Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher
Although life’s journey takes him far from his childhood home, Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., never forgets the people he meets and the lessons he learns as a young man growing up in picturesque DeGraff, Ohio, population 900. A small-town newspaper boy who becomes a lifelong educator himself, Dr. Niece is deeply touched by the endearing residents of DeGraff who shaped his youth—especially Bernie Jones. Confined to a wheelchair with severe cerebral palsy, Bernie becomes Rickie’s friend, inspiration and superhero, opening a world of compassion, trust and adventure to them both.
When he leaves DeGraff to attend Ohio State University, Rick promises Bernie that he will visit him again. Unfortunately, when Bernie’s parents pass away, Bernie disappears, too, taken in by a distant relative. Forty years later, Rick learns that his boyhood friend is living in a nursing home. Returning to Ohio, he visits the never-to-be-forgotten Bernie Jones of a childhood long past and a promise ﬁnally kept.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10
Plot: Niece covers a lot of ground here, but all of it vital to his story. Meticulously plotted, the memoir will have readers turning pages to find out more about Bernie Jones and the small town of DeGraff.
Prose: Told in the first person, Niece excels at dialogue and gives each character a unique voice. Many characters troop through the pages—and many of them appear only once or twice—but Niece infuses each of them with personality and a distinct voice.
Originality: There are many memoirs centered around individuals who are sick or have a physical disability, but what sets Niece’s work apart is the way he focuses on Bernie as a person, not as a person with cerebral palsy.
Character Development: Niece adeptly describes his hometown and all its residents with heart and sensitivity, and his characterization of Bernie is exceptionally well done.
Date Submitted: May 12, 2017