Once there was an old hobo named Armand who wouldn’t have lived anywhere but in Paris. So that is where he lived.
Everything that he owned could be pushed around in an old baby buggy without any hood, so he had no worries about rents or burglars. All the ragged clothing he owned was on his back, so he didn’t need to bother with trunks or dry-cleaners.
It was easy for him to move from one hidey-hole to another so that is what he was doing one late morning in December. It was a cold day with the gray sky hanging on the very chimney pots of Paris. But Armand did not mind because he had a tickly feeling that something new and exciting was going to happen to him today.
Unattached, responsible for no one but himself, Armand is a happy, old, tramp who knows his way around Paris, enjoys many friends, and glories in his carefree life. He is not on the lookout for a settled home, but for adventure. Above all, Armand wants to avoid children. Starlings, he calls them. “Witless, twittering, little pests.” His dear friend, Mireli, accuses him of being afraid of children. “You’re afraid the sly little things will steal your heart if they find out you have one,” she says.
So, on this cold December day, when Armand meets three, ragged children, tucked into the corner under a bridge he considers his own, he feels decidedly grumpy. He wants nothing to do with them. Yet the Calcet children — Suzy, Paul and Evelyne — aren’t afraid of Armand’s gruff exterior. And before Armand knows what’s happening, these children have indeed wormed their way into his heart, and Armand is working overtime to help make their Christmas wishes — for a home of their own — come true.
This book, which won a Newbery Honor in 1959, is one of my very favorites. In my homeschooling days, each of my children read this as soon as their reading skills allowed — that’s about a high-3rd or 4th grade level. It is a charming story, sprinkled with humor, crammed with heart, set in Paris, and as a bonus, it’s illustrated by the one-and-only Garth Williams. Since it takes place at Christmastime, this would also make a sweet family read during this season.
Here’s an Amazon link: The Family Under the Bridge