I can’t remember what age I was when I came across Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies. I must have read it earlier than my other childhood favourite, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, which was a Christmas gift in 1948, but at that age I can’t have tackled the Kingsley tale in its full version. I must have read a shortened illustrated children’s text, of which there have been many. I loved the story of Tom’s adventures, first as a dirty chimney-sweep intruding on little Ellie in her fine white bedchamber, then when he went on the run through a landscape that strangely mixes Yorkshire and Devon, then as a water-baby, as he ventures down the rivers and into the sea. I sympathized with his loneliness and with his longing to find other water-babies, and rejoiced with him when he discovered that the sea was full of them.