88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Don't miss this extraordinary Victorian classic!, 27 July 2005
A much underrated and neglected gem of children's writing, The Water Babies is a book many people have heard of but few have actually read. It is a carefully-constructed C19th tale in which delicate, humorous sketches and caricatures of the era's wealthy and servant classes are contrasted with intricate studies of the urban poor. Unwittingly, the central figure Tom, a scrawny infant chimney-sweep, embarks on an adventurous, surreal underwater existence, which results in his dramatic moral progression.
It can be read on a variety of levels - as a profound philosophical exploration; as a moral entreaty for the improvement of social conditions; as an early example of science fiction; or as an alternative magical children's world. The imagery is delightful and inventive and Kingsley writes with a deft, simple elegance that makes for very easy reading. There are many moments of truly exquisite poetry such as when Tom sits alone on a rock, listening to the sounds of the countryside animals in the cool night around him.
The Water Babies is an extraordinary novel and well worth rediscovering.