The Family Under the Bridge

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Harper Collins, Feb 15, 1989 - Juvenile Fiction - 128 pages
5 Reviews

This is the delightfully warm and enjoyable story of an old Parisian named Armand, who relished his solitary life. Children, he said, were like starlings, and one was better off without them.
But the children who lived under the bridge recognized a true friend when they met one, even if the friend seemed a trifle unwilling at the start. And it did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself ready-made family; one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge.

Armand and the children's adventures around Paris -- complete with gypsies and a Santa Claus -- make a story which children will treasure.


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Armand, an old hobo, lives in the olden days of Paris. In the freezing cold of December, he finds a small helpless family, and he surely can't leave them to fend for themselves. Grudgingly, he takes them in. He doesn't want to feel responsible for these 'starlings', as he calls the young children... but Armand immediately realizes that he must protect his soft heart before the children nuzzle their way into it.
Together, this small bunch concocts their own simple Christmas festivities, in the middle of the city streets. Even though don't have any extra coins to spare, they try to find a way to celebrate the Christmas spirit.
This is a lovely holiday story about finding out about the best presents to give. Join the little gang in this simply-written, but effective story. It might be a young children's book, but anyone young-at-heart will certainly enjoy "The Family Under the Bridge".

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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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About the author (1989)

Natalie Savage Carlson is fondly remembered as the author of the much-loved Orpheline series and Surprise in the Mountains. Born in Virginia, Ms. Carlson later lived in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and the Pacific Northwest. She eventually settled in Florida prior to her death.

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