Title: The Family Under the BridgeThe-Family-Under-the-Bridge
Author: Natalie Savage Carlson
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Pages: 97
Reading Level: 11 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

What a cute cover illustration!

The Story.

Armand is very proud of his home. It is under one of the very nicest bridges in the beautiful city of Paris! It is comfortable – it is happy. It is the place to which he returns after a day’s hard work of begging.

One day he returns to his home as normal, and finds there something that fills his heart with terror. He finds three children huddled in his space, and if there is anything that Armand does not want, it is three little starlings to be constantly hanging about him. But as they seem perfectly helpless, he grudgingly accepts them…

Several days later, his peace is threatened again, and once again, it’s because of the starlings. This time, charitable women are threatening to take the children away. Away! He may not have wanted the children, but now that he has them, they’re his!

Can Armand get the children away in time? Or will they be taken from him forever?

Cautions.

Armand is a crotchety, selfish old man. One of the main manifestations of his selfishness is his dislike of children and pointed avoidance of them. When the three children first arrive under his bridge, he voices his dislike of them, but petulantly accepts their presence there. Over the course of the story he matures, however, and in the end he considers the children to be his own.

Halfway through the story, Armand takes the children to live with a band of Gypsies. Their mother voices legitimate objections – the style of living, the bad moral influence, etc. – which Armand dismisses. However, not long after their arrival, Paul does indeed pick up bad habits (he is no longer affectionate towards his family and wishes to live recklessly) which Armand and the rest bemoan, but Armand never recognizes their cause. In the end, Paul remains with the family although he wants very badly to go with the Gypsies.

A young Gypsy girl tells a fictitious version of Christ’s Crucifixion in which Saint Mary Jacobe, Saint Mary Salome, and Saint Sara play pivotal roles. She also tells the children that one of the Wise Men was a Gypsy.

A Gypsy woman offers to tell people’s fortunes.

The entire story occurs at Christmas time. The children believe that Father Christmas is real and ask him for presents; the adults encourage this belief.

The Gypsies and family attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

In two scenes, Armand cautions the children not to tell their mother that he let them do certain things. She finds out anyway, but he still should not have encouraged such concealment from her.

Armand steals some food and tells several superfluous lies.

Magic is referenced.

Conclusion. Sweet, but not the best.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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