Ted Hughes, late poet laureate of England, was born in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, in 1930. After attending Cambridge University, he went on to become a well-known poet, novelist, and essayist with dozens of books to his credit. His last work, Birthday Letters, a poetry collection chronicling his relationship with American poet Sylvia Plath, was published shortly before his death in 1998 at the age of 68.
Home School Book Review, April 4, 2012 (view all comments by Home School Book Review)
A mysterious, fearsome giant, made of iron, walks out of nowhere to the top of a cliff. No one knows where he had come from or how he was made. When he steps off the cliff, he crashes and breaks into a hundred pieces, but over time all the pieces fit themselves back together again. Soon afterwards a farmer’s son named Hogarth is fishing in a stream and at evening sees a giant black figure, bigger than a house. No one, except his own father, believes Hogarth at first, but when reports begin to come in about missing tractors, plows, and other farm machinery made of steel and iron, everyone decides that something needs to be done.
A big hole is dug near where the Iron Giant had gone back into the sea and is covered with branches, straw, and soil, with an old truck on the nearby hill as bait to trap the monster. At first, he does not come, but eventually he does fall in and is covered with a mound of dirt. However, the following spring, he digs out of the trap and starts eating all the barbed wire for miles around, as well as hinges which he tears off gates, tin cans which he finds in ditches, tractors, cars, and trucks. The farmers talk about calling in the army. But Hogarth has a plan. What is it? And when a giant space lizard the size of Australia comes to Earth from Orion and threatens to destroy the planet by eating all living things, is there anything that Hogarth and the Iron Giant can do to save mankind?
We saw the 1999 Warner Brothers animated feature film The Iron Giant, and our boys really liked it, but I didn’t know until a few years ago that the movie was based on a book, originally published in England as The Iron Man, although the two are very different in many respects. The book is quite spare, consisting of only five chapters, so it is an easy read for middle grade students. There is one mention of the stars being billions and trillions and zillions of years old, but it is also said that the people wept and prayed to God to save them from the space lizard. No bad language occurs. Author Ted Hughes was poet laureate of England from 1984 until his death in 1998. The book is said to be “a powerful tribute to peace on earth��"and in all the universe,” so some might see in it a little anti-war propaganda, but the fact is that no reasonable person really wants war and that everyone hopes and strives for peace. There is a sequel, The Iron Woman, describing retribution based on environmental themes related to pollution.
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