Oldies, Goodies, or Just Plain Weird

As a mum, I’ve made more of an effort to read with Iris the children’s classics that I myself missed as a child. These include Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, The Railway Children and most recently, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. Most of these have proven worthy of their “classics” mantle. However, you come across some books where the authors must have been imbibing some mind-altering substance or other while writing them.

Alice in Wonderland is obviously one of these. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lewis Carroll’s weird world but there was a reason Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were inspired by it. #justsaying

With The Water Babies, I was expecting something like The Wind in the Willows. I love the intricasy of old-style illustrations that are almost like individual paintings. Having read Peter Pan with Iris over two years ago, we were used to the Victorian style of writing. It started off well with Tom and his life as a chimney sweep’s apprentice. Very David Copperfield. However, once he gets whisked off to be with the fairies, both literally and figuratively, it goes a bit to pot (pun intended).

Obviously, there are several metaphors and hidden themes running through it, but it’s a children’s book for goodness sake. My nine-year-old just wanted to know what happened to Tom, whether he finally got together with the other water babies, whether he found Grimes at the end of the world and got to live with Ellie. The descriptions of the fish and his surroundings was often quite boring and the expositional style did not help.

This is probably better as a study text for older kids. Or something to read to put you and your child to sleep.

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