The Water-Babies

The Water-Babies

3.41 (7,774 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , Introduction by  , Edited by 

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The Water-Babies (1863) is one of the strangest and most powerful children's books ever published. Written by an Anglican clergyman with an insatiable love of science, the story combines an uplifting moral about redemption with a crash course in evolutionary theory, and has an imaginative exuberance equalled only by Lewis Carroll.

Young Tom is a chimney-sweeper's boy who one day falls into a river and drowns, only to be transformed into a water-baby. Through his encounters with friendly fish, curious lobsters, and characters such as Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby, he sloughs off his selfish nature and earns his just reward. Tom's comic adventures are constantly interrupted by Kingsley's sideswipes at contemporary issues such as child labour and the British education system, and they offer a rich satiric take on the great
scientific debates of the day. The story's linguistic and narrative oddities make it an unclassifiable fantasy that is both a naturalist's handbook and an aquatic Pilgrim's Progress, and its vibrant symbolism also reveals some of Kingsley's more private obsessions regarding cleanliness and sanitation

This new edition reprints the original complete text and illustrations, and includes a lively introduction and notes that reveal the full richness of this bizarre but compelling fairy tale.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 141 x 202 x 20mm | 390g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 2 black and white, plus 8 wood-engraved chapter initials
  • 0199645604
  • 9780199645602
  • 441,070

Table of contents

Introduction ; Note on the Text ; Select Bibliography ; A Chronology of Charles Kingsley ; THE WATER-BABIES ; Appendix I: Textual Variants ; Appendix II: 'The Wonders of the Shore' ; Explanatory Notes
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Review quote

With an introduction that attends to all the eccentricities of book and author, this new edition reveals Kingsley as a progressive thinker who embraced evolutionary theory and championed environmental causes even as he perpetuated stereotypes and trumpeted stale moral pieties. * Maria Tatar, New York Times *
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About Charles Kingsley

Brian Alderson has long been involved in the study of children's literature as editor, translator, lecturer, and exhibitions organizer. He takes a particular interest in bibliographic aspects, especially those related to the history of British and American publishing and illustration.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is the author of Becoming Dickens (Harvard UP, 2011), winner of the 2011 Duff Cooper Prize, and he has edited editions of Dickens's Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books and Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor for Oxford World's Classics. He writes regularly for publications including the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, TLS, and New
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Rating details

7,774 ratings
3.41 out of 5 stars
5 22% (1,733)
4 25% (1,955)
3 31% (2,434)
2 15% (1,147)
1 6% (505)
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