Bennet's Book Nook
Sam Langston English 12 2-A
Wolf In White Van by John Darniel
Down in the Dumps
Fab Five's Fav's
For me, it's so bizarre, well it show how somethings it seems like an optical illusion, but it isn't.
"As a child I wanted everything to be in some way concerned with endings.The end of the world. The last Neanderthal, the final victim. The stroke of midnight."
It's like this with a lot of children, they always wonder what will it be like if the world came to an end.
"DON FACE MASK. TRACE BACK. CONTINUE DUE EAST. DIG SHELTER."
I don't know what that means, but it's very mysterious.
"His rage was still fresh, but he must have begun to sense the slow beginning of its ebb."
I love how the author describes the character that is very angry but fades away.
"This is kind of the only thing there is to do around here, you ever feel like you're going crazy sometimes! This is kind of the only thing there is to do around here."
Face to Face
2: Sean, what is the reason why you made this game?
3: For the player who was injured, why did your friend and you try out Trace Italian in the real world?
4: To the Jury, why was Sean Phillips sentenced to court?
5: Do you have any friends Sean?
6: Sean, do you feel regret for shooting yourself?
7: Sean, why did you disguise your voice as you played the game?
8: Kimmy, why does Sean's parents think you convinced Sean to shoot himself?
9: Sean, why were you deciding to shoot your parents at first?
10: Sean, do you think you would make another game in the future?
Really though, your question makes me think this would be a good book for you. A large chunk of it is devoted to looking at the really problematic ways parents approach the fiction their kids consume. I think you might find the relationships of the book enlightening, especially if your primary concern is whether or not the book has naughty words in it.
Words by a person named Jessica about the book: John Darnielle's band, The Mountain Goats, is one of my favorite bands, and I wanted this to be a five-star book so badly. The writing is solid, and the book is structurally and conceptually interesting, but the whole thing just didn't come together for me in a particularly satisfying way.
The title Wolf in White Van is a reference to backmasking in rock records, specifically the evangelical Christian scaremongering that if you played seemingly benign records backwards you'd hear all kinds of Satanic messages. The book is structured in a way that turns that concept on its head - read front to back, the book starts in the present and moves slowly back in time toward a very grim final scene, but taken chronologically from the last chapter to the first the book grows increasingly more positive and "ends" on a note of overwhelming joy. What I'm not sure about, though, is whether we are reading the backmasked version of a "normal" novel - the strange, stuttering, dark sounds hidden behind the everyday - or whether Darnielle is asking us to take his novel and play it backwards to find the joy hidden behind the suffering. I guess it's meant to be some of both.
The story is very similar to Darnielle's novella Master of Reality in that the main character of each is a metal-loving social misfit who we know has been hospitalized for some deep psychological issues, but we largely see the positive human side of the character and only gloss over the history that landed each in his present situation. However, while this worked well inMaster of Reality's shorter format, it felt shallow in Wolf in White Van, where you have the length of an entire novel to contend with a narrator who is deliberately telling you only part of the story, sketching things out just enough to give you an idea of what happened without really letting you get very far inside his head.
Sean, the narrator of Wolf in White Van, spent many years telling himself stories about an invented post-apocalyptic fantasy world, and after being released from the hospital he decides to turn this world into a role-playing game called Trace Italian which is played through the postal mail. Participants all start with the same initial story and series of choices, mail in their turn and are rewarded with a page or two of descriptions about the next chapter in their story and another set of choices about what they could do next - a sprawling, slowed-down Choose Your Own Adventure played out over months or years, specifically designed so the player will explore forever without ever reaching the end.
As the book progresses we learn about some of the people who play Trace Italian - in spite of having never met them, Sean obviously feels very close to them and thinks about them often. We know that a team of two players began taking the game far too seriously, resulting in the death of one and serious physical harm to the other, but even though Sean must have learned quite a lot about them in the ensuing legal battle one of the more frustrating parts of the book for me is that we don't get as much of Lance and Carrie's story as I would have liked. The whole idea of Trace Italian is fascinating and one of the strongest parts of the book, and I wish we could have spent more time learning about that world and the players who were drawn to it - especially to understand what was so compelling about this story that two teenagers decided to risk their lives trying to turn it into a real-world quest.
There are so many things about Wolf in White Van that are really good, and a lot of clever things going on in the book, but by the time I reached the end - the darkest scene in the book, though also not the surprise it's set up to be since you pretty well know what's going to happen from all the references to it along the way - I was mostly just glad it was over. The book covers a lot of surface, but didn't give me the depth I wanted. As a concept it's fantastic, but it wasn't the five-star book I was hoping for.
This is a picture showing Sean Phillips by himself doing his game.
This is a secondary cover for the novel.
Just a photo of the author/musician.
YUMMY The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke
Top Ten List
- "But sometimes he sure didn't act like it."/ Yummy is a 11 year old kid. And he is a short kid. But this quote shows that he's not a pleasant, Innocent child.
- "For a shorty like Yummy, blastin' a disciple's enemy would make him look real good to the higher ups in this gang."/ For me, someone causing violence to another individual and doing it just to look cool is very stupid.
- "But I knew more trouble was on the way."/ When that is said, you know something bad is about to happen.
- "I bet he was scared."/ I would be scared too if I've murdered someone and people are tracking me down. It really shows that once you murder someone, bad concequences will come after you.
- "Ever since I knew him, when he was like 3, Yummy had scars and burns all over himself."/ Man, Yummy has really gotten beated up when he lived with his parents. I know he killed the girl, but it makes me feel bad for him about how he was beaten. The crazy thing is that there are parents in real life that beat their children.
- "So Yummy ran the streets looking for trouble, and he usually found it."/ Man this kid is bad. He just killed a girl, and now he's doing more stuff that's gonna cause him trouble. Man Yummy is stupid.
- "By the time he was 11, he'd been arrested too many times to count."/ This really shows how many times he'd done bad things.
- "Pledging was the biggest honor for any shorty. It meant you belonged."/ Yummy does belong to the Black Disciples. This is another sign showing that Yummy is a terrible kid.
- "And soon Yummy became a real gangster just like Capone."/ It's so crazy how he is compared to Capone. Capone was a dangerous gangster. Yummy compared to Capone is crazy.
- "How could a kid so sweet be so nasty too?"/ Well people can be nasty even if they're nice at times. Well we're people, people can do bad things at least once in their life. And Yummy is a person as well.
It doesn't matter what age you are, you could still be a dangerous person. The theme is very important to the book, because is shows the reader that there are wicked kids out there, and they could be anywhere. Yummy is 11 years old and he's killed a girl, and is in a gang, that's pretty heavy. People would say that only adults can only be killers, but of course it's not true. There are many cases around the world about young killers, but Yummy only killed one person, so it shows though that he isn't the most dangerous kid.
a book review by a woman named Betsey:
“Sometimes stories get to you; this one left my stomach in knots. After three days of reporting, I still couldn't decide which was more appalling: the child's life or the child's death." – John Hull, TIME Magazine, Sept. 1994. When true stories get turned into graphic novels for kids, they tend to take place in the distant past. Books like James Sturm’s Satchel Paige Striking Out Jim Crow, for example. Contemporary stories, or tales that have taken place in the last 20 years, are few and far between. Picking up Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by Greg Neri, I hoped against hope that the book in my hands would be appropriate for middle grade readers. I love comics for kids, but there are really only so many tales involving kids finding magical distant lands that you can read before you want to pluck out your own eyeballs. Yummy in contrast was something entirely new. Gritty, real, willing to ask tough questions, and willing to trust that young readers will be able to reach their own conclusions. The central question is this: Can a child murderer be both victim and bully all at the same time? Don’t look for easy answers here. Neri’s not handing them out.
The real world facts are available. Here's what we know: That Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was eleven years old in 1994 when he went on the run after accidentally killing a neighbor girl. Gang violence was at its peak in the Roseland area of Chicago, and in this book a fictional neighborhood boy watches what happens to Yummy and to his own brother, both members of the same gang. The book asks hard questions as we watch Yummy’s life and strange toughness, even as his story turns tragic. An author’s note and bibliography appear at the end.
Author Greg Neri first stepped onto the children’s literary scene a couple years ago when he wrote Chess Rumble with illustrations by Jesse Joshua Watson. After that he went YA with Surf Mules, only coming back to the world of middle grade fiction with the publication of Yummy. And it is middle grade, by the way. I can already tell that the age range is going to be a big question with a lot of people. As it happens, Mr. Neri originally wrote Yummy’s story as a film script, but held off on making it into a movie because he knew that the content would earn him an R rating. And an R rating would keep the kids who most needed to hear this story from seeing it. So a middle grade graphic novel it became instead. The gun violence (or really any violence) that’s in this book is always “off-screen” so to speak. And no one could read this book cover to cover and claim that it praises gangs or gang violence in any way, shape, or manner. Most importantly, this is a story that needs to be told and it needs to be told to kids. Hand it to teens all you want (this would make a fantastic reluctant reader pick), but remember that there’s going to be nine and ten-year-olds out there as well who are ready for what Mr. Neri has to say.
You can have the nicest written graphic novel in the world, but unless you have a worthy artist to pair with the text, it’s not worth much to anyone. Enter Randy DuBurke. DuBurke has done some children’s books before, as it happens, but nothing so gritty. A couple years ago he won the John Steptoe Award for best new talent for The Moon Ring. Until now he’s never really delved deeply into the graphic possibilities behind children’s comics. Aside from the odd Malcolm X biography his comic book work has usually been relegated to the D.C. and Marvel side of things. Now he’s taken Neri’s tale and created a book that feels both realistic and as beautifully stylized as any old noir. Playing not just with expressions and characters but with light and shadow as well, it’s DuBurke’s choices that lift this book up and make it far more compelling than it would be merely on its own.
First and foremost, watch what DuBurke does with our narrator. He’s fictional, of course. A composite of the children that would have lived through that time period. So it was interesting to note that at the start, when Neri is talking about what Chicago is known for, DuBurke places the narrator in with the famous characters. He’s on the court with the Bulls, or arresting Al Capone, or singing a tune or two with Muddy Waters. So basically right at the beginning DuBurke is making it clear to the reader that this kid, like all kids, has a connection and a part to play in the history of his city. As for Yummy himself, there is one image of him that appears on everything from the cover of this book to just about the last page; his mug shot.
Then there’s DuBurke’s use of light. In a two-panel section we see Yummy next to a tall tough looking dude. The text mentions that Yummy was just four feet tall, “and maybe 60 pounds heavy.” In the first panel he’s looking up at the tall guy, eyes wide. The second panel, however, the shadows have darkened around his eyes, and his mouth is set. He’s a whole different person. Now look at the end of the book. The harsh light of the streetlamps throws everyone’s faces into white and black. Eyes get hidden, bodies get eaten up in the shadows of leaves. It’s fantastic. The whole book is a series of variegated contrasts, all black and white. That’s particularly ironic when you read the text and realize that the storyline is anything but black and white. This is a book written in shades of gray.
Such shades of gray affect all aspects of the storytelling. You read enough books like this and you begin to feel like they all hit the same beats. So when Neri writes that “Everyone had an opinion: The news guys, the politicians, the police, the lawyers, and the professors,” I expected to see a bunch of white people giving the same old, same old about gangs and violence. Instead, Neri chooses to show sympathetic professionals who may not quite get it, but aren’t pitted against Yummy either. As one man says, “This young kid fell through the cracks. If this child was protected five years ago, you save two people. You save the young woman who was killed and you save the young offender.” This was not what I expected to hear. Refreshing doesn’t even begin to describe it for me.
I felt some similarities in this book to The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, particularly in terms of a younger brother seeing his older sibling making potentially dangerous choices outside the home. Still and all, Monster by Walter Dean Myers is probably the closest equivalent to Yummy at this time. But Monster was a study in unreliable narration and new style of prose, more than anything else. Yummy looks a little deeper what makes a human being “good” or “bad”. Is it how they’re raised? Or how they live? The choices they make? As our hero says, “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?” That’s a question any kid reading this book might ask themselves too. We have so few serious graphic novel fiction titles asking kids tough questions like this. I mean, walk over to a graphic novel section of any library or bookstore and find me the contemporary realistic fiction. It’s there, but hardly any of those books feature black characters, and the ones that do are historical. I guess Yummy is historical too, but at this point in time no kid will notice. What they’ll find instead is a book that asks tough questions and comes to the conclusion that there aren’t any easy answers. Believe me, you’ve nothing like this in your collection. Better get it while you can.
a book review by a woman named Marisa:
If you know of a reluctant reader, hand them this book.
Nicely weaved with powerful illustrations and dialogue, you get to know the story of Yummy, a sweet 11 year old boy at grandma's house but a cold-blooded Black Disciple on the streets. This is based on a true story, told from the perspective of Roger.
After shooting and killing 14 year old Shavon, Yummy is on the run to escape from the cops but to also escape from the guilt that has built up. As Roger retells the story, the readers are built up to the point where Yummy too, must face his consequences.
This book works well to engage older reluctant readers because of the type of story and because it can easily be bridged into discussion about equality, social justice and history.