|It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts|
I was first introduced to Ted Hughes’ The Iron Giant by my older brother, not long after it was first published – sometime in 1968. It had a scary-looking cover, so I thought, and I could not figure out why he was so fascinated by the story and seemed to read and re-read it often. Later, I managed to get past the cover and found myself entranced, as well. It was an unforgettable story, and even though I passed along a version of it to my kids, I hoped that a better edition would come along – one that managed to capture Hughes’ imaginative leaps through art work. Well, that version is here at last, through Laura Carlin’s amazing illustrations in this latest The Iron Giant:
The story itself begins mysteriously:
“The Iron Giant 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.
Taller than a house, the Iron Giant stood at the top of the cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness.
The wind sang through his iron fingers. His great iron head, shaped like a dustbin but big as a bedroom, slowly turned to the right, slowly turned to the left. His iron ears turned, this way and that way. He was hearing the sea.”
In this first of five chapters, the Iron Giant falls into the sea and must resurrect himself, slowly but surely he finds the pieces of his broken body and puts himself back together again. But the return of the Iron Giant proves to be catastrophic for the little sea side town he now roams – his diet of tractors and barbed wire wrecks havoc and fear. The people are frightened:What should they do? What could they do?
They decide to dig a pit – a trap. One day, Hogarth, the little boy who first laid eyes on the Iron Giant, manages to trick the giant into the trap. The farmers celebrate, but Hogarth is sorry – something tells him that the Iron Giant is not the enemy. And, as Hughes spins this parable out, Hogarth comes to learn that his instincts are true – when the Iron Giant comes to the rescue of the whole world and defeats the space monster in a battle of courage and wits.
Many have called The Iron Giant a story of peace, it certainly ends on this note:
“And the space bat angel’s singing had the most unexpected effect. Suddenly the world became wonderfully peaceful. … The strange soft eerie space-music began to alter all the people of the world. They stopped weapons. The countries began to think how they could live pleasantly alongside each other, rather than how to get rid of each other.”
Now, how marvelous a vision is that?! Laura Carlin’s fabulous cut-paper, multimedia illustrations
are the perfect accompaniments to Hughes’ story – thoughtfully laid out, with occasional hand lettered pages, they move the narrative along beautifully.
I think this edition of The Iron Giant is a keeper – one for my book shelf, classroom…and future grandchildren, even!
And, I also managed to finish:
“Tell Us We’re Home” by Marina Budhos – a coming of age/immigrant experience/middle school life novel about three friends, Jaya, Lola and Maria. Set in a suburban New Jersey town not too dissimilar from the ones I both teach in and live in, I found this wise and sensitively told story quite beautiful. I think my students will recognize many important themes and lessons in this book – it would make an excellent book club choice.
“Slob” by Ellen Potter. Next to Augie in “Wonder”, I think Owen Birnbaum (the narrator and main character in “Slob”) is my favorite new character-I’d-most -like-to-meet. Teased mercilessly by his fellow middle school mates, he manages somehow to remain focused on his main purpose in life – creating the invention that will unlock the mystery around the the darkest day of his young life. Wise beyond his years and funny, too, Owen is such an endearing character – I was so sad when the book came to an end, and I know my students will feel the same way, too.
To find out what others have been reading, head over to Jen and Kelle’s blog Teach Mentor Texts !