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Reviewed by Jane Allen Petrick for Readers' Favorite
Superheroes come in many sizes and shapes. For Rick Niece, his hero came confined in a wheelchair. "Side-Yard Superhero" is the coming-of-age tale of the friendship that emerged between a nine year old, small town paper boy and the most special of the 72 customers on his route, Bernie Jones. Bernie, crippled with cerebral palsy at birth, sits in the side yard of his home each day (weather permitting) waiting for the newspaper. For nine years, six days a week, Rick Niece stops and reads Dick Tracy to his special customer before refolding the paper and delivering it to Bernie, placing it gently in his lap. The week before he leaves their small town of Degraff, Ohio, for “the big city” and college, Rick promises his now close friend Bernie that he’ll be back to visit. But “life happens”. Six years later, Rick goes looking for Bernie. But Bernie’s house has been torn down, Bernie is gone, and no one in Degraff knows where. "Side-Yard Superhero" follows Rick Niece’s search for Bernie, culminating in a surprising and sobering reconnection and reunion.
Rick Niece has written a beautiful story beautifully. A few times I laughed out loud. Several times I stopped, closed the book and just remembered - remembered my own growing up. Almost as a 'by the way', "Side-Yard Superhero" is sprinkled with poems, also written by Rick Niece, poems that are light yet thoughtful, poems with lines such as “And even if you are both no longer what you were, you are each as you should be remembered.” That verse is going into my next love letter to my husband. And "Side-Yard Superhero" is going on my 'keeper' bookshelf.