Skip to main content

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, pictures by Garth Williams 97pp RL4

Written in 1958 and winner of the Newbery Honor, The Family Under the Bridge is the story of how an old hobo named Armand, who wants nothing of homes, responsibility and regular work, ends up with all of these as well as a family of children.

Set in Paris, France in a time when hobos were more like wandering gypsies than the people living on the streets these days, the story follows Armand as he befriends the three young children, Suzy, Paul and Evelyne, their mother and Jojo, a shaggy dog that should have been white. Working all day at the laundry, Madame Calcet cannot watch her children and does not want them in school in case it is discovered that they are homeless. When she hides them in the niche that Armand usually occupies under a bridge that crosses the Seine, he is quite put out to have visitors in his camp. However, the children quickly convince him to allow them to tag along as he wanders the city by day.

With Christmas approaching, Armand tells the children that he knows Father Christmas and will take them to see him. They spend a wonderful day walking to the Louvre, where Father Christmas, who is really Armand's friend, is working, then window shopping through the city streets where Armand has the idea to have the children sing for alms. When Madam Calcet learns that they have been begging, she is furious. In an effort to keep her from leaving the safe spot under the bridge, Armand packs up and leaves, much to the children's distress.

When it begins to snow, Armand returns to the children and takes them to his friends in the gypsy camp with its caravans and tents. It is much to her distaste and a huge blow to her pride, but Madame Calcet relents and allows Armand to make a place for them in the camp. However, things go up and down from there and events finally take a turn that leads Armand to seek a job.

The details of life in Paris make this an interesting book, as well as the descriptions of the gypsies and their lives. Garth Williams illustrations are smokey and grey, different from the line drawings in Charlotte's Web or those he did for Laura Ingall's Wilder's Little House Series. Yet, they are perfectly suited to the story and make it all the richer.


Jeremy said…
I had forgotten about this one, but I remember being surprised at how fascinated my girls were listening to it. I hadn't had much hope for it, but they were mesmerized. I liked it warm and exotic somehow.
Tanya said…
I had never read this one as a child (or to my own) and was really charmed by it as well! I definitely agree with your description of it as being exotic and warm!
storytimebooks said…
I remember this book, it's been forever since I have read it but I remember loving it. Thanks for sharing.

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…