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Pondering the pages ~ The Side-Yard Superhero by Rick Niece

March 31, 2009

Today’s pondering:

sideyardsuperheroI was looking to read something light and engaging so I picked this charming little book The Side-Yard Superhero by Rick Niece. The Side-Yard Superhero is a heart-warming, touching view into the world of friendship. In the small town of Degraff, OH we meet Rick Niece and his intrepid, wheelchair bound sidekick Bernie Jones who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. As unlikely as this friendship seems upon first look as we spend more time with these boys we find something deeper by scratching beneath the surface.

Rick’s first encounter with Bernie happens about a third of the way through his newly acquired paper route. In those days (1950-1960s) papers were still delivered by youngsters riding bicycles taking aim at the front porch with the daily. Until Rick happens along Bernie’s world outside his house consists of the side-yard which is precisely where Rick finds him. That encounter is mighty awkward as understanding Bernie’s speech patterns takes some highly attentive listening skills. Once the boys master the art of communication there is no stopping these two. They dream, scheme and generally muck it up day in and day out.

Six days a week come rain, sunshine, snow, or whatever the weather unleashes Rick can found sharing a moment or two with Bernie. Everyday, regular as clockwork it’s Dick Tracy comic strip reading sessions. Also included might be Bernie’s dorky jokes or some other tidbit he’s gathered and saved up for this moment. Nothing seems too outrageous to dream about but then Rick is always careful to consider the limitations and logistics that Bernie’s wheelchair poses. They share a day delivering newspapers. Another time Bernie attends the carnival with Rick and a group of friends doing what comes naturally – riding rides. There are many other adventures and a group of eclectic people as your likely to meet most anywhere. This is one enchanting little town that you don’t want to pass by on the way to somewhere else.

But what shines brightly is their friendship. These boys share everything for 9 years and Rick’s world becomes Bernie’s. But alas time moves on and life progresses. The boys grow up, Rick leaves for college and once again Bernie is on his own in his side-yard.

I laughed, I cried. I was touched deep down in the place that most of us hide away and don’t show the world. This is a wonderful book filled with the simple pleasure of friendships in a quieter time and place most of us wouldn’t recognize. I spent a cozy afternoon getting to know two men who are, and were, remarkable individuals bringing laughter and light into the lives of those they encountered on their boyhood journey through the world.


A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.
~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958


  1. March 31, 2009 5:55 am

    This is #2 in my TBR pile and now I can’t wait to read it!

  2. April 3, 2009 6:11 pm

    It was a gem of a book.

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