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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 1998
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. Newbery books are for everyone--people of all ages, colors, regions, genders, cultures. And this is a classic Newbery --it's a rainbow of ideas an! d experiences, with a pot of gold waiting on the last page.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2006
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.

- Virginia Hamilton doesn't "pretty up" the story. There are a couple of incidents that are shocking, but ring true, such as the fight between M.C. and Lurhetta, and the killing of the rabbit.

- The pole is a symbol, both of M.C.'s ancestral ties to Sarah's Mountain and of M.C. transcending the limitations of those ties. When M.C. is on his pole, he is above it all.

- Throughout the book, M.C. depends on the "dude" to take his family away from danger. But when the "dude" lets him down, M.C. discovers that he has to take action himself.

This is not an easy book for children to read. But compared to the "candy" of what sometimes passes for children's literature, it is a welcome serving of nutritious food.

Michael Mihalik is the author of Debt is Slavery: and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money. Learn how to gain control of your finances, pay off your debt, and create financial security!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2005
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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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2001
As a child I read widely and with great enjoyment. There were two books however that I never managed to get beyond the first fifty pages or so. This was one of them. My parents brought this book for me with love and good intentions, because it had won the Newberry, but I didn't enjoy any facet of it.
I found the prose stilted and unpromising, the topic, interesting enough, was somehow rendered dull beyond belief. Even when there were days when was besides myself with boredom I could not make this book "work" for me. Later, I forced myself to go back to it as a 24-year-old honors student of English, however I am ashamed to say that I still did not manage to reach the conclusion.
I think it's brilliant that this book deals with the history of slavery in the US and the trials of growing up from an Afro-American boy. But Despite these interesting and important facts, the book was to me dreary and incomprehensible. The prose was intolerable in parts...I hated it's style. Now when I look at it (I still have all of my books) I think "Very 70's."
The point is, if you are hard up for cash, but want your child to read more books that aren't by privileged white men, you may want to get this from a library, or at least show it to them in a bookstore before-hand.
For the record, the only other book I own that I did not read in its entirety was the Judy Blume book "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" Perhaps the title put me off, but again, I did not enjoy her style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2003
I liked the book M.C. Higgins the Great because Virginia Hamilton made the book interesting. M.C. is a very caring person and he is also friendly. The best part in the book is when M.C. tried to help his mother get a job by getting the Dude to record his mothers voice. M.C cares a lot about his family and he is very loving. I really enjoyed the book M.C. Higgins The Great it was a good book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2015
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.


What's more, the mother and father refuse to abandon their home for greener pastures, even when it is painfully obvious that a heap of garbage is going to fall on their house! Yes, they're grappling with their legacy. But the only thing I learned from this book is that we should never rate our pasts over the welfare of ourselves and those we love, even when it means moving on. Maybe this was the lesson from this book. Hopefully that's it.

So be warned--this book is nowhere near deserving of all of its praise. None of it makes any sense. It's painfully boring. There's scenes of assault and gore that are upsetting. So PLEASE, tell me what I'm missing here. Maybe once I get past the first hundred pages, I'll find out that it's amazing.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2001
Having to do a report on the novel I decided to turn to the reviews here,for help on how to word my report.While I did encounter encouraging info on the book, as it stands there are more people who blindly criticize the book than respectfully praise it.I think the reason people criticized it so badly is probably because they themselves did not understand the book and its deeper meanings.I'll admit, some of the things in the book I could not comprehend but I guess that is because I am only a child and have not developed in that style of thinking yet. Over all I found the novel to be very accurate in portraying emotions and uniquely written.As for the negative reveiws, don't blame the author nor the "Newberry judges" on why you did not come to appreciate the book.Blame your own lack of understanding and ignorance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2015
Although the story is set presumably in the mid 1970’s, it has a distinctly backwoodsy1930’s feel to it. This very intense tale (covering about three days of action and mental anxiety) features two conflicting Black families who coexist in an uneasy truce of suspicion—who practice two diverse methods of family survival. More than mere poverty the Higginses and the Killburns are threatened by contamination from the runoff of coal mining—as well as the insidious creeping march downward of the Spoil—the ever-growing slag heap which could cause killer mudslides after heavy rains. Tortured by this grim threat to his generations-old homestead thirteen-year-old MC is forced to think creatively and even argue with his parents who refuse to leave their beloved land.

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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 14, 2012
M. C. Higgins loves where he lives, Sarah Mountain, a land in Ohio that has belonged to his family for a very long time. He has a huge pole with wheels on which he sits and can see the entire mountain and even beyond to the nearest town. But what he most loves about the mountain are the trees, animals, rivers, everything about nature with its own moods and beauty surpassed by nothing or no one.

His Dad is very harsh with him but it's a loving harshness. But his Dad just doesn't get the message that the strip mining on the mountain is leading to a natural disaster and M.C. doesn't know how to stop it or how to save his family. He hopes maybe the man coming to hear his Mom sing can get them out of here in time but isn't sure about that.

M.C. will then meet a young girl who will awaken a part of him he never knew existed, even giving him new eyes and heart toward his friend, Ben's family, shunned because of their "witchy" powers. Yes, this is a coming of age book but mostly for those young adults (8-12 years recommended) who love the outdoors and want to learn about how being different can be the best and most heartbreaking thing to happen to any human being.

I thought this book was rather drawn out in points but all in all it's a very nice story and worthy of its Newberry Award!
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
We tried to like M.C. we really tried. The book has won so many prestigious awards including being the first book in history to win the Newbery, Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the National Children's Book Award in its year. Yet neither my son or I could plow through this one and we are both avid readers. I'm still puzzling over exactly how a forty foot pole that moves with bicycle wheels attached would work. And why did he tie lettuce leaves to his hands to greet the morning? The book is surreal yet Hamilton treats the book like it was realistic fiction so the book can't really be accepted as fantasy, realistic fiction or any other known genre. All I can say is this book winning so many awards compares to those tailors who made the emperor's new clothes being praised for their fashion sense and style.
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