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M.C. Higgins, The Great FIRST EDITION 1974 hardcover Hardcover – 1974

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: macmillan publishing co new york (1974)
  • ASIN: B00507L4VC
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Virginia Esther Hamilton was born, as she said, "on the outer edge of the Great Depression," on March 12, 1934. The youngest of five children of Kenneth James and Etta Belle Perry Hamilton, Virginia grew up amid a large extended family in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The farmlands of southwestern Ohio had been home to her mother's family since the late 1850s, when Virginia's grandfather, Levi Perry, was brought into the state as an infant via the Underground Railroad.

Virginia graduated at the top of her high-school class and received a full scholarship to Antioch College in Yellow Springs. In 1956, she transferred to the Ohio State University in Columbus and majored in literature and creative writing. She moved to New York City in 1958, working as a museum receptionist, cost accountant, and nightclub singer, while she pursued her dream of being a published writer. She studied fiction writing at the New School for Social Research under Hiram Haydn, one of the founders of Atheneum Press.

It was also in New York that Virginia met poet Arnold Adoff. They were married in 1960. Arnold worked as a teacher, and Virginia was able to devote her full attention to writing, at least until daughter Leigh was born in 1963 and son Jaime in 1967. In 1969, Virginia and Arnold built their "dream home" in Yellow Springs, on the last remaining acres of the old Hamilton/Perry family farm, and settled into a life of serious literary work and achievement.

In her lifetime, Virginia wrote and published 41 books in multiple genres that spanned picture books and folktales, mysteries and science fiction, realistic novels and biography. Woven into her books is a deep concern with memory, tradition, and generational legacy, especially as they helped define the lives of African Americans. Virginia described her work as "Liberation Literature." She won every major award in youth literature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read MCHiggins the Great so many times my copy is falling apart. I've read a lot of Newbery books too, and this is one of the best. In some ways it is the best. Each time I read it, I see more. First the scene is one that will stay with you long after you close the book--the hills of Eastern Kentucky that MC walks, his house, his mountain, the pole he sits on, looking out over all these hills. Then the people are unforgettable. MC's best friend, Ben, has the most unique family you will ever meet in fiction, very strange but very loving with magical connections to nature. They are vegetarians, who live on an Appalachian family commune. The mother is a healer. MC's own family includes a mother who could be a famous folksinger if she wanted to leave home, a father who is tied to the hills because his own mother, a ghostly presence in the book, owned the mountain where they lived. She was an ex-slave, and her courage has seeped into MC. He must save his f! amily from a heap of soil that is threatening to bury his home and family, because of stripmining interests in the area, and he does at last find the way to do this. But not before he has a lot of fun chasing a girl who isn't going to be caught, hunting rabbits, swimming, listening to a city "dude" who wants to make his mother a star and imagining what this would be like, visiting his best friend's family, taking care of his spunky and sassy little sister, and sitting on his pole watching the world and trying to find his place in it. This book was written 25 years ago, but it is timeless. It's about teen feelings and finding your identity. It's about father and son conflicts and teen romance. It's about nature and the environment. Most of all, it's about family heritage, and taking a stand for what you believe in.Read more ›
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael Mihalik on August 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's obvious from other reviews that people read this book with preconceived notions. Because of the title and the awards, people believe this is going to be one barn-burner of a read.

It is not. Not much happens in the book, at least not physically. The action in the book comes from M.C.'s inner transformation as he becomes aware of a world beyond the insular world of his family, and eventually finds the strength to face life's difficulties and challenge the beliefs of his father.

This book is not for most children, who will likely find it boring, especially if they are used to Harry Potter-type adventures. This book also isn't for readers who are used to stories that tie everything up in a neat, pretty package. The ambiguity of the ending isn't completely satisfying, but it actually isn't that important. What is important is how M.C. has changed. At the end of the book, you know that whatever happens, M.C. is going to be OK.

Throughout the book, M.C. uses the title "M.C. Higgins, the Great" because of his physical abilities; being the only one who could climb the pole, swim across the Ohio River, and swim the lake tunnel. In the end, he lives up to the title because of his newfound inner strength to take action against his fears and make his own way in life.

Other miscellaneous comments:

- The lettuce leaves were for baiting M.C.'s rabbit traps.

- The book really doesn't take off until the beginning of Chapter Seven. Until then, it is merely setting up the characters, the situation, and the surroundings.

- The vernacular takes some getting used to.

- The "reverse" prejudice against the "witchy" Killburns adds an interesting aspect to the story.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
M.C. Higgins, the Great- one of the worst-titled books in history. Personally, I expect a LOT out of a Newbery award-winning book- esspecially this one, who made history by not only winning the Newbery medal, but also the Boston Horn/Book Gold award and the National Book award- but this one... whoa, this one is terrible.

It's about Mayo Cornelious Higgins, or M.C., whose world is changing hugely by the plans for getting lead out of his mountain- Sarah's Mountian- and living with thew fear of the rubbish left by it to collapse on their house. Along with that, he hopes that a person - namely called 'the dude', will take him away from his desolate home to somewhere else. Also with him, another visitor, a mysterious girl, arrives in M.C.'s life, changing his ideas and thoughts of people.

There are a few flaws in this book. First of all, it takes place over the period of - a little over three days. Somehow, I can't think that this book really only described all this change in half of a week. It seems to be months more than days. It just doesn't seem quite real. Also, it ends abruptly after the girl- named Lurhetta Outlaw- leaves Sarah's Mountain. It tells none of M.C.'s family, of their past, and left many unanswered questions. That problem really made me lower my hopes and likes of this book. It tells nothing of the history of M.C.'s grandparents too well, and really differs from Virginia Hamilton's other writing. And the plot of the book was very unclear. Only after I finished the book with my classmates for school did we learn of some intented plots- said in the teacher's manuel.

Personally I think that Miss Hamilton has written better books and that this book was really misjudged as 'a good book.' If you want to read a good Virginia Hamilton book, go read the House of Dies Drear, a book I also read in class but understood fully. It won't leave you wondering like this...thing.
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