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M.C. Higgins, the Great Paperback – May 1, 2006
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From a perch on his 40-foot pole (a gift from his father for swimming across the Ohio River), M.C. likes to slide his hand over the rolling mountains, smooth out the sky, and fluff up the trees to the south of Sarah's Mountain. To the north, though, no amount of pretending can make the whine of bulldozers and deep gashes in the mountain disappear. Ever since M.C.'s great-grandmother Sarah came here as a runaway slave, Sarah's Mountain has been home to the Higgins family. But now their home is threatened by the strip-mining that has left a giant slag heap perched precariously above their house. Will the two strangers who appear in the hills help M.C. save his family?
Reissued in celebration of its 25th anniversary, M.C. Higgins the Great has a power that runs deeper than the coal seam snaking through M.C.'s mountain. The intensity of family bonds, the depth of rural superstition, and the grim tragedy of environmental destruction weave together in a story that is as complex as it is beautiful. Not surprisingly, Virginia Hamilton, who has won every major award given to authors, received the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for this excellent novel. (Ages 13 and older) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This rare bookwinner of the Newbery Medaltells of a young boy's fighting chance to save his family's home. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The strong subplot makes the reader aware of an avalanche of spoil possibly falling on M.C.'s house due to poor mining practices in the area. It could actually be tied in with the central plot about the singing, but I have an easier time just separating these events into different categories. The weak subplot is your classic coming of age story, where M.C. has his first (I guess it's his first) major crush on a girl. This subplot is not really needed except to make M.C. more angry during the last chapter of the book.
Now why it takes 275 LONG pages to cover the three plots, I don't really know. There are definitely some interesting parts of the book, but these good parts are seperated by so much of what I see as trivial padding. I didn't really see a need for the scene where M.C. and his mom go swimming at all, and there are so many other smaller scenes in the book that really aren't worth mentioning.
I think the book is okay; I just wish it were much shorter.
This serious book is not your typical YA fluff; the young protagonist feels compelled to warn his parents--then convince them to leave for their own safety. But leave—the mountains where his Grandmother Sarah fled from slavery with her baby boy? Where the very hills have voices for those who will listen? Where MC, perched atop his special metal pole, oversees the natural environs and yodels for his younger sibs? Where his mother’s voice is the pride of the countryside? Where it was engrained to avoid those witchy folks with their light skin, reddish hair and six digits on both hands and feet?
Events are put into motion with the arrival of two strangers on one day: a white dude who is collecting rural melodies on his tape recorder and a self-reliant girl with a car and her own knife on a solo vacation.
How can a mere teenager concoct a plan to protect his family from
imminent danger as a result of mining operations? Will the dude
make MC’s mother a recording star in Nashville and thus force the family to sacrifice their rustic existence for her career? Is it safe or wise for MC to stand up to Jones, his father, in physical and verbal showdowns?
This is no racist novel; rather one about family honor and respect for past generations. So how can long-dead ancestors advise the living and come to their aid in a desperate situation? In this intense story readers “hear” arguments and dialogue taking place in MC’s own mind. The mostly Black characters are portrayed fairly, realistically, and
sympathetically by the author of the outstanding Underground Railroad
Story, The House of Dies Drear. It is left to each reader to determine who MC’s true antagonists are. MC and the Outlaw girl appreciate the safety of life’s web. A grim coming-of-age story where the foggy mountains themselves are characters, but true friendship always proves a treasure
I couldn't tell if he loved or hated his father whom he calls Jones; they play-fight with a fierceness that made me uncomfortable. His mother tells her son, 'He's Jones. And don't you forget it.'
He has his first crush on a stranger, a girl who shows up in the woods. He hunts her like quarry, tackles, kisses, and *stabs* her lightly on the back, astounded that she gives him a shiner by throwing a flashlight at his head. Later he finds her tent by a remote lake and they establish a wary friendship.
M.C.'s mom, Banina, climbs up the mountain after long work days. When she gets to the ravine across from their house, she starts yodeling and the kids yodel back. M.C.'s hopes are invested in his mother's voice; perhaps she'll be discovered and they can leave their house, a dwelling endangered by strip-mining. Banina's singing was the most endearing part of the novel; it made me wish there was a soundtrack.
M.C.'s life is so alien—both in his circumstances and his responses—that I couldn't connect with him. Nothing made sense. The whole time I slogged through this (Newberry award!) book, I couldn't imagine any child reading this to completion.
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"Come on," Banina said. "We'll miss the morning sun."Read more