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Review: The Side-Yard Superhero

April 10, 2009


When Rick Niece was four years old, his family moved to DeGraff, Ohio.  DeGraff’s population hovered around 900.  When he was nine, he snagged one of the four paper routes in DeGraff – a job he kept until he left for college.  During those nine years, he got to know the people along his route and befriended Bernie Jones, a young man who was confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy.

In The Side-Yard Superhero, Rick D. Niece recounts many of the tales of his childhood and small town living in the 1950’s and 60’s.   These were the days when the paperboy delivered your paper on his bike and came by your house to collect.   Rick’s dalmatian, Lady, accompanied him on his route daily.  Rick would take the time to stop and read Dick Tracy to Bernie Jones every day.  Rick had a great family life and was compassionate and accepting.  He became so close to the customers on his route that his leaving was bittersweet for him.  I think my favorite story was when Rick and Bernie helped one of Bernie’s reclusive neighbors hand out pumpkin bread one Halloween.  Bernie insisted that they had to wear costumes.  Bernie became Superman by tying his father’s red long johns around his neck, Rick became Clark Kent by wearing glasses and Miss Lizzie was Lois Lane by wearing a pencil behind her ear.  When one young child recognized Bernie as Superman, it was enough for him.  This book also contains some touching poems between some of the chapters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book.  It made me long for the simpler times of yesteryear when a small town contained everything you needed and really felt like a community.  It made me long for the days when children were raised to have compassion and respect for others.  I cried at the end of the book when Rick found and visited Bernie in a nursing home.

Dr. Rick D. Niece is the president of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas.  He is active in several charitable foundations.  He is currently working on the second book of his “Life in DeGraff, Ohio” trilogy.

Review copy provided by Phenix and Phenix Literacy Publicists.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2009 7:34 am

    Well, first, I’m Ohio born and bred, and, second, I grew up during the same time period. Thanks for the great review, this book sounds like a good one for me.

  2. April 10, 2009 7:48 am

    This sounds like a book both my mom and I will love! I’m going to have to get my grubby lil’ paws on it soon!

  3. April 10, 2009 8:00 am

    Sounds like such a sweet book! Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Tea permalink
    April 10, 2009 8:15 am

    Sweet nostalgia, I would love reading this one. Thanks for a really good review.

  5. April 10, 2009 8:23 am

    This sounds like a wonderful book – and like Beth, I grew up during this time period so I am sure I can relate. In addition, I have been to the College of the Ozarks, so I already feel a connection to the author. I must add this one to the list!!

  6. April 10, 2009 10:40 am

    I scanned your review Kathy as I’m getting a copy of this book soon. I am from Ohio and have lived here my whole life and can relate to that. I’m younger than the author but remember the times when kids were paperboys, my brother was one and I helped him collect money and deliver the papers.

  7. April 10, 2009 11:29 am

    this sounds like a nostalgic and heart-warming read….even if it is sad.

  8. April 10, 2009 12:49 pm

    How beautifully sentimental this novel sounds. I may have to pick this one up for my mom for her birthday. Thanks for the review. ; )

  9. April 10, 2009 1:30 pm

    I miss those small-town days, too. Last year, I read the Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, and it brought back lots of memories — from A-bomb drills to shopping “downtown” in an era before malls.

  10. April 10, 2009 1:44 pm

    I saw this one and it sounded like a good story. I’m glad it lived up to it’s promise.

  11. April 10, 2009 2:11 pm

    I recently read this and loved it as well. Great review.


  12. April 10, 2009 5:22 pm

    A book to make you cry and long for the good old days is my cup of tea. I know I will read it and, again, say – where did all the time go? Really great recommendation. Thanks.

  13. April 10, 2009 8:00 pm

    The cover reminds me of a Ghost Whisperer episode. Have you ever read Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon? Your review of this very vaguely reminds me of it.

  14. April 10, 2009 8:15 pm

    Sounds like an enjoyable book. Did you read Bill Bryson’s book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid? It sounds very similar in tone and topic. I really enjoyed that book so I might like this one too!

    • April 10, 2009 8:38 pm

      It’s been a while since I read The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, but I do think there are some similarities. Thunderbolt Kid is set in a city and Superhero in a small town, but they both made me nostalgic for days gone by.

  15. April 10, 2009 8:47 pm

    Isn’t it great when a book brings out the emotional side of us?

  16. April 23, 2009 2:50 pm

    Sounds like a very moving book. I long for a small-town atmosphere, too.

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