Bones by Steve Jenkins

Really all any book needs is Steve Jenkins’ name on the front and his great illustrations inside.  Just those two things and you know it’s going to be great.  In this book, Jenkins turns his attention to bones and skeletons.  The size and shape of bones are explored as are skeletons of the human body and of various animals.  Information is given about bones and the illustrations of the bones are laid out on very colorful pages that highlight the bones but offer some vibrancy as well.  This book of bones should be in every school and public library.

Jenkin’s text here offers just enough detail to be informative but also never too much too be weighty.  It offers the same bright, freshness as the illustrations themselves.  His illustrations are studies in restraint as he works his paper magic using a very limited boney palette of colors.  The design of the book makes it rather like an archeological discovery, since you never know what bones you will find when you turn the page.  Several of the pages fold out to offer large scale illustrations, including a full human skeleton.  Along the way, readers are asked questions and get to think about the body, the bones and how they function.

A virtuoso book, pull this one out for Halloween and get some sweet science mixed in with the candy.  It is appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.


Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

This graphic novel tells the true story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer.  In 1994, Yummy, called that because of his sweet tooth, fired a gun into a crowd of rival gang members.  He ended up killing a bystander, a teen girl.  Yummy was just 11 years old when this happened.   The story is told from the point of view of Roger, another boy who knew Yummy from school and the neighborhood.  Roger tries to make sense of Yummy and how he became a gang member and killer.  This is made even more tangible to Roger because his own brother is in the same gang as Yummy.  Throughout this book, deep questions are asked and explored.

Neri’s text creates a great platform to understand the gang wars of the 1990s and the dynamic of southside Chicago.  Though the bulk of the book is from Roger’s point of view, the reader also gets to see what Yummy is going through as he hides from police and is eventually killed by his own gang.  There is a real restraint in the writing that allows the drama of the tale itself to take center stage. 

DuBurke’s illustrations done in black and white are a study in light and dark.  Faces change as the light changes on them, becoming sinister and strange.  The images are dynamic and underline the youth of Yummy and the transition from bully to killer. 

A beautifully crafted graphic novel dealing in brutal subjects, this book is an important exploration of gang warfare.  It is also an even more important look at childhood.  Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Lee & Low Books.

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