(I read this one a couple of months ago, so it isn't fresh in my mind.)
M.C. Higgins, the Great, is a coming of age story about M.C. (Mayo Cornelius), a 15-year-old African American boy who lives in the shadow of Sarah's Mountain. The mountain has been strip mined for years and a dangerous slag heap threatens to slide down onto their house. M.C. lives in constant stress about this, despite the reassurances his father gives. His joy is climbing his 40 ft. pole and sitting on the top as he looks out over the mountain. He keeps an eye on his younger siblings and sees any strangers who might approach.
One of these strangers is a man who is making recordings of people in the valley. M.C. is sure that his mother will become famous and be the family's ticket off the mountain. And although he really wants to leave, he also can't imagine living anywhere else.
The other stranger is a girl, 16 or 17, who sets up camp by a lake and who M.C. falls in love with.
He has a friend who lives not far from their family. Ben is super light-skinned and has 6 fingers. M.C. is told not to associate with Ben or any of his family as they are considered "witchy" folk.
The relationship between M.C. and his dad is complex and I don't pretend to unerstand it. I wonder if the author understood it. I found that this quote about her works pretty much covered it. "Since little is definitively resolved in Hamilton's works, the novel could reflect the indeterminacy of meaning in modern novels." (http://www.answers.com/topic/m-c-higgins-the-great-1)
That could be a reason I did not enjoy reading this book. There was not enough resolution in the problems M.C. faced, or in his relationships. I think this would be a bit mature for the average elementary student. Better for middle schoolers.
Hamilton, Virginia. M.C. Higgins, the Great. Simon and Schuster, 1974.