Review Blog

Nov 08 2019

The iron man by Ted Hughes

cover image

Illus. by Chris Mould. Faber and Faber, 2019 (c1968) ISBN: 9780571348862.
(age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Cautionary tale, Modern fable, STEM, Recycling. This outstanding new publication of The Iron Man will thrill new readers as well as ones who already know the tale, reminding them of not judging a book by its cover, as they hear the tale of an outsider at first derided by the village but then proving his worth beyond comprehension.
In this beautiful edition, Faber presents a book aching to be picked up and held, its tactile cover enticing all readers to open the first page.
In the first of five chapters, the Iron Man finds himself in the sea, bits of him spread over the sea floor. He puts himself together again, piece by piece and walks to the village, eating the barbed wire fences along the way, scaring the residents. They build a pit to trap him and when he falls in, cover him with soil, making a small hill. But a family sitting to have a picnic finds their family outing disrupted as the Iron Man rises from below, forcing them to flee. He has returned. The village calls out the army to rid themselves of the monster, but Hogarth has a different idea, and chapter three ends with the monster happily residing at the scrap metal dump in the village.
But an alien in the form of a space-bat-angel-dragon drops onto Australia, covering the whole continent. Here it demands food and military from over the world try to deal with it, without success.
Prompted by Hogarth, the Iron Man has an idea and chapter five brings the whole to a satisfying conclusion, promoting world peace, demilitarisation and harmony through music.
Ted Hughes' classic tale, first released in 1968 and rarely out of print, is presented here with stunning new illustrations. Mould invests the Iron Man with human characteristics, his mouth and eyes revealing a host of emotions all children will recognise and love. I love the intricacies of the Iron Man's body with its cogs and wheels, nuts and bolts, derricks and winches, steel plate of all shapes and sizes. Readers will love zeroing in on the make up of the Iron Man marvelling its duplication on the end papers.
Cautionary in warning readers not to judge people by their appearance, the story resonates with humour as it is the child in the village who shows his elders the usefulness of their visitor.
And our audience will thrill at the alien landing in Australia, its body covering our whole island.
Readers will love the way the story is resolved, the Iron Man pitting himself against the alien, taken apart and reassembled bit by bit on the northern beaches of Australia, bringing the world together with a peaceful conclusion, a modern fable about working together to promote enduring peace.
Fran Knight

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