Reviews /

The Iron Man

Authored by Ted Hughes
Illustrated by Chris Mould
Published by Faber & Faber

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The Iron Man retold for a new generation with a deluge of stunning illustrations by the talented Chris Mould. I have always loved Mould’s style and it totally suits this beautiful  modern fairytale of triumph over adversity.

From the detailed endpapers to the breathtaking double spread sunset, every picture captures the essence of the story and its protagonist.

The illustrations are so engaging and provide access to this classic story to children who may be overwhelmed by large chunks of text. The graphic novel spreads enable a wordless approach to comprehension and the opportunity to focus on key parts of the robot’s ‘anatomy’. This offers the chance to explore perspective and empathise with the robot’s plight as he transforms from enemy to hero. 

The story itself works on multiple levels. With older children, you could explore the historical context and possible influence of The Space Race and The Cold War but on a plot level you could focus on the themes of prejudice and tolerance to newcomers to a town or country; bullying – “there’s always a bigger fish”. The fact that the characters in question are not human could stimulate a cruder analysis of their treatment. 

The physical layout of the book also helps portray the experience of the robot such as the split page in which its torso is above water and its legs are below or the windows in which the head disappears under the water as it subsidies ‘deeper, deeper, deeper’.

The colour palette gives this version a truly classic feel and the use of silhouette puts me in mind of classic comics such as The Adventures of TinTin.

The colour blue, in various tones, creates an ambient effect – painting ‘the blue evening sky’, the water and the metallic body of the robot and its ‘happy blue’ eyes.

This timeless ‘overcoming the monster’ story could be compared to classics such as The Reluctant Dragon and of course Beowulf but also sits nicely alongside contemporary titles such as Frank Cottrell Boyce’s recent Runaway Robot in which a boy befriends a robot that has also lost its way.

I am particularly fond of this edition as it recently bagged me top prize in a Book in a Jar competition with colleagues – this would be an excellent activity for children to try and very easy to replicate the giant hand in aluminium foil, using the detail in the illustrations to replicate the ‘body’ parts. 

The size of the book makes it large enough to share with a class and in my opinion, would make a perfect Read Aloud text.

You would do well to add a copy of this version of The Iron Man to your bookshelves. It is a guaranteed winner for children of all ages and the striking cover design will certainly catch the eye of readers and it won’t disappoint with what follows within its beautiful pages.

Shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award 2020 There is also a paperback edition of this title The Iron Man You will find many award-winning books in our book selections. Please visit our Bookshop or contact us, if you have specific requests.