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Water Babies (Anglais)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.1 étoiles sur 5 68 commentaires
178 internautes sur 187 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Do NOT buy this abridged version! 16 octobre 1999
Par Paul B. - Publié sur
Format: Broché
Kingsley's novel is brilliant--it's a fantastic and difficult read for both children and adults. But do NOT buy the abridged version (Puffin). One thing that is taken out is Kingsley's many sarcastic references to American democracy. The publishers have taken out the anti-American sentiment to sell more copies to Americans--this is, of course, a very American thing to do, and it's this sort of thing that led to Kingsley's satire in the first place. I would suggest that publishers stop mutilating books and start reading them. I certainly hope people will stop buying the abridged version.
I note, by the way, that the anti-Irish sections are left untouched.
Here are some passages--page numbers are to the excellent Oxford World's Classics version, ed. Brian Alderson (1995):
"But he [Cousin Cramchild] was raised in a country where little boys are not expected to be respectful, because all of them are as good as the President." (85)
"Being quite comfortable is a very good thing; but it does not make people good. Indeed, it sometimes makes them naughty, as it has made the people in America . . ." (115)
" But they were true republicans, those hoodies, who do every one just what he likes, and make other people do so too; so that, for any freedom of speech, thought, or action, which is allowed among them, they might as well be American citizens of the new school." (141)
"So she packs them [the sperm whales] away in a great pond by themselves at the South Pole, two hundred and sixty-three miles south-east of Mount Erebus, the great volcano in the ice; and there they butt each other with their ugly noses, day and night from year's end to year's end. And if they think that sport--why, so do their American cousins." (147)
There are others.
61 internautes sur 64 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 "My Name is Written in my Eyes..." 20 août 2004
Par R. M. Fisher - Publié sur
Format: Broché
"The Water-Babies" by Charles Kingsley is best described with reference to J. M. Barrie's more famous work "Peter Pan", both of which belong in the canon of Victorian fairytales. Kingsley's work is poised between two words: the world of Christianity and the whimsical realm of fairies, and the onset of the scientific and historical developments that resulted in the evolution theory, industrial factories and the War. Although certainly not as famous as Barrie's tale of the boy that never grew up, Kingsley's story is equally fascinating, though much more difficult to read.

Tom is a young chimney sweep of London, under the brutal care of Mr Grimes who doesn't hesitate in sending him up the filthiest, narrowest chimneys whilst he collects the money from downstairs. Tom himself is quite the little savage, but when his master is employed at Harthover Place, he is in for a surprise. Getting lost on the rooftop and crawling down the wrong chimney, Tom finds himself in a room where three things change his life. The first is a picture of the Crucifixion on the wall. Having no idea who Christ is, Tom is rather intrigued by the picture: "Poor man, he looks so kind and quiet. But why should the lady have such a sad picture in her room?" The second is the young girl asleep in the bed, beautiful and peaceful. The third is his own reflection in the mirror, which horrifies him - "Tom, for the first time in his life, found that he was dirty".

Accidentally waking the little girl on his way out, Tom sets the entire household upon him - out of the house, across the moorlands and down the valley to meet his "death" in a nearby creek, and his rebirth as a water-baby. And there his adventures really begin, as he investigates his new form, meets the river-folk and begins his journey to be reunited with the little girl in the white bedroom - Ellie, who has not forgotten the boy who woke her from her sleep.

Like Barrie, Kingsley's story is chock full of allegory and moralising, namely concerned with images of baptism and rejuvenation, as seen from Tom's transformation from "dirty" (figuratively and literally) to the white form of the water baby, to the moral growth that he gains over the course of the story. Presiding over all of Tom's adventures is the Madonna-like figure of Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-by; a fairy queen that takes many different forms and names throughout the course of the story. As well as this, there are touches of the Victorian fascination with insect life, as Tom's `evolution' could also be compared with the pupae and larvae stages of the insect life cycle that (with the onset of microscopes) was being explored by biologists of the age.

But Kingsley's story falls short in several aspects, namely when he is speaking to an adult audience rather than a child one. Though the story is subtitled "a fairytale for a land-baby" and the narrator is conversational and chatty throughout (in fact the style reminds me a great deal of C. S. Lewis in the "Narnia" series) calling the reader "little man" and often providing legitimate queries that the reader would probably be asking at that time, often he strays away from Tom's story to discuss his own personal opinions and theories on the general mindset of the Victorian world - some of which is amusing, some of which is tedious.

For instance, Kingsley perhaps gives us the strongest evidence of the existence of fairies in the world - or at least why experts can never really claim that fairies, water babies and other such creatures do not exist. Only his own words can really do this justice; as the reader says: "But there are no such things as water babies," to which he answers with devastating logic: "how do you know? Have you ever been there to see? No one has a right to say water babies don't exist until they have seen no water babies existing." You can never prove a universal negative!

But these amusing ponderings, and tongue-in-cheek criticisms on other Victorian minds will probably be far over the heads of any children that the book is aimed toward. I can't believe I'm saying this, considering I hate having original books tampered with, but perhaps it would be best to read a young child an abridged version of Kingsley's story, and waiting till they're older for the complete text. For the record, I got my copy at age nine, and didn't get it finished till ten years later. Furthermore, it is a book of its time, and you'll find within its pages several disparaging remarks directed toward the Irish, Americans and several other ethnic groups (heck, this *was* written during the British empire!)

However, Kingsley's book is a necessary inclusion into the library of children's literature - namely because it can be enjoyed by adults too. With a poignant look at the horrors of a sweep's life, to the humorous commentary on his contemporaries, his intriguing philosophy on the nature of fairies and the sublime moments of Christian spirituality, this is a classic to be read and re-read in childhood, adulthood and old age; it'll be a different story each time.
52 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A classic mid-Victorian fairy tale 18 novembre 1998
Par - Publié sur
Format: Relié
[A warning--there is no unabridged version of "Water Babies" now in print. The Puffin notes that it is abridged, but the Wonder Book with the beautiful Wilcox-Smith illustrations does not state that it is abridged, but it is. Check university libraries for 1898 or so versions illustrated by "Linley Sambourne."] "The Water Babies" first published in 1863 is a classic mid-Victorian fairy tale that also reveals some of the preoccupations and anxieties of Victorian culture including sanitary health reform (hence the emphasis on cleanliness); Christian socialism (that is social reform based on Christian teachings); child labor and child abuse; and primary education. The dark side of Victorian culture is also revealed in this tale--especially in the original unabridged versions. Here we see a philosophy of social Darwinism that leads easily to notions of white supremacy as well as much anti-Irish sentiment--this at a time when Ireland had still not recovered from the horrific "Great Famine" of 1845-1852. There is also a sub-text of anxiety about adolescent male sexuality--of young men needing to maintain sexualy purity before marriage--again, the emphasis on Tom purifying and cleansing himself. Although written for children, it is a rather difficult text whose language does not invite the young reader in in the way that the Oz books or the Alice books do. I think its real use is as a document of mid-Victorian culture and is best read in the context of other "social problem" or "condition-of-England" novels such as Kingsley's "Alton Locke" or Dickens's "Hard Times."
17 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 READ the book, steer clear of the movie 6 juin 2004
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Truly only for children (or adults) who are already readers with inquiring minds and imaginative, curious natures. The era, great detail and background of the book put me in mind of tales from Dickens. It makes a time-traveler of the reader. If books already transport you, this one will take you to wonderfully imaginative places. If you want today's 'politically correct' or simple easy reading, don't bother with WaterBabies. But for a window on another time and place (and a lovely bit of magic), this books's priceless.
I tend to rate children's book solely on their entertainment value and how well they capture and retain interest. This book may not be for every child or adult but if you like fairy tales, underwater adventure, and stories where striving and good eventually triumph (yes, a happy ending :-) This is just lovely.
I bought a facsimile of the first edition when I was a kid and recently bought the edition with Jesse Wilcox Smith simply for her illustrations. Children would probably enjoy the abridged (and less dense) edition better than the original but I'm sure it all depends on the child. And there are many illustrated copies by noted artists that can be bought used.
Kingsley's Water-Babies was a childhood favorite, I read it to my son when he was of an age, and look forward to reading it and discussing it with grandchildren. As a child I was a bit shocked over the blatant condescension towards the Irish probably because as an Irish-American I had never come across such attitudes before. It was an eye-opener as to the views of the era but certainly more as an occasional background aside - not enough to detract from the overall magic of the book.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not for 1999 Children 4 janvier 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I have just reread a copy of the book given to me as a child in the 1930's. At the time I looked at the pictures, had it read to me by my grandmother, and didn't like the story...too convoluted and strange to my American ears. On rereading at age 75 I am fascinated by the Victorian cultural attitude toward children. Must reading for anyone in childhood education, but not for little kids!
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