Haven Middle School students will have the help of Evanston Township High School students Monday morning, Nov. 17, 2014, when the eighth grade language arts classes take up discussion of Yummy, the Last Days of a South Side Shorty. The ETHS students are members of the school’s Books ‘R’ Us Book Club.
Created by the team of writer G. Neri and illustrator Randy DuBurke, Yummy is a graphic novel based on the true story of an eleven year-old South Side Chicago gang member who accidentally killed a neighbor. Since its publication in 2010, the book has won multiple awards, including the 2011 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award and listing by Publishers Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2010.
The Books ‘R’ Us Club members have read Yummy and also discussed it during an October 20, 2014 meeting with the author G. Neri and Owen Putnam, a Drug Enforcement Agent whose work deals with the drug dealers and gang members at senior levels of the drug business.
Seeking connections among the ETHS students, Evanston Public Library and the eighth grade classes of District 65, Books ‘R’ Us Club Facilitator Traci Brown-Powell planned the Yummy discussion as a series of events at multiple locations.
Evanston Public Library’s Young Adult Librarian Renee Nieumier arranged for the library to host the evening October 20, 2014 discussion with G. Neri and Agent Putnam in the library’s Teen Loft. The sponsors were Foundation 65, District 65 and the Evanston Public Library. Haven Middle School Librarian Amy Odwarka is coordinating the November 17, 2014 activities with Ms. Brown-Powell and the ETHS students.
“Many of the Haven eighth-graders have read the book and all the ETHS Books ‘R’ Us students have read it,” said Ms. Brown-Powell, who is an ETHS librarian working in the school’s Michael Library. “The discussion series has sparked something in the students that they will always remember. It’s very important to bring authors to our community who can connect with students of all cultures and, especially, those students who might not necessarily visit the Evanston Public Library.”
The October 20 program in the Teen Loft of Evanston Public Library attested to the appeal of the book and the Books ‘R’ Us Club series.
Ms. Brown-Powell saw Books ‘R’ Us Club members engaged with G. Neri and then with Agent Putnam.
Mr. Neri, author of a number of books based on real cities and real youth, talked about going into neighborhoods such as the Bronx, Philadelphia and South Side Chicago in order to speak with the kids of the neighborhoods. The language and the presentation of the stories emerge with guidance from the inner city youth. Faithful to the telling of each story, he said publishers sometimes have resisted the images of African-American faces on the books’ covers. In response, Mr. Neri held firm, arguing that “African-American boys need to see their faces on the covers of my books.”
Mr. Putnam had the Books ‘R’ Us members paying rapt attention as he told about the pain of children caught in the middle, made witnesses to the handcuffing of drug-dealing parents being sent off to prison. Mr. Putnam also spoke to the students about being mindful of their friendships and making good choices.
Students wishing to join the ETHS Books ‘R’ Us Club may attend one of the meetings held every other Monday afters chool in Michael Library. Information is also available from Traci Brown-Powell, Evanston Township High School, Michael Resource Center(E-201), firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. (847)424-7350.