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Virginia Hamilton: Five Novels (slipcased edition)


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Playing out themes of memory, folklore, and tradition in enthralling, often wildly inventive stories, Virginia Hamilton transformed American children’s literature. In her award-winning novels of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, she brought Black characters center stage, creating a multifaceted portrait of African American life that she called “liberation literature.” This volume collects five of her best-known and most beloved works.

In Zeely (1967), Geeder Perry and her brother, Toeboy, go to their uncle’s farm for the summer and encounter a six-and-a-half-foot-tall Watutsi queen and a mysterious night traveler. In the Edgar Award–winning The House of Dies Drear (1968), Thomas Small and his family move to a forbidding former way station on the Underground Railroad—a house whose secrets Thomas must discover before it’s too late. Junior Brown, a three-hundred-pound musical prodigy, plays a silent piano in The Planet of Junior Brown (1971), while homeless friend Buddy Clark draws on all his New York City wits to protect Junior’s disintegrating mind.

In the National Book Award–winning M.C. Higgins, The Great (1974), Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits atop a forty-foot pole on the side of Sarah’s Mountain and dreams of escape. Poised above his family’s home is a massive spoil heap from strip-mining that could come crashing down at any moment. Can he rescue his family and save his own future? Must he choose? And in Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (1982), fifteen-year-old Tree’s life revolves around her ailing brother, Dab, until she sees cool, handsome Brother Rush, an enigmatic figure who may hold the key to unlocking her family’s troubled past.

This Library of America edition contains twenty beautifully restored illustrations, ten in full color for the first time; a selection of writings in which Hamilton discusses her work; and a newly researched chronology of Hamilton’s life and career.

Virginia Hamilton (1934–2002) was the author of forty-one works of fiction and nonfiction. She was the first Black writer awarded the Newbery Medal and the first children’s writer to be named a MacArthur Fellow (the “Genius” grant). She also received the National Book Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.

Editor Julie K. Rubini loves to share with younger readers the inspiring life stories of individuals who have made a difference in the world. Her works include Virginia Hamilton: America’s Storyteller, which received a Kirkus starred review and was listed on Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books, Outstanding Merit. Julie and her husband, Brad, established Claire’s Day, a children’s book festival in honor of their daughter.

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