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Niece’s book chosen for community reading program

February 15, 2012
By cnp
Posted in About

Clarksville, Ark. --- "Side-Yard Superhero," the poignant compilation of childhood memories by University of the Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece, has been chosen as the reading selection for the 2012 One Book, One Community program at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

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"Side-Yard Superhero," the poignant compilation of childhood memories by Dr. Rick Niece, has been chosen as the reading selection for the 2012 One Book, One Community program.

This is the second year for the One Book, Once Community program, which is a cooperative endeavor between UACCM and the Conway County Library in Morrilton. Leroy Gattin, librarian at UACCM, said a book from an Arkansas author is chosen each year for the program.  

"Side-Yard Superhero was recommended to us by a member of our faculty," Gattin said. "After reading the book, we felt that it was a work that would have appeal to our wide-ranging audience and we chose the book for our program. I felt the book was a very poignant portrayal of life in a small town, similar to the one that many of our students are familiar with.  The relationships and character development are traits that we hope our students will develop throughout their lives."

Through the program, Side-Yard Superhero is required reading for the college’s Reading I and Reading II students as well as some of the Composition I and II and world literature classes.

  "Other students, faculty and residents of the Conway County area are also encouraged to read the book," Gattin said. "During the program, two discussion sessions are held, which are led by faculty members and others from the community. At the end of the program, the author is invited to come to the campus and discuss his or her work.  The intent of the program is to encourage reading of works by Arkansas authors and to allow individual exposure to the author."

Niece is scheduled to be on the UACCM campus on Tuesday, March 6, to discuss the book, which was initially released in 2009 and which was released in its second edition under a new publisher in January.

In another recent development concerning Side-Yard Superhero, Five-Star Publications announced last month a new philanthropic partnership between the book’s author, its publisher and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP).  In support of UCP, Niece and Five Star Publications, Inc. will initiate an ongoing "Buck a Book" campaign, donating $1 to UCP with each purchase of Side-Yard Superhero. These funds will be used to further UCP’s mission to "advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities." UCP will provide reciprocal services by promoting Niece’s book among its 100-plus affiliate chapters via newsletter, social media and website cross-promotion.

"We are so grateful to have developed such a wonderful working relationship with UCP," says Linda F. Radke, president of Five Star Publications, Inc. "This new connection is so important to Dr. Niece because it provides us with an amazing opportunity to make a contribution to a cause dear to the author’s heart, while at the same time potentially introducing Dr. Niece’s delightful book to a larger, more personal audience."

The book is of particular interest to UCP because the book’s champion, Niece’s childhood friend, is a young man with severe cerebral palsy. Although he is confined to a wheelchair, young Rickie’s hero, Bernie Jones, has a boundless spirit that transcends his physical limitations.
"The life lessons I learned from Bernie," says Niece, "are part of what took me from being a small-town newspaper boy to becoming the man I am today. Some of the most unlikely heroes among us become our best teachers, and I will be forever grateful for the insight and inspiration I gained from Bernie Jones."

Side-Yard Superhero is the first volume of a three-book series by Niece titled Fanfare for a Hometown series. His second book, The Band Plays On, is scheduled to be released this summer. Celebrating the soul of America’s heartland, The Band Plays On is Niece’s heartfelt tribute to friendship, community, and, most importantly, his father, Lewis Niece. When DeGraff, Ohio’s beloved band teacher is invited to direct an encore performance, "Lewie’s Alumni Band" gathers to celebrate with gusto. As the band practices for its final parade, Rick, his baritone in tow, reflects on treasured memories, relationships, and the legacy of a small town with indomitable spirit.