Friday, November 23, 2007

M.C. Higgins, the Great

Cross-posted at The Newbery Project

At first I was irritated. Virginia Hamilton began on page two throwing in M.C.'s thoughts - first person without quotation marks, here and there, no warning. I found it confusing. And irritating.

I was irritated by the violent nighttime encounter with the girl. I had a hard time forgiving M.C. for his incredible stupidity. I am son of a mother, father of daughters, and brother of sisters.

Where did Hamilton get the crazy idea of the pole? And pulling up the grave stones. And treating a hoop snake as real.

I am also, however, a former fifteen-year-old boy.

Eventually the disjointedness began to fit with the disjointed feelings plaguing M.C. He loves his maddening father. He aches for the girl. He is mesmerized by his wise and beautiful mother. He's torn by competing emotions of loyalty and anger and despair and longing and prejudice and superstition and love and hope.

He is fifteen.

Once again I bow to the wisdom of the Newbery judges. I think I know Jones and Banina and Ben and M.C. And the girl. Yes, I know the girl. These characters will stick.

M.C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton is unique* in having won the Newbery Award, The National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Hamilton is the first African-American writer to have won the Newbery. It is the 52nd Newbery Award book that I have read. I recommend it.

* Update: I am wrong. This book held that triple distinction until Holes by Louis Sacher matched it.

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