By Kirkus Reviews
A haunting, ripped-from-the-headlines account of youth gang violence in Chicago provides the backdrop for a crucial mediation on right and wrong. The fictional Roger, Neri’s protagonist and moral compass, revisits the cautionary tale of classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old shorty with a sweet tooth, in this dramatic re-creation of his brief life. During the sweltering summer of 1994, Yummy’s gang initiation goes horribly awry: A bullet intended for rival gangsters accidentally cuts down Shavon Dean, 14, a former childhood playmate. As the nation—from Time magazine to then-President Clinton—reels with shock, Yummy goes into hiding, setting the stage for Roger to investigate the “Little Killer’s” beginnings before the summer, and Yummy’s life, comes to a grisly end. DuBurke’s raw illustrations evoke the heightened emotions of the time. The artist adeptly balances the contradictions of Yummy’s life, as scenes of exaggerated violence (torching cars and looting stores) slowly dissolve into typical childhood vignettes (pet frogs and beloved teddy bears). A much-needed look at the terrifying perils of life on the margins that will have all readers pondering the heady question of moral responsibility.