"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review: M.C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton

M.C. Higgins, the Great
Author:  Virgina Hamilton
Original Copyright:  1974
Publisher:  Open Road (this edition)
This edition was published 2/15/2011
ISBN: 9781453213889

Genre: Children's, Literature & Fiction, Outdoors & Nature, Parenting & Families, Teens & YA
Edition:  ebook
Source:  NetGalley provided a temporary use e-copy for review purposes.

Synopsis:  "Hamilton’s classic coming-of-age tale: The National Book Award– and Newbery Award–winning novel about a young man who must choose between supporting his tight-knit family and pursuing his own dreams

Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits on his gleaming, forty-foot steel pole, towering over his home on Sarah's Mountain. Stretched before him are rolling hills and shady valleys. But behind him lie the wounds of strip mining, including a mountain of rubble that may one day fall and bury his home.

M.C. dreams of escape for himself and his family. And, one day, atop his pole, he thinks he sees it -- two strangers are making their way toward Sarah's Mountain. One has the ability to make M.C.'s mother famous. And the other has the kind of freedom that M.C. has never even considered."

My Review:  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 pulls between respect and love for his father and his desire to be his own person.  Both his parents work hard to care for their family and M.C. is often left to tend the children. He is pulled by duty and personal desire.   High above them all, he loves to sit upon his pole, watching his piece of the world and dreaming of what lies beyond. 

There is a good lesson of acceptance in M.C.Higgins, particularly within the last few chapters. To look beyond the colour of one's skin and hair, beyond physical differences and to see the individual for who he/she is, is the message the author portrays.  To form one's own opinion, rather than letting others' opinions sway your own, is what every one of us must learn to do.  Some of us just learn this lesson sooner than others.

Knowing this book won a Newberry Award, I felt sure I would enjoy reading this children's book.  It is considered suitable for grades 3-7 but I wonder if it would hold their attention.  I struggled to stay on task with this book.  I found the story tended to wander, the plot felt somewhat weak, and I grew weary of it.  I did complete it and had to wonder, did I expect too much?  Perhaps today's readers expect more action, more mystery, more depth in character.  This one just wasn't for me.  Judge for yourself, though.  If you do read it, please let me know how you felt about it.  Did you like M.C.Higgins, the Great?

Rated 2/5

About the Author:  Virginia Hamilton (1934–2002) was the author of over forty books for children, young adults, and their older allies. Throughout a career that spanned four decades, Hamilton earned numerous accolades for her work, includingnearly every major award available to writers of youth literature. In 1974, M.C. Higgins, the Great earned Hamilton the National Book Award, the Newbery Medal (which she was the first African-American author to receive), and the BostonGlobe–Horn BookAward, three of the field’s most prestigious awards. She received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition bestowed on a writer of books for young readers, in 1992, and in 1995 became the first children’s book author to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, or “Genius Award.” She was also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award.

Note:  This review was prepared and provided without compensation of any form.

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