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The Water Babies

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  5,722 Ratings  ·  374 Reviews
The story follows Tom in his land-life as a climbing boy for a chimney-sweep and in his after-life as a water-baby, where he gains redemption from selfishness as well as from drudgery. On to his fantasy Kingsley grafts a series of digressions and comic asides, through which he comments on a range of contemporary issues.
Paperback, 330 pages
Published 1995 by Penguin (first published 1863)
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Bookdragon Sean
How many people can say that drowning was the best thing that’s ever happened to them?


Life is terrible for Tom. He’s an ordinary boy and he’s in an ordinary situation. Granted, it’s a tough situation but it’s still rather ordinary for the time. His master beats him and overworks him. This is the only life Tom knows; thus, when he grows old he will follow the same path. It’s not his fault; he hasn’t known any different. For him, his master is the embodiment of manliness: it’s what Tom thinks he h
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Googling around to see if anyone knows who Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid are based on (I have often wondered about this), I discover by chance that the author invented the word 'cuddly', which first appeared in The Water-Babies.

Well, there's your useless fact for today.
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what edition I read as a child, but I do know that I harbor huge nostalgia about the book's weird adventures and pen and ink illustrations. Every time I see the title at a used book sale, I reflect on my childhood.

Now as an adult, having read Goodreads reviews, I wonder what I would think of it. The implied tone of bigotry and morialist snake oil makes me pause about my rating.

For now it gets my best. When I re-read it, I will likely be angry and ashamed!

ETA: What I believe was de
Kyriakos Sorokkou
Μιας και το να αναζητήσεις τον συγγραφέα στα ελληνικά δεν φέρνει αποτελέσματα πόσο μάλλον να υπάρχει το βιβλίο του αυτό μεταφρασμένο, θα πω ό,τι έχω να πω ελληνικά.

ο συγγραφέας
Τσαρλς Κίνγκσλεϊ: συγγραφέας, αγγλικανός κληρικός, καθηγητής ιστορίας στο Κέιμπριτζ, γνώστης ελληνικής μυθολογίας (σε αντίθεση με τον Σαιξπηρ του οποίου η μυθολογία που ήξερε ήταν ένα αμάλγαμα ρωμαιοελληνοβρετανικής μυθολογίας πάντα σε δεύτερο χέρι) φίλος του Δαρβίνου, φυσιοδίφης που είχε δεχτεί τη θεωρία της εξέλιξης των
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know this book is pretty controversial, but I enjoyed it in spite of that. As accepted during that time in history, there is definitely some prejudice against other races and nationalities, especially the Irish. The Englishman rules and all others are inferior. But, I just took this as British pride... of course, and Englishman would think his nationality is the best, back in the day. Also, if you aren't Christian, then you are a heathen. No news here, either. However, I was amazed at Kingsley ...more
Mike Horne
Jan 12, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, that was bad! In college I went through a Charles Kingsley phase (Westward Ho, Hypatia, Alton Locke). I remember reading this and thinking it was good. Probably the most wrong opinion I have ever held. The tone is so smarmy, you just want to slap the author (who is rabidly anti-irish). Here is probably the best quote of the book-which gives you a taste--

"Now you may fancy that Tom was quite good, when he had everything that he could want or wish: but you would be very much mistaken. Being q
written 1862-1863.

Reading this once was enough. Future self, if you ever forget what reading it was like and consider giving it another go? Don't.

A young chimney sweep, who is mistreated by his master accidentally frightens a young girl in the house they are working in. He runs off, fearing he'll be in trouble, and ends up drowning.

I enjoyed it up until this point. It was apparently meant to be a lesson on, amongst other things, child labor and the treatment of the boy by his master would be a
Apr 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I literally drop kicked this book into a bin.
Adam Floridia
Feb 15, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the reader gets to accompany young Tom on a fantastic journey. As the journey progresses, the book gets worse.

First fifty pages or so: 4-5 stars. I'm enjoying this for what it is--a fairy tale ostensibly for children. There's a little chimney sweep, the aforementioned Tom, who works for a cruel master. He encounters a beautiful--and clean--young lady but due to a misunderstanding is chased off her property.

Next fifty or so pages: 3 stars. Okay, so this has taken an odd turn and see
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Humphrey Carpenter's "Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children's Literature" sounds like something I ought to have read. The period it describes runs from the mid-19th century to the early 20th, placing The Water-Babies right near its start and certainly an influence on everything from "Alice In Wonderland", a few years later, to "Peter Pan". It is also one of those children's books which contains "much that is unintelligible to children", as one reviewer put it; Kingsley was an Ang ...more
David Gregg
Summary: The audiobook narration is truly one of the finest that can be found -- really superb. The book itself is particularly good, and educational, though some caveats must be made.

The Book: Just absolutely delightful! Keenly imaginative, clever, and funny. Interwoven naturally with charming little lessons (which don't feel like lessons) about wildlife, biology, even geology and meteorology. Really very excellent morals throughout the whole tale. Keep Wikipedia and Google near at hand in orde
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
A childhood favourite. I don't know what I'd make of it now.

This was a gift to me by one of my favourite aunts, a highly intellectual lady and an alumnus of the JNU (she is no more, sadly). It gathered dust on my shelf for quite a long time before I picked it up one day and devoured it in a single sitting.

I cannot remember much of the story. The part involving child labour distressed me a lot, even though I wanted to try my hand at chimney-sweeping; also, I loved the part about the water babies
Rebecca McNutt
This book was actually one of the saddest I've ever read. Seemingly a harmless fantasy novel, it carries an underlying allegorical message about the toll that child labour has on kids. I'm surprised it doesn't have a higher overall rating though, because the way the author describes the mystical aquatic world and all its creatures is beautiful and unforgettable.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Why must you torture the children, Charles?

When I read that Charles Kingsley and Charles Darwin had been friends, I was so disappointed. Why? Why didn't dear Mr. D pull aside Mr. K and gently offer a sort of "I say old boy! This is bananas!" You know. Like they do. Or should have.

I started listening to a librivox recording while I was painting the room that is to become my new office-library. I had read about this author and had seen the title and knew, vaguely, that Mr. K was writing at about t
Last line: "But remember always, as I told you at first, that this is all a fairy tale, and only fun and pretence: and, therefore, you are not to believe a word of it, even if it is true."

THE WATER BABIES by the Reverend Charles Kingsley, a Victorian era children's novel first published in book form in England in 1863, achieved a level of popularity for decades in its day that spurred me as an adult to read it a hundred and fifty years later.

Although it occupied a familiar place in British ch
D.M. Dutcher
Wow, this is horrible.

Tom, a chimney-sweep under the drunk, foul-tempered Mr. Grimes, one day goes with him to do a job at the local lord's manor. He by mistake enters the room of a young girl, who is startled by his soot-covered appearance, and raises a fuss. Everyone chases him, and he flees only to die ("changed by a fairy") and be transformed into a water-baby. He then has to become a real man again.

It's just a mess of a book. Apparently, daughters of rich people are naturally perfect and be
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, childrens
This is a book that I tried to read many times as a child but could never get through the first chapter. Seeing it on the shelf while visiting my parents I was determined to give it another shot. Although I got through it, to be honest it really wasn't worth it.

Tom is a young chimney sweep who, through a series of improbable events, becomes a water-baby and goes thorough all sorts of adventures, all of which have morals to teach, before becoming a creature of the land again, as a grown man. It i
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written morality tale. The adventures of young Tom the chimney sweep is a classic written in the 1860s. This is fast paced and filled with one memorable scene after another.
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Water-Babies first appeared in book form in May 1863, exactly a century-and-a-half ago. Though I was probably aware of it when younger, I must have read it for myself pretty much a half-century ago in one of those cheap Dent’s children’s classics editions. A decade later I was re-reading it and taking notes, spurred on by the challenge Kingsley issues in his dedication:
Come read me my riddle, each good little man:
If you cannot read it, no grown-up folk can.

Of course, The Water-Babies was wr
Aug 21, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's like a terrible 19th-century version of The Phantom Tollbooth. Smarmy, racist, didactic, and everything that was crappy about Victorian attitudes, all rolled up into one boring, overlong waste of time.

Feel offended that goodreads recommended this to me. I deserve better.
Aug 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really get it. But I think I liked it.
The author's writing style is amazing and brilliant.
Tom's story was very sad and this book made me understand that there are kids out there who need help.
I really do hope a lot of people get to know more about it though.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Georgene by: Book Challenge on Face Book
Published in 1863, this book has stood the test of time. While some might think this book is dated, it still has a lot to offer to children and to adults as well.
"The Water Babies" is a novel by Reverend Charles Kingsley written in 1862–63 as a serial for Macmillan's Magazine. It was first published in its entirety in 1863. I never heard of the book or the author until it showed up on a list of classics a few years ago, so when I came across it in a used book store, I bought it. I knew nothing about it when I started reading, there was nothing on the back cover, no introduction, so I just opened the book and started reading. The first lines of the book t ...more
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, classics
An endearing book filled with excellent prose! How I wish books were written like this nowadays *sighs*
In Victorian London, Tom is the ill-used apprentice to the evil chimney sweep Grimes. All Tom has to look forward to is the fun of throwing bricks at horses' legs, and dreaming of the time when he's grown and it's his turn to get to beat and bully little children. Yay. Then Grimes gets called to clean chimneys at a large country house, and Tom gets lost in the labyrinth of chimneys and ends up in the bedroom of a little girl, who screams in fright. Tom leaps out the window, and is chased over hi ...more
Miss Sweet
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
When I first got my hands on this book, I was shocked at the length and small type - 330 pages with some illustrations dropped in here and there. I definitely didn't expect a children's book from 1863 to be that long. But, then again, I can't be certain if that's normal for that time period.

Basically, The Water Babies is a fairy tale about a young chimney sweep by the name of Tom, who drowns in a river (though the book avoids saying Tom died), and becomes a Water Baby. And once Tom becomes a Wat
Jun 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Had this book been more than 150 pages (in my copy), I would not have finished it. But since it was so short, I saw it through to the end.
I completely dislike the book in every way. The narrator/storyteller seemed to be a bit full of himself to be honest! I got the impression that he thought none of the characters were as wise and as knowledgeable as he. And I believe every character was called stupid or ugly at some point. Some were called both.

It was an easy read, but the story seemed to be a
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: child-fiction
I read an abridged version of this as a child and loved it. After the recent coverage of the full book on BBC radio 4, I decided to read it. I enjoyed reading this again, and was intrigued to see the various metaphors Kingsley uses, which would have gone over my head as a child. There is a strong religious and moral undertone, which can feel like you are being preached to. It is also particularly politically incorrect with many negative references to other cultures (particularly the Irish). Howe ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was in primary school but can't remember much about it. I read it again as I'm working my way through classics I've always wanted to read or read when I was young & want to reread. The Water Babies overall is a magical book about fairies & magic. However it is a bit depressing as there are many deaths & a theme of being punished for what you have done to others. I think for the era it's set in this would probably have been used as a story to teach children to ...more
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Charles Kingsley was an English clergyman, university professor, historian, and novelist, particularly associated with the West Country and north-east Hampshire.

He was educated at Helston Grammar School before studying at King's College London, and the University of Cambridge. Charles entered Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1838, and graduated in 1842. He chose to pursue a ministry in the church.
More about Charles Kingsley...

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“The most wonderful and the strongest things in the world, you know, are just the things which no one can see.” 74 likes
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