M.C. Higgins the Great

M.C. Higgins the Great

Illustrated by: John Jude Palencar
For Ages: 9 - 12
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  • common core
M.C.'s family is rooted to the slopes of Sarah's Mountain. His great-grandmother escaped to the mountain as a runaway slave and made it her home. It bears her name, and her descendants have lived there ever since.
When M.C. looks out from atop the gleaming forty-foot pole that his father planted in the mountain for him -- a gift for swimming the Ohio River -- he sees only the rolling hills and shady valleys that stretch out for miles in front of him.
And M.C. knows why his father never wants his family to leave.
But when M.C. looks behind, he sees only the massive remains of strip mining -- a gigantic heap of dirt and debris perched threateningly on a cliff above his home.
And M.C. knows they cannot stay.
So when two strangers arrive in the hills, one bringing the promise of fame in the world beyond the mountains and the other the revelation that choice and action both lie within his grasp, M.C.'s life is changed -- forever.
In 1974, Virginia Hamilton dazzled the world with her powerful account of a young man's coming of age trapped between heritage of his mountain home and his desires for the future. Twenty-five years later, M.C. Higgins, the Great remains the only novel ever to win the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award.
It is truly an American classic.
Choose a format:
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689830747 | 
  • September 1999 | 
  • Grades 4 - 7 | 
  • Lexile 630L
List Price $23.99

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Mayo Cornelius Higgins raised his arms high to the sky and spread them wide. He glanced furtively around. It was all right. There was no one to see his greeting to the coming sunrise. But the motion of his arms caused a flutter of lettuce leaves he had bound to his wrists with rubber bands. Like bracelets of green feathers, the leaves commenced to wave.

M.C., as he was called, felt warm, moist air surround him. Humidity trapped in the hills clung to the mountainside as the night passed on. In seconds, his skin grew clammy. But he paid no attention to the oppressive heat with its odors of summer growth and decay. For he was... see more

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About the Author

Virginia Hamilton

Born into a large family and raised on a farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Ms. Hamilton grew up listening to stories shared by her mother and father. While studying writing at the New School for Social Research in New York City, she met a young poet, Arnold Adoff, and the two were married in March 1960. In 1968, Ms. Hamilton's first book, Zeely (S&S, 0-02-742470-7; Aladdin, 0-689-71695-8. Ages 10 up), edited by Richard Jackson, was published; and she and her family (which now included her daughter Leigh and her son Jaime) moved back to Yellow Springs, building their home on land that had been in Ms. Hamilton's family for generations. Ms. Hamilton's second book, The House Of Dies Drear (S&S, 0-02-742500-2; Aladdin, 0-02-043520-7. Ages 12 up), was published in 1968 and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best juvenile mystery. The success of these first two novels heralded a long and prolific career full of accolades and the most prestigious awards in children's literature.

Ms. Hamilton won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1992 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1995 for her body of work. Also in 1995, Ms.Hamilton received a John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Fellowship, presented to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits" and have demonstrated "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work." She was the first African American to win the Newbery Medal, which was presented to her for M.C. Higgins, the Great (Aladdin, 0-02-043490-1; Aladdin, 0-689-71694-X; S&S, 0-689-83074-2. Ages 10 up). M.C. Higgins, the Great was also the first of only two books ever to win the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (Philomel/Penguin Putnam, 1982), The Planet Of Junior Brown (S&S, 0-02-742510-X; Aladdin, 0-689-71721-0; Aladdin, 0-02-043540-1), and In The Beginning: Creation Stories From Around The World (Harcourt, 1988) were all Newbery Honor books. Ms. Hamilton won the Coretta Scott King Award three times, and three times her books were selected as Coretta Scott King Award Honor books. Twice she won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (for M.C. Higgins the Great and for Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush), while Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (Knopf, 1988) won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction. In 1996 the NAACP Image Award was presented to her for Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, And True Tales (Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 1995). She was also a winner of the Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association, and in 1984 an annual children's literature lecture was established in her name at Kent State University.

Ms. Hamilton's writing career spanned more than thirty years, during which time she was awarded every major honor for children's book writing. To learn more about Ms. Hamilton and her books, please visit her Web site: http://www.virginiahamilton.com/

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