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The Water-Babies (The World's Classics) Paperback – March 30, 1995
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Charles Kingsley published this book in 1873, just after Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species," "Variations in Animals and Plants Under Domestication" and "The Descent of Man..." appeared. Kingsley was probably aware of how the controversial concept of evolution impacted both the belief in a divine being and the concept of creation by a higher power. The book has always seemed to me to present a reasonable resolution of these concepts. As a child, I read and reread the book. As an adult, I found that Kingsley sometimes seems to "talk down" to his young readers; this possibly reflects the manners and attitudes of the 19th century,
One of my favorites from my childhood. A lovely fable and fairy tale! Stunningly gorgeous illustrations! A hardworking boy, transformation into a water baby, good fairies, an entire undersea world - pure magic! A treat of a story that makes one WANT to be honest, trustworthy, courageous, determined, considerate, kind, caring, and good! The beauty and benefits of this story far outweigh its few flaws from a dated past.
Somewhat passé today in our politically correct society due to the complacent English prejudices (hopefully only from the era in which it was written) mentioned in it. Racial stereotyping was completely acceptable in children's books (and society as a whole) not just in England but everywhere and not that long ago.
The one bit that stuck with me was something to the effect ... If you ask Paddy (as a symbol for the entire Irish population!) a question and he lies in answer, don't get angry at him as he doesn't know any better. Egads. Hard to believe but sadly too believable. I'm Irish therefore I lie?? OMG!! But in fairness, in the beginning chapters of the book, the author did have the fairy godmother type take the form of a wholly admirable and beautiful Irish peasant woman to look out for and talk to our hero, Tom :-)
As an Irish-American who has never experienced any anti-Irish prejudice, I thoroughly enjoyed this book both as a child and still love it as an adult. So don't let my prejudice comment stop you from reading the book. It's old, from another era, and the author had a well-meaning, kindly but unthinking and sometimes ridiculous victorian paternalistic attitude towards the Irish that I found at worst irksome but easily ignored. It snuck in here and there but was not the focus of the book. And he certainly was not rabidly anti-Irish as some from his era were. Actually, I got the feeling that the author was probably a bit forward thinking and more kindly inclined to the Irish for his time though still a product of his own upbringing and times.
I know that "politically correct" is often made fun of nowadays. I'm all for it in modern lit simply because - to our children- kindness, fairness, and equality will simply be taken for granted one day. And that would be a wonderful thing! But at the same time I would hate for any lit from the past to be white-washed or cleaned up simply to meet today's standards. It is part of a historical record. One day, racial stereotyping will simply be a ridiculous primitive practice from the past. Both kids and adults will enjoy wondering innocently how people could ever have been so silly! Re-writing classics or the past serves no one.
Overall, this is a sweet, wholesome, moral and still very appealing book which I would be happy to gift to any child or adult! It still has much to offer the modern reader.
Must clarify on the question about violence: violence at a child's fantasy level, much in the way that children love cartoons despite the beatings, clobberings, flattenings etc.