Book Info: Hearts of Iron

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Age group: 12-17

Jacket illustration: Kamil Vojnar.

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Discussions and Activities:

Hearts of Iron

Social Studies

  1. Do you believe Lucy and Samuel made a wise choice in trying to do what they deemed was right for the person they loved?
  2. How might you work out a situation in which your desires do not coincide with those of your parents?
  3. As Jesse is leaving, Lucy realizes that “Sometimes love isn’t about what is right for you.” Do you believe this to be true? And to what extent?


  1. Iron-making is no longer an important trade in America. What other businesses can you think of from this period or others that are no longer in vogue? What industries have taken their place?
  2. Can you think of any jobs people do today that are as dangerous as the jobs Jesse and Joseph did at the forge? How are people doing those jobs better safeguarded today? How are they not?
  3. Families at this time tended to be large. Economically, why do you think that is?
  4. Describe how your schooling is different from that of Lucy’s.
  5. In what other aspects, was Lucy’s life different from your own?

The Arts

  1. Why was portrait painting in fashion back in 1820? Why were most young ladies having one done?
  2. Why do you think the playing of a piano was considered a genteel occupation, one only women of better education accomplished?
  3. Do you believe that the arts are still a privilege of the upper class today or have things changed? Why and how?


  1. How does the process of combining lime, charcoal and ore produce iron?
  2. Why are strong fires necessary to create liquid metal?
  3. How does the process of beating on the iron when it is cooled help form strong iron products?

Language Arts

  1. How does the dialogue of each of the characters in the book reveal their backgrounds?
  2. What scenes in the text help describe the village in which Jesse and Lucy live and the work that goes on about them?
  3. The ending to Hearts of Iron is both hopeful and sad. How would you have changed the ending? Try writing a different one of your own.