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M. C. Higgins, the Great Mass Market Paperback – April 30, 1993

2.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 the Hardcover edition.

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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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; Reprint edition (April 30, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068971694X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689716942
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,517,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
Well. I don't really know what to say about this book other than I was incredibly disappointed with it. It's won a lot of awards, but after trying to get through 100 pages of it, my only thought was, WHAT AM I MISSING HERE?

Let's start with the good. It addressed issues of race and slavery very well. I really loved the idea of this teenage boy grappling with his legacy and what he knows is right for his family. It was an interesting concept.

That's where the good ended. Because after that, it was a senseless, unstructured lump of nothing. It was literally PAINFUL to read the first hundred pages, as they were so boring and made no sense whatsoever. I had to stop there, because that's when I got to the assault scene.

That's right, the main character, M.C. Higgins, hunts down a woman in the woods and tackles her. He then proceeds to hold a knife to her back and cut her. And this isn't the first time, either. Near the beginning of the book, he recalls a day when he grabbed a girl in the woods and tried to kiss her. Then this girl is portrayed as bad, since she punches him to get him away. And after reading other reviews on this page, I was surprised by how none of them complain about this assault. So be warned--this book is not something to read a young kid. There are also many other scenes of gore.

Next, let's get to how none of this book made sense. Every day, M.C manages to climb a 40-FOOT POLE that is not rooted in the ground or anything like that. He then uses bicycle pedals to make the pole sway back and forth. This defies all laws of physics, and somehow this kid never gets hurt. Then, our lovely protagonist "watches" his younger siblings swim in the dangerous and deep lake--from over five miles away.

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