Iron Giant: A Story Told in Five Nights by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Andrew Davidson 78 pp RL 2
Published in 1968 and made into an animated movie in 1999, The Iron Giant, with illustrations by Andrew Davis, is one of the many books for children written by Ted Hughes, who was British Poet Laureate and husband of poet Sylvia Plath. Sadly, the companion to this book, The Iron Woman, is no longer in print.
A modern parable, The Iron Giant is the tale of how Hogarth, a farmer's son, befriends the giant and ultimately saves his life. Nobody knows how the giant was made or where he came from and he is seemingly terrorizing the countryside. When the farmers' attempt to bury the giant as a way of stopping him fails, Hogarth suggests feeding him scrap metal. When the giant emerges months later, causing an earthquake for Spring picnickers, Hogarth has another idea. Begrudgingly, the farmers and his father agree to it, insisting they will call in the army if it doesn't go as planned.
Hogarth leaves the Iron Giant happily well-fed in a junkyard where he can chew "on a greasy black stove like it was toffee" and Hogarth can visit him from time to time, making sure his eyes remain a "happy blue." All is well until the arrival of the space dragon, born from a star and as big as Australia and asking to be fed. The people of the earth refuse to feed the bat-angel-dragon and instead wage a futile war against him. Hogarth is sure his Iron Giant can defeat the him and a battle ensues. However, this is not the Godzilla vs. Megalon fight you might be expecting. The Iron Giant is both strong and smart and he figures out a way to best the creature and convince him to return to his more peaceful ways.
The Iron Giant is, as is always the case, a book that is different from the movie. Most likely, more people are familiar with the movie than they are with the book. I strongly urge you to seek out the book and read it to your children as a bedtime story, as it was intended. Despite the subject, it won't cause nightmares. Having been written in 1968, the tone is different than what kids see on TV, movies and video games today. The sparse, involving text makes for a hero that readers will love, and the suspense is sustained throughout the short story. While there is a definite message of the power of peace, it is a constant undercurrent of the story and never didactic.