M.C. Higgins the Great

by Virginia Hamilton

Hardcover, 1999



Local notes

Fic Ham





Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (1999), Edition: Reissue, 232 pages


As a slag heap, the result of strip mining, creeps closer to his house in the Ohio hills, fifteen-year-old M.C. is torn between trying to get his family away and fighting for the home they love.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

232 p.; 6 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
Mrs. Senuta,

You were my, what, fifth grade teacher? The inscription is in my hand, but it says, " From: Mrs. Senuta, To: Brie." If my memory serves me correctly, you also gave me a reader's journal with it. That too, has been carried with me, untouched for all these years.

So here is by book report,
Show More
long over due.

M.C. Higgins, The Great is an enchanting story of one boy's journey through defining who he is in relation to the world. For a boy who lives on the mountain, far from a city life, he has plenty of conflicting forces in his world.

He wants to acheive greatness, even if it comes through his mother's success in the music world. He wants off the mountain, as he thinks only devestation exists for him there (and he may be right). He has conflict about the boy who could be defined as both his best friend and no more than a shadow, since MC's world has taught him that Ben is not something to be valued. He wants to be something his father is not, to be able to move about the world as his father seemingly can't, which I believe is what draws him to the pole. He can climb the metal pole with ease, escaping from the world beneath him, watching over the distance to be a protector and a provider, something Jones (his father) isn't.

It isn't until he gets caught up in his desire to know Lurhetta, though, that the story gets interesting for me. He meets this girl, is drawn to her freedom, and seemingly wants to tame her. He again, is conflicted about his true desire, swinging from wanting to keep her on the mountain and wanting to run away with her.

She is able to teach him to view the world more openly, though, as she pushes him to accept Ben (the "six-fingered witchy") for what he is, a true friend and confidant. In doing so, she also teaches him that the mountain is in fact what he loves, much as it is what his father loves, and is likely to be what his children someday will love, too.

MC is not destined to be his father, though, which is the beauty of this novel. For as much as some traits may be passed down a genetic line, there are always choices to be made, such as which walls to tear down, and which to build up.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ThorneStaff
M.C. Higgins is the oldest of the children, and he feels great responsibility for what is happening in his family. Because the coal miners have laid waste to their precious mountain, their house -- and sense of identity as mountain-dwellers -- is in jeopardy. As M.C. deals with the repercussions of
Show More
this, he dreams of his mother's singing transporting them away from the danger.

I can see why this was a Newberry Award winner. There is a depth to the story, and M.C. is a fully realized, round character. He is just at the cusp of adulthood, and it is fascinating to see his growth into his more adult self throughout the book. In some ways, it is a classic coming of age story, but it took most of the book to get to that idea.

M.C. spends much of his thoughts on ways in which others will solve the problems the family has been having. It is not until very late in the story that he begins to realize that he has some degree of control over his life and the life of his family.

I found it difficult to relate to the character, and I spent much of the story trying to figure out exactly what is was _about_. Yet, the writing itself is quite good. It took some discipline to get through, but many of the "great books" are similarly difficult. Overall, I would rank it among the great books, even if it wasn't necessarily a "fun" book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Virgina Hamilton was the first African American to be awarded the Newbery Medal (1975.) Her book is the only book to receive three prestigious awards. In addition to the Newbery Award, it also received the Boston Gobe-Horn book Award and the National Book Award.

M.C. (Mayo Cornelius) Higgins and his
Show More
family are mountain dwellers who live a plain, rugged life overlooking rolling, beautiful hills. Amid the beauty is the reality that the coal miners have desecrated the land and thus the way of living for the Higgins is about to literally come crashing down.

This coming of age book pits M.C. and his father against one another as M.C. is the caretaker, provider and pragmatic soul trying to make his father understand the reality that life as they know it is changing.

The outside world is represented not only by the scarring of the land, but with the appearance of two characters, an anthropologist and a spunky girl whom M.C. begins to love.

I tried to understand this book and I wanted to like it, but alas, even though the images are crisp and the writing is beautiful, it felt like it took forever to get to the story line. I hung in there, but overall, I came away disappointed.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sllumpkin
In M. C. Higgins, the Great, the title character, a tall, athletic, thoughtful black teenager who lives in the Cumberland Mountains, must come to terms with conflicting allegiances, to his father and the traditions of his family, on one hand, and to his mother and the younger children in the
Show More
family, on the other. Faced with a threat to the family that is beyond his control, M. C. learns that being an adult means doing one’s limited best in an imperfect world.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jgbyers
M. C. Higgins, the Great, the main character, is a tall athletic and thoughtful african american teenager who lives in the Cumberland Mountains. Throughout the story he learns he must come to terms with friends, his father and the traditions of his family. Faced with a threat to the family that is
Show More
beyond his control, M. C. learns that being an adult means doing one’s limited best in an imperfect world and he learns to deal with this struggle throughout the entire book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member debnance
‘”I don’t know.” M.C. signed. “…But I’m getting tired of Daddy. Tired as I can be.”“Come on,” Banina said. “We’ll miss the morning sun.” And later: “It’s not your daddy you tired of, M.C. It’s here. It’s this place. The same thing day after day is enemy to a
Show More
growing boy.”And all the ghosts, M.C. thought. All of the old ones.’M.C. lives on the side of a mountain, just like his father before him and his grandmother before him. But all that must come to an end. Strip mining threatens to send a pile of rubble down on his home. M.C.’s father refuses to see it.But M.C. is watching for ways to get away and one of the ways arrives in the form of a fellow recording songs. This fellow, this dude, as M.C. calls him, will get M.C.’s mother a singing contract and take the family away from the hills, M.C. thinks.Another stranger visits, a girl traveling around the country, a city girl who shows M.C. other ways of thinking, of viewing his world, the bigger world. She could be a way out, M.C. thinks.But again and again life disappoints, people disappoint. Out of the disappointments M.C. takes new knowledge and adds it to his old life, building a new life out of the old.
Show Less
LibraryThing member cnwilliamson
This is a powerful story about a teenage boy who deals with a threat to his family as the strip-mining that takes place near his home presents a state of danger. M.C. meets two strangers who try to lend a hand to help his family. This book interestingly addresses important issues like environmental
Show More
destruction, family bonds, and tradition.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Necampos
A great story of a young mountain boy discovering himself. The young boy, M.C. struggles with family ties, his father, and friends. This story shows M.C,'s journey from the coal-mining that is stripping away their homeland and what they know, to friendships, and to wanting to make a difference in
Show More
the world. A great story of family and making a difference.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mopbroek07
Stars: Plot
Age: Intermediate, Middle School

Genre: This book is a good example of realistic fiction because all of the events in this story could happen in reality. Examples include a boy's struggle to combat his father's attitude, the judgment of the "hill people" and their unique customs, and the
Show More
friendship between the two boys. This book is fictional, rather than biographical, because M.C. Higgins and his family and friends were/are not real individuals.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ShondaNewsome
This story is about M.C. dreams of escape for himself and his family on Sarah’s mountain. Among the mountain, lies history from family traditions, and a future of dreams. Until one day, atop M.C.’s pole, he sees two strangers making their way toward Sarah's Mountain. One is the ability
Show More
to make M.C.'s mother famous. And the other has the kind of freedom that M.C. has never imagined.

Personal Reflection:
I can relate to this story because this is a great historical book filled with hopes and dreams in looking towards freedom land.

Classroom Extension:
1. Students will draw the mountain of goals and write their story into reaching that goal.
2.Students will write in their journal a family tradition that is very important to them.
Show Less
LibraryThing member larrellharris

This story is about M.C. having dreams of him and his family escaping from Sarah's Mountain. In the mountains lies history from family traditions, and future dreams. One day, atop his pole, he thinks he sees it - two strangers are making their way toward Sarah's Mountain. One has the
Show More
ability to make M.C.'s mother famous.

Personal Reaction:

My personal reaction to this story is that it teaches us that everyone have goals in life that they want to achieve.

Classroom Extension:

I will have the class draw the mountain of everything they want to achieve and write their story into reaching that goal.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JeraSullivan
This books is about Mayo Cornelius Higgins or M.C. and his struggle to find freedom. M.C. dreams of escape for himself and his family from Sarah's Mountain. One day as he sits atop his pole he thinks he sees 2 strangers headed towards Sarah Mountain. One has the ability to make M.C.'s
Show More
mother famous and the other has a kind of freedom that he has never considered. This is a good book about family and making a difference.

Personal Reaction:
I enjoyed this book. It really has a great message about accomplishing one's goals and dreams. It talks about family and overcoming family flaws, as well as, making a difference for yourself and your family.

Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. I would use this in my classroom by having my students draw their own "Mountain of goals and dreams".
2. I would use this in my classroom by having my students tell us about their favorite family tradition.
Show Less
LibraryThing member br13issi
M.C Higgins the Great, a book full of love, hate, differences, adventure, and discoveries. The main character, M.C Higgins, is home with his three siblings most of the day and lives atop a mountain. With all adults gone most of the day Virginia Hamilton send M.C. and his friend Ben on wild journeys
Show More
through the woods. The most unexpected could pop up at any time.
M.C. may seem like a normal boy on the book cover, but once the reader opens the first page a whole new world of information is found. Hamilton describes the explorations of the two little boys deeply, yet somehow manages to find the key concepts of each event. Whether they are playing on the vines or swimming in the pond, the boys are always up to something mischievous. Meanwhile M.C.’s momma has a stunning talent that is about to be discovered by the man with a tape recorder. he could redirect M.C.’s family lifestyle and future. This family is just trying to make ends meet living on a mountain. This is just a simple book of a simple family working and keeping the days interesting. Hamilton keeps the book, not quite thrilling or suspenseful, but curious and appealing.
Hamilton does an excellent job of detailing every moment and action vividly. M.C. and Ben adventure through the mountains day by day and still Virginia Hamilton finds another exciting affair to envelope the reader. Although this book is very specific, the sentences tie together and flow smoothly throughout the whole book. Characterizing each emotion so they can settle. Virginia Hamilton builds each event off of the last making it very easy to follow.
Although this book is well executed, there are some parts of confusion in the book. If Hamilton is talking about one subject and then she is ready to move on to the next she does a fabulous job of doing that, but then in the middle of the new topic, all of a sudden the old subject pops back. Sometimes the new subject doesn’t fit in and it feels like a bunch of randomness that is hard to follow. There are only a few times in M.C. Higgins the Great that I got lost, and other than that I enjoyed this book. it was comforting and at times shocking. the writing was calming and not so upbeat. M.C. Higgins the Great is a definite change from most books of this generation, Hunger Games or Maximum Ride, but the difference is pleasant and easily likeable.
Show Less
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
This was a curious book - I never could decide what I hoped for M.C. and his family. I did like the end, because M.C. found positive ways to deal with the things he feared and to maintain his connection to the family land. Ms. Hamilton gives the reader things to think about - like what does the
Show More
pole represent? how does Lurhetta change things? what about M.C.'s relationship with his father?
Show Less
LibraryThing member sriemann
Just couldn't get into this. Most likely it has more subtleties and takes some time to get into its plot, which is not quite the mood I'm into right now for my reading. Perhaps another time.
LibraryThing member AmberTheHuman
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
Show More
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 was alright, but I just found the story tedious and hard to relate to. It takes forever to go through three days in the story, and in the end, it doesn't seem worth it. Oh well.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Michaela.Bushey
This book is about a young boy named M.C. Higgins who lives on Sarah's mountain in rural Ohio with his family. The mountain is named for his great-grandmother who escaped there from slavery. Since then, it has belonged to his family, and one day it will be his. However, strip mining on the other
Show More
side of the mountain is creating a dangerous spoil above their house, causing M.C. to worry about whether or not it is safe to stay. When a man M.C. calls the dude comes with his tape recorder to hear his mother sing, M.C. hopes that it will make her famous so they can leave. He is torn between two sides of himself (wanting to leave, but not wanting to give up his ancestral home), and must struggle to make sense of his world. This is an engaging story that highlights family, friendship, and the struggles of growing up.

In a classroom, this could be used for independent reading or in a literature circle. The themes of family and friendship could lead to rich discussions, in addition to issues like strip mining and prejudice.
Show Less
LibraryThing member GR8inD8N
I read this because I had vague memories of it from childhood. I remember being confused by it and very uninterested (probably because it is so atmospheric). Now that I've reread it, I realize why our teachers did a unit based on this book. It's set in Appalachia and has themes related to
Show More
environmentalism, being kind to others, self reliance, poverty, etc. Even though it had been about 20 years since I read this book- I still knew certain plot points, although they didn't come back to me until I was reading it. I would feel confident recommending this book to children through adults knowing they will all get something different out of it.
Show Less
LibraryThing member klburnside
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
Show More
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 beauty of the natural world, because that is what was focused on in the beginning. But then MC meets a traveling man who has come to record his mother's excellent singing voice, so I thought the book was going to be about this. But then MC meets this stranger girl wandering through the woods, so for a while the book is about their strange relationship. And also there is this pole that MC always sits on. Just a tall, stationary pole with a bike seat on top that his father gave him as a present for swimming the Ohio...

There were a few things I liked about this book. I liked the setting and the sense of place the book creates. I had moments where I liked the complicated nature of MC's character. Mostly, however, I was bored, and mostly I really didn't like MC at all. I had a really hard time getting over the fact that when he met this girl in the woods, (who later becomes a friend of sorts) he pins her down, cuts her back with a knife, and kisses her. I found it incredibly disturbing.

Another disappointing Newbery winner.
Show Less
LibraryThing member foggidawn
The story of a few tumultuous days in the life of M.C. Higgins, a 13-year-old in the hills of southern Ohio.

This book won a trifecta of awards in its year: the Newbery Medal, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and the National Book Award. The writing is undoubtedly distinguished, reminding me a
Show More
little bit of Flannery O'Connor's writing in its use of symbolism. However, my enjoyment of the book was hampered by a strong dislike for the main character and his interactions with the girl he meets (one of the book's major plot points). I'm glad to be able to say I've read it, but it's not a book I'll ever want to revisit.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jmjobes
M. C. Higgins, the Great is one of those books that once you start you can’t put down, but it is so much more than that. Her characters are deep, wise and reverent. The world through M. C.’s eyes is one I could never have imagined or experienced and one that I didn’t want to leave. This is a
Show More
coming of age story and watching M.C. sort through so many complex feelings really allows the reader to identify with him.

Since this is based on life in 1974, today's younger readers may need some background knowledge and understanding of what life was like in the time and place that M.C. lived. The first chapter was a little difficult for me to get into, so students may need some encouragement to get beyond the first chapter. However, I was hooked after that. Also, how M.C. treats Lurhetta Outlaw in the beginning may need some discussion. In addition, the relationship between M.C. and his father could use some discussion, especially for the scene when father and son wrestle. Some students may not understand their complex relationship and interpret this portion of the book incorrectly. It may need to be explained that Jones is trying to teach M.C. something and to make him strong in what is a very tough world. Lastly, this book deals with prejudice but not prejudice as you would expect and Virginia Hamilton presents and works this through for the reader beautifully.

Amazon recommends this book for ages 8-12, however, I would say it is for students age 12-17 because of the complexity of the text and the emotional maturity required to understand much of the story. It is 288 pages long.
Show Less




(101 ratings; 3.5)
Page: 2.3372 seconds