Rick D. Niece grew up in tiny DeGraff, Ohio where he spent years delivering the local Bellefontaine Examiner. Several of the customers on his daily newspaper route influenced his life in a positive way, but none had the same impact as his friend Bernie Jones. At first Niece was afraid of Bernie, since he was in a wheelchair and hard to understand. As time went by, he realized the truth – that Bernie had cerebral palsy and was lonely and in need of a friend. Bernie wasn’t scary at all.
Niece and Bernie had plenty of “adventures” together. They helped a neighbor, Miss Lizzie, pass out pumpkin bread one Halloween while dressed as Superman (Bernie), Lois Lane (Miss Lizzie) and Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent (Niece.) He took Bernie with him to collect on his newspaper accounts, even conquering Thatcherville Hill with Bernie in his heavy wheelchair. But the best adventure of all took place when the carnival was in town. With the help of two other friends, he got Bernie out of his wheelchair and onto the whirling teacup ride!
Unfortunately, Niece graduated from high school not long afterwards, and fell out of the touch with Bernie through the years despite a promise to come back and visit. Plus, it didn’t help when Niece’s parents moved away from DeGraff while he was in college.
Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher begins in the present when Niece hears from his mother. She has finally located Bernie in a Lakeview, Ohio nursing home. Using a relative’s wedding as an excuse to travel to Ohio, Niece rekindles his friendship with Bernie, spending an entire day with him. Without giving away the ending, I will say that it brought me to tears.
Although my opinion is slightly biased (I have a friend with cerebral palsy, although not as extreme a case as Bernie’s) I honestly loved this book. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down, and literally devoured it in a day. Although the main story line is Niece’s friendship with Bernie, the other characters in the book, as well as the other situations that occur took me on a time warp to small-town Ohio back when life was simple. The poems sprinkled throughout the book, placed to provide emphasis were excellent, and really enhanced the meaning of each chapter.
Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher by Rick D. Niece is available through Amazon.com and Five Star Publications. One dollar from every book sold goes to United Cerebral Palsy.
(Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for my unbiased review. For further information, please check out my Disclosure Policy.)