Sunday, July 10, 2022

Book Review: The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson (1958)

Armand, a homeless old Parisian man, has never wanted to be tied down by traditional family life.  When three children and their mother move in beneath the bridge he thinks of as his own, he is at first very resistant. Over time, though, his affection for the little family motivates him to look beyond his own desires and help the little "starlings" get back on their feet. 

I have read this book three times, and have never managed to put my thoughts down in a review. In a lot of ways, it's a very sentimental story, the kind of heartwarming tale that I like to read around Christmastime, which is when the story takes place. Because it has that sentimental feel to it, not everything that happens in the story feels completely realistic, and sometimes that has bothered me. I also struggle with the French pronunciation when I read the book aloud.

Still, in terms of setting and character, I think it's a top-notch children's book. Armand is a very different hero for a children's story, and I think young readers fall in love with him the same way the young children in the story do. Though homelessness is slightly romanticized by this book, the story does give kids a chance to contemplate what it might be like to live in less fortunate circumstances. It's also fun to do a bit of armchair traveling to Paris with Armand as a guide. 

My most recent reading of this was aloud to my 6-year-old. She didn't love it as much as her older sister did, but I wonder if that will change in a year or two when I read it again to the next child. In any case, I'm happy to keep this book on our shelves as a feel-good read for the holiday season. 

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