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.
This story 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.