Zero Turned Hero
by Bessie Frazier
LitFire Publishing

"Jennifer felt an awesome feeling of peace and joy. She thought she heard bells ringing and angelic singing."

In these eight stories, individuals who have always experienced the brunt of inferiority, low self-esteem, poverty, or other social deficits find out what life can offer with a change of attitude, heart, and perspective. The collection opens with “Tip Top Finds Hope,” which highlights the sadness of a boy cruelly nicknamed because of his large head and small power of intellect. These differences make him the brunt of childish bullying until a stranger stops the hateful behavior with a strict lecture to the boy’s abusers. In “Victor Learns a Lesson,” a mean-spirited and dishonest boy is found out and rejected by his peers, while “Nightmares” beset a lonely boy until he is given a special emblem by his mother to take away his depressing dreams. “The Onion” depicts an unusual but fair punishment for a thief. A boy who has always been challenged and beaten by his father at arm wrestling gets strong enough to conquer the bullying gang that has been tormenting him, then lets his father win one more time, though they both know now that it is “The End of an Era.” In “Jennifer’s Luck,” a karmic spirit (significantly named Angelo) gives a plain-faced older lady a choice: she can be young or beautiful. After experimenting with both states, she chooses neither in favor of accepting her life as it is. A woman who works hard for what she earns is given an excessive reward for her labors in “The Lavender Dress,” while a hateful monarch’s heart is softened by genuine love in “The Stone King.”

In each of these uniquely compelling yet simple parables, author Frazier explores human nature at its worst and its best. The central characters in each are neither all good nor all bad. Some feel the pain of exclusion and rejection and will be rewarded for their suffering with new outlooks and circumstances; those who have teased, physically abused, or stolen from others will get a harsh but needed surprise, discovering that there is good in others who may seem valueless and bad in themselves that must be eradicated. Each work is vibrantly illustrated with colorful drawings that add further emotional depth to the interactions among the people in the written narratives.

Frazier has studied and taught language arts for the past thirty years and now conducts workshops and performances emphasizing her poetic gifts and positive viewpoints. She clearly wishes to convey a message worth spreading: Everyone has the power to change, to become stronger, more forgiving, less intolerant, and more open to the differences we all display. The change may be evoked by some power within or by some generous, understanding observer willing to step in to challenge injustice. These are ideas with far-reaching implications that need to be shared, especially with youngsters to whom this book is targeted. But be aware that the stories here can be equally educational for adults. Frazier’s aggregation is a small but powerful tool for those working on issues such as bullying, intolerance, and even financial need. It could provide a practical tool for organizations aimed at helping such groups, families, and individuals.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home