Newbery Book Review

M. C. Higgins, the Great

This week’s winner, M. C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton, convinced me that the books I read, the stuff I watch and the music I listen to affects my mood.  While this realization might not be earth shattering for some it is liberating, as well as discouraging, to me.  When I was reading The Dark is Rising Sequence I was also listening to Mumford and Sons, which made the reading extremely epic.  I was also watching Alias.  The combination of spy tv and action packed novels made for interesting dreams and an underlying sense of excitement and energy during the waking hours.  But reading M. C. has had the opposite effect.  Maybe it’s just the proverbial valley after the mountain top but this week I have been irritated, angry and extremely anxious.  Last night I had my first spider terror in a long time.  For awhile I was waking up either screaming or jumping out of bed because I could ‘see’ spiders on the wall or swooping down toward my face.  Awful, awful.  But I haven’t had any in months…until last night.  :(  I woke up startled and terrified and while Forrest was, as always, extremely kind and comforting I was trembling and embarrassed and determined to convince him that this time it was real.  (I’m not crazy, I promise.)  Another anxiety I’m battling on a daily basis is the impending ten-hour plus flight to Paris that Forrest and I will take on the 20th.  In talking to a dear friend and co-worker today I realized that it’s the take off more than anything that’s got me wanting to trade in my ticket and stay on firm ground.  Sigh.  Can I really blame all of this on M. C. Higgins?  No, but I’m still going to lay some of the blame at his unassuming feet.

Virginia Hamilton won not only the Newbery Medal but the National Book Award and Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for M. C. Higgins, the Great. With so many awards backing it up I was surprised at how long it took me to really get immersed with the characters and setting.  Hamilton has a very lyrical way of writing and for some reason it was difficult for me to enter into her rhythm.  She would describe the setting of Sarah’s Mountain or the Killburn mound and it would take either several read throughs to get it or resignation at not understanding what it was she trying to get me to see.

It is a coming of age story.  A story where a boy who thinks he’s all that and more comes to realize his inability to change people or make them do what he wants.  I was instantly put off by M. C.’s arrogance but looking back on what I’ve read I realize the facade it really was.  Underneath it all was still a scared boy who wanted to be taken care of and understood.  A tension is felt between wanting to be grown and wanting to be coddled.  It is the unexpected love for a stranger, acceptance of the truth about a group of people instead of the superstition believed since he was born and the realization of his place on the mountain that begin to ease the tension and shape the character of M. C. into the adult he would someday become.  As difficult as the story was to get through at times there was, like I said, a poetry about it all that was beautiful.

But isn’t ‘coming of age’ in some ways a sad and anxious time?  In brutal honesty I fought hard against growing up and what it did to my physical body as well as my emotions.  And in all my loathing of M. C.’s arrogance I know that I touted the same at his age.  In the tension of growing up who doesn’t think they’ve got it all figured out and everyone else is stupid but on the inside is still crying out for safety?  For someone to tuck you in at night and say “everything is going to be fine.”  Maybe that’s what my anxious heart has been crying out for this week.  To have it said with certainty, “you’re going to be okay and there’s nothing to worry about.”  But as we grow up and trade our dolls for responsibilities we’re faced with the reality of fear and that nothing will ever be okay until Heaven.  I don’t talk about the Lord much on this blog and that’s probably because I don’t think about Him as often as I should, but in realizing that the things I put into my head and my heart affect my moods I’ve also realized that maybe I should start reading my Bible more than on Sunday morning.  Novel idea, right? :)  I think that it might be time once again to fill my head and heart with truth and realize that as I am fearful of flying in planes, Portland having an earthquake or taking a roller blade tour of Paris it’s only my Maker that can make the fear dissipate.  “18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” -1 John 4:18

Thanks for listening.

Till next time.

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3 thoughts on “M. C. Higgins, the Great

  1. It is going to be okay. Grab your crayola pen and your bible and as you read underline every time you see God speak, act or declare that mighty “I AM.” It’s in those pages and moments that you will see the grandeur of our God. It seems that when we are at His feet…we look up and see how vast He really is. In seeing/knowing that… you are able to trust Him like never before. It’s then that the words “it’s going to be okay” become true. He holds you. In every situation. Lean against Him and hear His heartbeat. Let it soothe your heart and calm your mind. He completely adores you.

    Wish I could tuck you in tonight like I did when you were little. Pulling up the covers and then kissing your sweet smelling cheeks and then that sweet spot on your forehead. Sweet memories that I cherish…as I cherish you.

    Okay…rollerblading in France???? I see Forrest written all over that one :) I want pictures!!! Love you guys and can’t wait to see you and take care of our grand-dog Fran :)

  2. Yeah man! Woot! Powerful post! Way to embrace the challenges, my friend. I look forward to talking more about some of these things when you visit Seattle this weekend. Side note: We should watch the fantastic Meg Ryan/Kevin Klein movie French Kiss because – hello – she’s really freaked out about FLYING TO FRANCE. And also it’s hilarious.

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