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The Iron Man

The Iron Man

Published: 1 Aug 2019

Hardback, 144 pages

Recommended for age 7+ and 9+

By Ted Hughes

Illustrated by Chris Mould

Published by Faber & Faber

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The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. Where had he come from? Then, when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

Reviewed by Rebecca Simpson-Hargreaves

The Iron Man: Who is the mysterious metal man that appears on the cliff near the ocean? What does he want and what will he do?

Over five nights the story unfolds of the Iron Man, searching the local farms for machines and metal to eat. His appearance instils fear of the unknown and the story takes a dark turn as the farmers decide to stop him once and for all. Thankfully all is not lost as young boy reflects on their actions and finds a way to save the iron stranger, who in turn saves the child and others from an impending doom.

This classic tale by Ted Hughes has long been a favourite in the classroom, and this interesting narrative has been given a contemporary feel by the illustrations of Chris Mould. The graphic/illustrated novel style is very appealing and would entice reluctant readers. The pictures are beautifully created, well-matched to the muted colour tones which have a very industrial feel. It has lots of underlying threads including environmentalism, morals and values. It is full of action and suspense with a hint of foreboding that you get from a science fiction/fantasy style narrative. Due to how it is arranged as a series of snapshots it keeps the reader hooked, waiting and wanting to find out more.

The Iron Man should be a key staple for any KS2 classroom and beyond. It’s a great way to expand both children’s and teachers’ genres of reading. Often sci-fi or fantasy and graphic/illustrated novels can be dismissed as not as rich as other styles. This book proves all of these assumptions wrong and has a wide appeal. There is much that could stimulate writing and discussion from this text. Useful for forming debates about choices, considering conservation and industrialisation. It also would be a good starting point for art and design projects with its steampunk elements.

I am a lecturer in Primary Education specialising in English at the University of Manchester. Lover of picture books, poetry, non fiction and fantasy. Passionate about using children's literature to develop children's empathy, self-awareness and social justice and human rights.