Book Review: Side-Yard Superhero Review

Cover art: FiveStar Publications
 Have you ever read a book that transported you to a place that you just didn’t want to leave? Books with that ability are few and far between for me—but, Side-Yard Superhero Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher by Rick D. Niece, Ph.D. was just such a book. I accept few book review opportunities—my time is limited and I am really selective in the few books that I choose to review for A Mama’s Corner of the World. As a long-time stay at home mom who grew up in an Ohio small town very similar in size and rural location to the setting in Side-Yard Superhero, the book caught my interest—and I’m really glad that it did. What was my review of Side-Yard Superhero?

Side-Yard Superhero examines small town life—with a positive attitude. Side-Yard Superhero is set in the 1950’s in DeGraff, Ohio—a small, rural area in the West/Central part of the state. Having grown up in a small town in Southern Ohio nearly identical in size and distance from any major city to Niece’s hometown and book setting—this book had an eerie sense of familiarity! It isn’t easy for kids and teens growing up in a small town—but, just as Niece did in Side-Yard Superhero—it is easy for small town born adults to trace life-long influences to early small town friends and neighbors. As a small town girl transplanted to a large college and to city-suburb life, it’s nice to see someone reflecting positively on the family values and life lessons learned in small town America.

Readers are so drawn in to DeGraff and its characters in Side-Yard Superhero that they just want to stay. Niece’s memories are portrayed with a term that the author has deemed “automythography” which he defines as “a work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember and how we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon truth and fact.” Sometimes growing up helps reflect with automythography! Whether viewing Niece’s memoir as fact or fiction—readers still find realism and interest in every Side-Yard Superhero character. I would love to return to DeGraff—and since Side-Yard Superhero has been re-released as book one of a three book series title Fanfare for a Hometown, I will be able to just that.  I plan to do read the other books because this first book in the series was a book I simply could not put down and it took me on a journey that I enjoyed so much.

Everyone is up for a life lesson--as a student or a teacher. Looking back, I learned a few lessons from unlikely sources as well—in my small town. I missed a lot as well. I remember an elderly woman who had graduated from my college and had been a newspaper reporter in Washington D.C. before women were reporters in Washington. She had moved to a town near us (where most of went to find jobs) and probably could have given me more valuable advice than I could have ever stored. I just wasn’t listening at the time. I wish I had. Reading about Rick Niece’s influences and his willingness to both listen and learn from those influences was both uplifting an inspirational.

Side-Yard Superhero is a story made for oral narration. I actually found myself envisioning a “voice” as I read Side-Yard Superhero. Rick Niece is an amazing storyteller with a genuine style and passion for the subject and narrative in Side-Yard Superhero. That passion is easily absorbed by readers in his writing—and while I am generally not a fan of audio books—I plan to listen to a reading of the work by actor Alex Cord. This is a storyteller’s book—and while it was a wonderful read, I think there is also an amazing potential for a talented orator to bring full life to the story and its characters. If you think that you don’t have time to read a book—buy the oral version.

What about Bernie? No review of Side-Yard Superhero would be complete without considering the title’s hero. The Side-Yard Superhero focus was Bernie Jones, a young man diagnosed with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheel chair. The fact that the author maintained a long time friendship with Bernie, in spite of the difficulties at the time, illustrates the open mindedness and intuitiveness of someone ready and willing to learn, accept and grow. Through Bernie, the author found strengths and realizations that he may not have otherwise discovered—and expressed a gratitude toward his friend, Bernie, for, even unknowingly, granting those revelations.

All in all, Side-Yard Superhero was an excellently written narrative that flowed easily, maintained interest, and encouraged reflection on the part of the reader as well. In honor of Bernie Jones—and other such superheroes—one dollar from every book sold will be donated to United Cerebral Palsy. As Side-Yard Superhero was re-released in 2011 as the first book in the three part Fanfare for a Hometown series by Rick Niece through FiveStar Publications—I would greatly encourage you to read this book (even if you didn’t grown up in a small town). I expect that you will look forward to the release of the other books in the series just as much as I do.

We all need a superhero every now and then—and this book encourages readers to realize that those heroes and inspirations are found where they are—not where you expect them.

Ready to buy Side-Yard Superhero?

Side-Yard Superhero: Life Lessons from an Unlikely Teacher (Fanfare for a Hometown Series #1)

Side-Yard Superhero—audio cd is currently available for preorder.

Learn more about Rick D. Niece, PhD and FiveStar Publications.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Side-Yard Superhero by FiveStar Publications for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

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