The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

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The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: This classic children's sci-fi fairytale has been updated with new, stylised illustrations. You may or may not like the pictures, but the story is, as it always was, superb.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: November 2010
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406324679

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I love the beginning of The Iron Man where Hughes writes The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows. There is such style to his writing, a wonderful rhythm and lyrical feel, and he creates a clever mix of emotions about the Iron Man who is both terrifying and yet also, somehow, fragile.

I first read this book many years ago at Primary school, and it hasn't lost any of its charm over the years. At times it feels like science fiction; this strange, enormous metal man who falls off a cliff, breaking into pieces and then slowly puts himself back together, his hand crawling around looking for his eye, then searching for the rest of his body piece by piece. At other times it feels like some sort of folklore fairytale, with the space-bat-angel-dragon threatening the world, and the people of the world relying on the Iron Man's bravery and intelligence in thwarting him. I love how poetic the language feels, for example as Hughes describes the Iron Man falling apart His great iron ears fell off and his eyes fell out. His great iron head fell off. All the separate pieces tumbled, scattered, crashing, bumping, clanging, down on to the rocky beach far below. A few rocks tumbled with him. Then silence. The language makes it a joy to read aloud, but it also works perfectly as a story to be read alone by a confident reader.

A key part of this new edition are the illustrations by Laura Carlin. I have to say that on first reading I wasn't overwhelmed. They're very simplified, stylised images which at times looked very basic - too simple and childish - for my liking. The colours are very industrial, which I suppose ties in with the story, but I felt disappointed that they weren't more special - I'd hoped for huge space-bat-angel-dragon pictures, and more colour and drama. However, going back again to the book later I found there was a certain charm to them, and although they seem a bit scrappy there's actually a lot of thought that has been put into each image, tying it to the text and even in parts illustrating the text itself. I mostly liked the images of the Iron Man. His shadowy presence looms over the pages and he becomes, somehow, endearing. I still don't really like the images of the villagers who try to destroy him, or the people of the world who enlist his help in getting rid of the space-bat-angel-dragon, but they're again depicted on some well planned pages, with folds that open out, holes within the paper that reveal more and more as you read, and a huge fold-out spread at the end.

The illustrations felt quite masculine - if I'd had to guess I would've thought a teenage boy had drawn them - so perhaps this edition will appeal to boys who don't want to be seen dead reading a picture book normally, but won't mind this artistic, stylised volume. Personally, I think whatever you think of the images the story will win through because it is such a good one. I love Hogarth (fabulous name for a character!) who lures the Iron Man into a trap but then feels guilty and who then saves the Iron Man and befriends him. I like how the Iron Man outsmarts the space-bat-angel-dragon, and how it is a small boy's faith in a huge giant of a man that saves the world. It's a story that is full of drama and suspense, action and emotion. Definitely recommended!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more classic children's literature try The Bookbag's Top Ten.

Buy The Iron Man by Ted Hughes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Iron Man by Ted Hughes at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Iron Man by Ted Hughes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Iron Man by Ted Hughes at Amazon.com.


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Jill said:

I love The Iron Man!

It's a popular book with primary schools these days because it has such good cross-curricular opportunities. They can do space, robotics, art, language appreciation, etc etc.