The Iron Man by Ted Hughes and Andrew Davidson
|The Iron Man by Ted Hughes and Andrew Davidson|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Any chance to revisit this classic should be taken – whatever you make of how little you get a firm grip on.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: October 2015|
|Publisher: Faber and Faber|
Where had he come from? Nobody knows. But's it obvious when the Iron Man came from – it really does smack of the beginnings of the environmental movement in the two decades after WWII. There's the nuclear element to the story, which is certainly there, even if I can never be sure whether that is the title character or the other one that turns up for the second half. But at the same time, there is also the idea that such a book doesn't really need to be analysed, explained away and diminished thusly, when it provides some of the most enjoyable, clear and simple yet highly emotive writing for the young audience, that has made it a classic since its inception.
The emotions early on are certainly creepy – the great metal behemoth struggling to put itself together as its unknown journey has sent it over a cliff. We – mankind, that is, heralded by Hogarth the quintessentially practical and patient English farmer's lad – bury our problems when we can, but a worse problem is to come. Does the pattern of the Iron Man's nastiness coming back for more after being hidden underground mean he's World War personified? You see, there I go again – trying to read too much into things, when so much is already on the page, delivered in sparse poetic language, interrupted by one-syllable paragraphs, font size changes and so much more.
There is an idea in my head at least that Hughes, who clearly knew what he was doing, deliberately muddied the waters, and put too much in for the simple moral to be found on these pages. Without answers we get a more visceral response, even if the adult reader does struggle – along with the eternal problems of what is a star and what is a sun, and scale, that this story presents – to put his finger on what it’s all about. The good thing is that this book was written when it was accepted that good writing for the young was going to be good writing for all, and that children could equally cope with ambiguities, if the story provided enough mystery, emotion and drama. So while the story can hark on about an idyllic, pre-modern age England all it want, the ultimate response can equally be to hark on about a time when books could be equally good, for all – and this, with its lovely woodcut-styled illustrations – is good.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes is how another edition shows off the book's merits.
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