The Water Babies

The Water Babies

by Charles Kingsley

Paperback(Large Print)

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A classic since its first publication, in 1863, The Water-Babies is the story of Tom, a little chimney sweep, and his magical adventures beneath the waves.

When young Tom flees his sooty, dangerous toil and his cruel master, Grimes, he finds himself plunged into "a quiet, silent, rich, happy place"—a land beneath the water "so out of the way the bad bogies can hardly find it out." There, Tom meets haughty dragonflies, makes friends with a slowwitted lobster, and dodges hungry otters. Eventually he meets the other water-babies and their clever rulers, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid and Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby.

Charles Kingsley's "fairy tale for a land baby" has charmed generations of readers. This handsome facsimile edition-with Jessie Willcox Smith's twelve exquisite full-color plates and two-color illustrations throughout-is the perfect way to introduce this classic to a new generation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847026163
Publisher: Echo Library
Publication date: 01/29/2007
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 356
Sales rank: 1,077,029
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Charles Kingsley is best known for writing The Water-Babies. Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964) was a much loved British illustrator whose artwork holds a unique appeal to both children and adults. A huge commercial success during her lifetime, her illustrations are familiar from stories such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Wendy and The Water Babies, each recognized and loved as nursery classics around the world.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Once upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his name was Tom. That is a short name, and you have heard it before, so you will not have much trouble in remembering it. He lived in a great town in the North country, where there were plenty of chimneys to sweep, and plenty of money for Tom to earn and his master to spend. He could not read nor write, and did not care to do either; and he never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he lived. He had never been taught to say his prayers. He never had heard of God, or of Christ, except in words which you never have heard, and which it would have been well if he had never heard. He cried half his time, and laughed the other half. He cried when he had to climb the dark flues, rubbing his poor knees and elbows raw; and when the soot got into his eyes, which it did every day in the week; and when his master beat him, which he did every day in the week; and when he had not enough to eat, which happened every day in the week likewise. And he laughed the other half of the day, when he was tossing half pennies with the other boys, or playing leap-frog over the posts, or bowling stones at the horses' legs as they trotted by, which last was excellent -fun, when there was a wall at hand behind which to hide. As for chimney-sweeping, and being hungry, and being beaten, he took all that for the way of the world, like the rain and snow and thunder, and stood manfully with his back to it till it was over, as his old donkey did to a hail-storm; and then shook his ears and was as jolly as ever; and thought of the fine times coming, when he would be a man, and a master sweep, and sit inthe public-house with a quart of beer and a long pipe, and play cards for silver money, and wear velveteens and ankle-jacks, and keep a white bull-dog with one gray ear, and carry her puppies in his pocket, just like a man. And he would have apprentices, one, two, three, if he could. How he would bully them, and knock them about, just as his master did to him; and make them carry home the soot sacks, while he rode before them on his donkey, with a pipe in his mouth and a flower in his buttonhole, like a king at the head of his army. Yes, there were good times, coming.

One day a smart little groom rode into the court where Tom lived. Tom was just hiding behind a wall, to heave half a brick at his horse's legs, as is the custom of that country when they welcome strangers; but the groom saw him, and halloed to him to know where Mr. Grimes, the chimney-sweep, lived. Now, Mr. Grimes was Tom's own master, and Tom was a good man of business, and always civil to customers, so he put the half-brick down quietly behind the wall, and proceeded to take orders.

Mr. Grimes was to come up next morning to Sir John Harthover's, at the Place, for his old chimney-sweep was gone to prison, and the chimneys wanted sweeping. And so he rode away, not giving Tom time to ask what the sweep had gone to prison for, which was a matter of interest to Tom, as he had been in prison once or twice himself. Moreover, the groom looked so very neat and clean, with his drab gaiters, drab breeches, drab jacket, snow-white tie with a smart pin in it, and clean round ruddy face, that Tom was offended and disgusted at his appearance, and considered him a stuck-up fellow, who gave himself airs because he wore smart clothes, and other people paid for them; and went behind the wall to fetch the half-brick after all; but did not, remembering that he had come in the way of business, and was, as it were, under a flag of truce.

His master was so delighted at his new customer that he knocked Tom down out of hand, and drank more beer that night than he usually did in two, in order to be sure of getting up in time next morning; for the more a man's head aches when he wakes, the more glad he is to turn out, and have a breath of fresh air. And, when he did get up at four the next morning, he knocked Tom down again, in order to teach him (as young gentlemen used to be taught at public schools) that he must be an extra good boy that day, as they were going to a very great house, and might make a very good thing of it, if they could but give satisfaction.

And Tom thought so likewise, and, indeed, would have done and behaved his best, even without being knocked down. For, of all places upon earth, Harthover Place (which he had never seen) was the most wonderful, and, of all men on earth, Sir John (whom he had seen, having been sent to gaol by him twice) was the most awful.

Harthover Place was really a grand place, even for the rich North country; with a park full of deer, which Tom believed to be monsters who were in the habit of eating children; with miles of game-preserves, in which Mr. Grimes and the collier lads poached at times, on which occasions Tom saw pheasants, and wondered what they tasted like; with a noble salmon-river, in which Mr. Grimes and his friends would have liked to poach; but then they must have got into cold water, and that they did not like at all.

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The Water-Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I remember this book after 50+ years since my childhood. This is the very earliest book from childhood, I can recall. The story and pictures made such an impression on my very young mind. I'd forgotten how the story started but never forgot those enchanting water babies! I MUST have this book to read to my granddaughter. I know it will be THE book she will never forget, as well. Seems the books of today are very skimpy on imagination and have little redeaming value.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book of great charm, but in the original it has a lot that is pretty ethnically insulting. The author also had strong feelings about various forms of government (including US) that he was quite eager to display. I didn't feel the bowdlerization helped soften the blows that much, and it did make the book seem a little thin. The Penguin edition is unabridged, and you can judge the author and his opinions more objectively. It is of historical interest for its early support of Darwinism, for its concern with the abuse of child labor, and other issues. Bite the bullet and buy the unabridged version. Don't feel too guilty about reading the slurs; if none of your ancestors is among the insulted, you are in a very small minority indeed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 56 Years old. This book was the very first book that made such an impression on me that to this day I still remember it. I could not have been more than 5 years old and have been looking for it for years. I cannot wait to share it with my granddaughter!
hnebeker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very old book but it was read to me as a child and I wanted to rediscover it. What a wonderful world Kingsley takes us to. I love the story of Tom the chimney sweep and remember wanting to be just like Ellie. While there are some editions that have illustrations and they are unbelievably beautiful, nothing can compare to the images I created in my imagination when this book was read to me. I had a wonderful experience of remembering many of them as I reread the book this last month. I don't hear of many people who know of this book anymore. It is an absolute classic and I implore you to read it and share it.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This Victorian children's morality tale is one that I've not heard many other people mention and that is a shame. It is more sophisticated than many elementary school-aged books written now and yet still sweet. Tom, a little chimney-sweep who is smacked about by his master, is cleaning a chimney at a great house when he is mistakenly thought to be a thief. He is terrified and runs off, all the while trailed by the queen of the fairies. After encountering huge obstacles in his path and overcoming them, he faces more mistrust and so wanders off to bathe in the river. He falls in and is transformed into a water-baby. As a water-baby, he has many adventures and learns to be a better boy than he had ever been when on land. This story owes much both to Gulliver's Travels and to The Odyssey. There are many strange creatures who instruct Tom in what is right and good during his quest and he has a loyal girl waiting for him to come home to her during his strangest adventure. The language would probably be a bit tough for elementary school readers today, either because they didn't understand it or simply because it is quite ornate and descriptive, unlike today's books, but the creativity of the land in which the water-babies live and the creatures that populate it might help children overcome these difficulties. There were pockets of the story that were a bit tedious in their insistence on moral lessons being pointed out in case the reader missed the significance of Tom's experience but this is very much a hallmark of the literature of the time and didn't ultimately detract from the overall loveliness of the story.
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not really a children's book , more early SF / modern morality tale/ social commentary . Firmly grounded in evolution and biology as known at the time, Tom the chimney sweep's boy is transformed into a miniature aquatic baby complete with external gills. He learns and develops in his new environment and evolves into a decent human being.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOOKS HORIED i mean water babies:( different face frowny face
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JeanieJN More than 1 year ago
The Water Babies was my favorite book growing up. My sister still has the original book we had as children. I have one at my home for my grandchilren to look at and am now buying one for my first Great Grandchild. A must have. I DO want to get it in hardback though
Anonymous More than 1 year ago