The Family Under the Bridge

Book: The Family Under the Bridge
Author: Natalie Savage Carlson
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Publisher: HarperCollins, reissued in 1989
ISBN-13: 978-0812473544 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 081247354X (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0064402507 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0064402509 (Paperback)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 7-12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Many publishers and/or authors provide copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion. Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Carlson Natalie Savage. The Family Under the Bridge (published in 1958 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). Armand Pouly is an old Parisian hobo who lives under a bridge in the streets of Paris and relishes his solitary, carefree life, begging and doing odd jobs to keep himself warmed and fed. He says that children are like starlings, and a man is better off without them. However, one day just before Christmas, he returns to his home under the bridge on the Seine River to find three children, Suzy, Paul, and Evelyne Calcet, in his usual place. Their widowed mother, Madame Calcet, can no longer afford their rent since her husband died, so the family was put out of their home and moved to live under the bridge.

At first, Armand is not happy about having the children around, and their proud mother is not at all pleased with his life of begging, so Armand leaves but then begins to worry about the children and returns to see if they are all right, though he is still a trifle apprehensive. However, when they tell him that two women in fur coats visited them with threats to take them away to an institution and put their mama in jail, Armand decides that he must try to help them in some way or another. But what can he do? And where can he go to find help? This book with the adventures of Armand and the children around Paris — complete with gypsies and a Santa Claus — won a Newbery Honor Award in 1959. It has been recommended to us by several people.

A mention of cigarettes does occur. Of course, the story takes place in France, so there are references to the religious celebration of Christmas by a Roman Catholic priest. It is not “politically correct” because it makes the homeless look lazy. However, in general, the message of the book is a good one, helping kids who do have to be more mindful of those who don’t. The morals illustrated are that families must stick together and that jobs give self-respect. The book has been called “delightfully warm and enjoyable,” “a story which children will treasure,” “a thoroughly delightful story of humor and sentiment,” and “a charming and memorable story” that is “told with warmth and humor.” I enjoyed reading it and recommend it highly.

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