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M.C. Higgins the Great

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  4,048 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Discover this transcendent middle grade masterpiece about a young black boy whose quiet rural live in the Appalachian Mountains begins to change—winner of the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award.

Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits on his gleaming, forty-foot steel pole, towering over his home on Sarah’s Mountain. Stretched before him are ro
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers (first published August 1st 1974)
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Linda In Kentucky on a fictitious mountain in the Appalachians, in an area recently strip-mined for coal.

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 ·  4,048 ratings  ·  281 reviews

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I'm at a loss, I either want to give this book five stars or one. I see by the average of almost exactly three I am not alone.

It took me most of the week to get M.C. read. I’m not sure what I expected, by the title maybe something along the lines of Ramona the Brave or The Great Gilly Hopkins – a mix of audaciousness self-delusion and vulnerability? Come to think of it, I guess that is what I got with M.C., but in such a different package from than what Cleary and Patterson delivered.

Although I
Amber the Human
I'm sorry to say I didn't really enjoy this book. So far there hasn't been a Newberry Award winner I haven't liked, but I just didn't get this one. To start with, the pole was confusing. It's 40 high, and there's a bicycle seat on top, and pedals that do nothing, and only MC can climb it but it's also a memorial? Huh? This book was like a poem I can't grasp, or like a dream that is confusing and a little disturbing but you can't quite remember what happened or why it bothered you. The writing wa ...more
Gretchen Rubin
One of my other children's literature reading groups chose this book, and I'm going to miss the meeting, which is very disappointing because I very much want to discuss this book.  I last read it in fifth grade, and I was surprised by how well I remembered it. Haunting, beautiful. I love it when, in a novel, action takes place both in the literal and the symbolic plane, and characters recognize and discuss the symbolic plane. ...more
Sandy D.
M.C. Higgins didn't seem all that great to me, unfortunately. I just didn't like the guy that much, even if pole-sitting and wearing lettuce leaves stuck in rubber bands around your wrists greeting the sun was interesting.

I wanted to like this book by Virginia Hamilton. I thought her descriptions of southern Ohio (or was it West Virginia or northern Kentucky?) were magical, and the characters were interesting. The parts about strip-mining were ominous and probably realistic. The witchy six-fing
Benji Martin
I'm kind of conflicted about this book. I see some good in it, but I really didn't enjoy reading it, especially the first 50 pages or so. As an adult novel, it might have been decent, but I think most kids would have some trouble following the Faulkner-like steam of consciousness writing. The only thing that really makes this book a kid's book is the fact that M.C., our protagonist is a teenager.

M.C.'s guide to getting the girl: First stalk her a little while she's walking by herself through th
Lars Guthrie
Nov 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew Virginia Hamilton as a collector of folk tales (the fabulous 'The People Could Fly' and 'The Dark Way'). Aware that she had won the Newbery for 'M.C.,' I have meant to read it for some time, but was put off by the covers of the editions I have seen (especially the current paperback shown here). Which just goes to show you how powerful a bad cover can be, and how misleading. Because this is an amazing novel. It's not really magical realism because it is absolutely real, but everything in i ...more
Apr 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: relevant topics w/ poetic style
I read this book twice because it's just so beautiful. It is intended for young adults, but it may be too sophisticated for many readers (young or old).

The main character lives on the side of a mountain that his grandmother claimed when she fled slavery. The mountain is being stripped for minerals and is threatening to collapse. But his family refuse to leave-- this home is their heritage. What else will they have?

Every scene is rich with metaphor. No character is saintly (which is often the cas
This is the kind of book that teachers assign kids that make them hate to read award winning books. It is clear that no kids sit on the award committees. I tried to like it, really, but I couldn't make it though for chapters. It was clear from the beginning nothing was going to happen like M.C. thought it would. I found the setting so strange, I needed a nap and some photographs to feel like I could understand the place they lived. ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To sum this book up in one word, I would say, "Confusing." For most of the book, I had no idea what was going on. I didn't really care, either, because I was bored, and the 40' pole was so unrealistic, I didn't even believe it was a real thing. I would not recommend M.C. Higgins, the Great to anyone. ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
(I always thought this would be a funny book--doesn't the title sound like the title of a funny book?--but it's not, at all.)

This was an interesting book and the writing was lovely, but I thought it was trying to do too many different things--I'd like it better with more focus.
May 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of this novel before requesting a copy with NetGalley. The synopsis intrigued me. This is the story of a boy, aged 13, who dreams of leaving his home on the mountain, who hopes his mother's incredible voice is the answer that will take him and his family far away. He has fears. Fears of the mountain sliding down, burying all in its path, including his home. It is a coming of age story too, as M.C. Higgins struggles with the inner turmoil that sits in the young, a turmoil that p ...more
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
This is a story of a boy (M.C. HIggins) growing up on a mountain in basic isolation from anyone but his family. His mother's a great singer and "the dude" comes to maybe record her voice and take them off the mountain. Also, an *annoying* girl comes and M.C. thinks he might have a crush on her/she's a way off the mountain/whatever. But she leaves and honestly I didn't see the point to her even being in the story at all. I could not stand most of it and just didn't get the rest of it.

Also-if he
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: school
I'm confused. ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've decided to read as many as I can of Virginia Hamilton's books for Black History Month 2013. Last year, I read all of Mildred Taylor's Logan family saga in chronological order rather than by publication date. That was an awesome experience! In truth, the national celebration 'for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora' just gives me a chance to read and revisit these remarkable works for young readers.

So I started with M.C., Hamilton's Newbery Medal
Aug 18, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow- I don’t know if I’ve ever hated a book this much. A friend remarked that this is the kind of book that would turn a child off reading for life, and I could not agree more. Even if you are able to put aside the misogynistic rape-culture “undertones,” so much of this book is impossible to comprehend. I really felt like I had forgotten how to read. The 40 foot pole. The spiderweb. The pages and pages and pages of descriptions that somehow made it harder for me to imagine what Hamilton was tryi ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery, 2019, down-south, poc
Coming up noiselessly behind her the way he knew how to stalk, he had grabbed her arms and tried to pin them. He had whispered that he thought she was just so nice.

M.C. stalked expertly, tense with a hunter's joy of discovery.

It wouldn't have taken much for him to climb down his pole and hunt for the girl

Hope that girl gets lost...Then I'll have to find her and lead her by the hand.

To catch her moving along without being heard or seen would take a lot of time.

Would have to move fast and quie
Deven Black
This Newbery Award-winning book is not for everyone. Action, intense drama and humor all are absent from this slow-moving tale in which reality, daydreams, internal-dialogs and seemingly telepathic communication add up to a thought-provoking novel that probes the fear-powered mythologies people create. By examining how action is paralyzed and potentially rewarding relationships are poisoned, Hamilton helps readers understand how their own internalized narratives guide, and possibly misguide, the ...more
So I should start by saying I listed to this as an audiobook, and I have a terrible attention span when it comes to audiobooks. I know I zoned out for parts of it, but I was getting really tired of skipping back to catch what I missed.

The book takes place over the course of a few days in the life of M.C. Higgins, a boy living in the hills near the Ohio river. Over the course of these few days quite a bit happens. At first I thought the book was going to be about strip mining and the loss of the
Welp, this enters that fairly slim group of Newbery winners that I just hated. The characters of M.C., his family members, his friend Ben, and the two newcomers that come to Sarah's Mountain all struck me as unlikable in one way or another, and I found many of their actions and motivations to be fairly incomprehensible and bizarre (remember the time M.C. kisses and then stabs a girl he likes?). I had always incorrectly assumed that this book was about race to at least some degree, but the charac ...more
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-winners
I'm working my way through Newbery winners and as sometimes occurs I'm wondering what the hype is all about. The only thing I can think is that is was diverse and progressive for the time it was written. There were probably few books about African American families in Appalachia. It does introduce some important themes, such as Appalachian culture, strip mining and coming of age. However, I just wasn't satisfied with how any of these themes were handled. The only part that seemed to be truly dea ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I don't get this book. At all.

From what I understand, it's about a boy who likes to sit on top of a tall pole on a mountain while looking down at a girl in the forest and yelling at her.

So you can see why getting through this book became more about Freudian analysis than enjoying the characters and their adventures. Because yeah, he also goes through an underwater tunnel with a girl he likes. Can it be anymore obvious?

I would never have considered this a book for children. Yes, it's about a thi
Sep 21, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-books
This book is seriously dull. My teacher made us read it, even though she thought it so boring that she didn't even finish it herself. M.C. Higgins sits on his pole and contemplates the slag heap threatening his house. The end. ...more
Nov 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book. This is one of those books that you either completely despise, or totally love. I thought that there was no plot to this book. Here is the basic summary:
M.C. Higgins walks around a mountain with Ben and Lurhetta.
I just really dd not like this book.
Sep 16, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second Newberry I've abandoned in the last week. I expect a lot from a Newberry and this doesn't deliver. I don't care for the main character - a jerk who thinks it's okay to force girls to kiss him. I also struggled with the writing. I found the descriptions hard to follow. ...more
Sep 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Goodwill
A YA story written by an esteemed writer who lived about a half an hour from where I live now. A pleasant story about a young boy who has dreams of grandeur sitting a top a 40 foot pole. One summer two visitors intrude and give M.C. thoughts of life away from his mountain. A pleasant read.
Oct 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really hated this book. I wanted to slap M.C. Higgins upside the head. It is such a Seventies book. It has not held up well at all.
Ron Christiansen
A fresh breath of air for ch lit--little dependency on plot, symbolic, beautiful, moving...yet hard to sell my ch lit students on.
Kelly Peay
Virginia Hamilton. M.C.Higgins the Great. (1974). Audiobook. Narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne. Recorded Books, Inc. (2015). M.C. Higgins is a 13-year-old boy who lives on Sarah’s Mountain in the Ohio River Valley. The mountain was named after his great grandmother, Sarah, a run-away slave. His family is deeply rooted on the mountain, despite the very limited economic opportunities and the looming threat of a mud slide from strip mining on Sarah’s Mountain. Two strangers come to the mountain,”The Du ...more
Juli Anna
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Generally, this is a really masterful children's novel. Hamilton's prose is impeccable, including her light use of vernacular (which never feels stereotyped or oversimplified). The characterization and development of setting are heartbreakingly specific and precise. Every detail is beautifully rendered, imaginative, and weighty. While I would say this book is rather light on plot, it reads far more "contemporary" than previous Newberys, with a somewhat stream-of-conscious style and a condensatio ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Read as part of my ongoing project to read all the Newbery Medal winners. I was 10 when this book won the prize in 1975 so I must have read it at the time, but I have no memory of it. It's a lovely, naturalistic story about a 13yo boy growing up in the hill country near the Ohio River. Clean yet lyrical prose that captures the tension between childhood and adulthood. I savored it.
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