When we go to the library to check out books, the ELA teacher I
work with points our students in my direction when it comes to book recommendations. I tend to read more YA books than any other genre, so she sees me as more of an expert in this field.
And I probably am.
Except that I have a major confession: I haven't read many boy books.
I feel somewhat ashamed to admit this because I feel like this fact makes me less of an ELA teacher somehow. I feel guilty about it because I know I should be reading books that I can recommend to all my students. Truth be told, most of my boy book suggestions are from my former students or from reading reviews from other trusted sources rather than my own experience.
In an effort to read more of the books my boys enjoy, I took a recommendation from a student and read my very first graphic novel. Again... I didn't say I was proud of this... I'm just keeping it real!
So... what book did I read? Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.
It tells the story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, a member of the Black Disciples on the Southside of Chicago. Yummy, named for his love of sweets, had a rough life from the start, in an out of DCFS custody and running the streets by age 8. At the age of 11, he had quite a rap sheet, including a nationally-known case where he shot the innocent 14 year-old Shavon Dean, who died at the hands of his gun during an initiation. With pressure mounting from the Chicago Police Department, Yummy turned to his gang brothers for safety. Instead, they took him to an overpass and shot him twice in the back of the head.
Is this a graphic story? Yes. Is it relatable for many of our students? Yes. Does it motivate our reluctant readers? Absolutely. These are the kinds of books I love having in my classroom library because the mature content is a draw for my rough and tough middle school boys, but the text isn't too difficult to comprehend. Furthermore, a graphic novel is a lot less daunting for these students because there are pictures and only short captions and dialogue bubbles to read.
I would say this book is especially a good choice for those who teach in an urban setting where gang life is an unfortunate part of their reality, whether or not they are directly involved.
**Please check my book log for a complete list of my Monday book reviews.