fiction favorites…The Family Under the Bridge

 

“You ought to put the starlings in some charity home until you find a place of your own, madame,” suggested Armand, after the children had dropped off to sleep.  “This life is not for them.  Now, you wouldn’t want them to end up like me, would you?”

“Families should stick together through the lean times as well as the fat,” replied the woman.

Armand stretched out on his canvas without bothering about any covering.  He was used to the cold.  He never felt it any more.  But he was sure these children would feel it.  As he lay on the hard concrete an uneasy thought worried him, like a mouse gnawing at his shoestring.  Now that he had befriended these starlings, his life would never again be completely his own.

Speaking of homes…as I was yesterday…The Family Under the Bridge, by Natalie Savage Carlson,  is an exceptionally dear story about a homeless hobo named Armand and his unlikely friendship with a small flock of homeless children.  The story takes place in Paris in about 1930.  Armand lives the life of a tramp, sheltering himself under one of the many picturesque bridges that cross the Seine.

  He is a bit of a grump, actually, harboring no wish to care for anyone but himself.  Certainly he has no room in his heart or life for children.  Or so he thinks.  The 3 Calcet children have a way of slipping past all of Armand’s defenses and capturing his heart.  Before long, Armand finds himself caught up in a quest to give these children the desire of their hearts – a real house; a real home. And in exchange, he finds himself a welcome part of a loving family.

This story is so human, so tender and funny and warm.  The characters are memorable, the Parisian setting is perfect.  No wonder it was a Newbery Honor book when it was published in 1958.  Garth Williams’ illustrations perfectly complement the story.  This makes a great read-aloud for children approximately ages 6 and up, or a fairly short chapter book for a confident young reader to tackle on his/her own.  I have read it several times and would read it again in a heartbeat.  Highly recommended.