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The Water Babies [Paperback]

Charles Kingsley
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
Price: £4.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

1 Jan 2011
Charles Kingsley was an English clergyman, professor, historian and novelist who felt a great concern for social reform, particularly regarding child labor practices. Having read Darwin's "On the Origin of the Species", he was also a proponent of the theory of evolution; however, he credited evolution to God, proposing that science and Christian faith could exist harmoniously. Kingsley encouraged an open-minded attitude, and the willingness to use one's imagination. His 1863 classic, "The Water Babies", is a sort of fairy tale about a boy chimney sweep who drowns in a river, and is there transformed into a "water baby." The story relates the moral education that Tom receives in a series of adventures and lessons among the community of water babies. Kingsley expresses his concerns with child labor, as well as his ideas on Christian redemption, in this entertaining and somewhat satirical story.

Product details

  • Paperback: 110 pages
  • Publisher: (1 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420941003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420941005
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 0.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 931,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Charles Kingsley (12 June 1819 – 23 January 1875) was an English priest of the Church of England, university professor, historian and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and northeast Hampshire. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Water Babies is a wonderful, beautifully descriptive Victorian tale but; it's not Disney and concerns itself with issues that may no longer be seen as suitable for young children today. Tom, the little chimney sweep, is regularly beaten, starved and forced to climb ancient flues where his eyes become full of stinging soot and his feet, knees and hands are rubbed raw. He's brutalised by his owner/employer and his idea of fun is flinging rocks at the legs of working horses and dreaming of the day he has his own group of tiny sweeps to bully and abuse. Tom's a small boy but he's already stealing lead from the church roof, drinking beer and is no stranger to the magistrate. Kingsley writes not with sympathy but with acceptance; this was the life for many poor children during his era and their lives were brutal. There's a strong Christian message throughout the Water Babies and it's packed with "morality and obedience". Rescue only happens for Tom when he runs from his master, becomes seriously ill and wanders alone into the river where he's taken by the spirits and becomes a Water Baby. If you haven't read Victorian literature before then you might find the langauge and pace difficult but try to stick with it. Water Babies is a classic, some of Kingsley's descriptive prose is just gorgeous and it's possibly one of my favourite stories of all time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful. 9 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this as a child and enjoyed it then but now I am older, I read it again with a critical eye. It is certainly a story about morals (Victorian ones) but also a genuinely pleasant book to read just for the sake of it.

The story centres around a little chimney sweep called Tom who is employed by the odious Mr. Grimes. When Tom falls down a chimney in a big house and lands up in a little girls room, he is so terrified that he will be caught and sent to prison as a thief, that he scrambles back up the chimney, over the roof tops and then disappears although a search is mounted for him by the owner of the big house. Tom has in fact fallen into some water and is no longer human.........he has become a water-baby and is cared for by Mrs. Bedoasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs.Doasyouwouldbedoneby. Each in their turn, teach Tom valuable life lessons.

A highly recommended read for children or even for children of middle age!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have vague memories of this story from my childhood, but almost certainly from an abridged and illustrated edition. The fairy story/morality tale at the heart of this book is memorable and charming, although a strange mix of realism (poverty, exploitation of children...) and unbridled imagination.

Reading the full story as an adult many decades later, I was intrigued mainly by the insights it gives into the Victorian mind and the preoccupations of the day. Many other readers have spoken about the social conscience and the paternalistic moralising; what struck me were the references to the explosion of scientific ideas of the time: geology, Darwinism, psychology, etc. (even if not known by those names at that date). Kingsley attempts to satirise the ideas and the debate around them, but since most of these are no longer live issues, this does not resonate for a modern reader. I found the satire a little smug and eventually rather tiresome. His prejudices against the Irish, the Americans, etc. would be shocking if they didn't reflect the attitudes of the time, but at least they are not laboured in the same way as the satire.

Kingsley's tendency to comment (obliquely) on the ways of the world becomes very self-indulgent in the second half of the book, at the expense of the narrative, which becomes flabby and meandering. Maybe he's trying to reinforce the moralising message: children should sit still and read/listen to all these bloated pages, even if they don't understand them - it will be good for them!

As for you, dear 21st-century adult reader, I advise you to skip most of the second half of the book with a clear conscience!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a true classic 24 May 2011
By Tween
Format:Kindle Edition
this book is a classic of Victorian children's fiction. the characters are typified to a hitting-you-over-the-head-with-a-mallet degree (e.g. Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneto) but the story of the young hero, who escapes a cruel and uncaring world, literally shedding his skin (which is mistaken for his body and buried by his employer in a macabre twist) and being reborn as a waterbaby, is truly magical and delights as much now as it did when I was a child.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 15 July 2014
By Bex
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read 1 July 2014
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Great book
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4.0 out of 5 stars The water-babies 20 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. It is a long time I first read it. It is a fairy tale with a good moral undertone.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea. 7 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not a good read for me but perhaps I missed the point the author was making.? I got bored with it.
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