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Book Review

This historical fiction book in the "I Witness" series by Avi is published by Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, an imprint of Disney Publishing.

Iron Thunder is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

Christian beliefs

Authority roles

Other belief systems


Profanity/Graphic violence





Discussion topics

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

During the Civil War, 13-year-old Tom Carroll's father is killed while serving in the Union Army. Living in a tenement in Brooklyn, Tom's mother asks him to help support the family. Through her contacts doing laundry for Union officers at the nearby Navy Yard, she arranges for Tom to meet with the yardmaster to discuss job options. He is told of a project underway to construct the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy. Tom meets with the designer of the new craft, John Ericsson, and although Tom doesn't know what to expect, he quickly gains the respect and admiration of Ericsson. His newfound job places Tom in the midst of the epic battle between the Monitor and Merrimac.

Christian Beliefs

None with the exception of one line that says, "God's blessing no one was killed."

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Although Tom is skeptical of the Union's forces after his father is killed, he follows his mother's direction in pursuing a job related to the war effort. He also demonstrates loyalty and courtesy to both Ericsson during the ship's construction and later to Capt. Worden as the ironclad heads to battle.


Tom uses Lord in one exclamatory expression. Set during the Civil War, the story includes descriptions of the wartime weaponry and skirmishes between the Monitor, Merrimac and other maritime vessels. In addition, the story line includes minimal details of soldiers who are wounded or killed during battle.



Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics :

  • Despite Tom's young age and relative inexperience, what does he do to demonstrate man-sized courage and confidence?
    Would you have been able to do the same thing in his place?

  • How difficult is his position?

  • Have you ever had to be strong where others weren't?

  • Tom witnesses others leaving because of the pressure.

  • What kinds of pressures do you face?
  • Have any of your friends given in to peer pressure?
  • How are you able to be strong?

  • Tom shows integrity and doesn't give any information to spies.

  • What did he have to gain, and what did he have to lose?

Additional Comments/Notes

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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