the beginning of the novel. Rather than taking what Yummy did for face value, it's important to grapple with the fact that the circumstances he lived in and the society at large may have played a critical role in the behaviors he chose to engage in. Would you agree that there is some sort of societal influence here? Although I am not condoning Yummy's action whatsoever, this quote forces readers to draw conclusions about why Yummy went down this particular path.

  2. Excellent! I am cheering for you here in my office Christina. I am so proud of you for acknowledging your own text-preferences and yet making a conscious (dare I say metacognitive) effort to fully engage with this new type of text. Well done.

  3. Keara,

    I absolutely agree that societal influences played a role here. I also think that Yummy's own personal experiences and home life also led him down this particular path. From the book, and the Time Magazine article I read, it was clear that Yummy's home life was hostile, violent, unsafe, and unstable. For a child to undergo such abuse and instability is traumatizing and leaves them vulnerable to making the wrong choice. I think that he was misguided (or not guided at all) and struggling to belong somewhere. Although I do not condone his actions, I think it would be wrong to demonize him. After all, he was only eleven years old. He did a horrible thing, but I think it would be completely wrong to ignore all that had happened to him in his short life and what had shaped him to become the kid that he was.