Customer Reviews: The Family Under the Bridge
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on August 24, 2000
Armand is a hobo who lives in Paris, under a bridge. He begs and does odd jobs for money to take care of himself and buy food. One day he finds a mother and her three children in his "home", under the bridge. At first he is gruff and unhappy about sharing the bridge, but in time he begins to like and help care for this poor homeless family. As Christmas nears, the children ask for nothing except a home of their own and Armand comes up with a plan to make their wish come true. Natalie Savage Carlson has written a beautiful, sensitive story full of humor, insight and wisdom. With fast paced, interesting scenes, young readers will be able to identify with the characters of the children in the story and begin to understand the meaning of family and the rewards of giving and accepting help from others. Perfect for children aged 9-12, this is also a great read-aloud book the entire family can enjoy and discuss. The Family Under the Bridge is a thoughtful, heartwarming story and Ms Carlson deserved all the awards this book won.
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on May 3, 2005
Natalie Savage Carlson perfectly illustrates what it means to be a family in this heartwarming book. The book is set in Paris in the early 1900's. It explores the world of hoboes and homeless people, a topic which children usually have little experience with. Armand is a homeless man who lives a solitary life under a bridge over the Seine River. He faithfully avoids children, calling them starlings, and saying they will steal your heart if you aren't careful. One day he arrives back home under the bridge, only to find a group of starlings sleeping in his spot. He tries his best to keep them out of his heart, but they work their way in and call Armand their grandpa. The importance of family is the main theme of this book. Armand finds a family and in the end couldn't be happier about it.

Children will love this book. Homelessness isn't something that most children are very familiar with. This unique book will help children understand that even children their age can be homeless. Most homeless people are looked at as being lazy and worthless. This book will show children that some homeless people are just like them, but they are just down in their luck. This is a heartwarming book and deserves attention in the classroom.
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on November 26, 2000
The Family Under the Bridge is about an old crabby hobo named Armand who had nothing but the raged clothes on his back and a little baby buggy with his belongings. He lived in crowded corners and alleys and then in the winter he would live under a bridge. One winter, he was surprised to find three children living under his bridge, and to make matters worse, Armand absolutely hated children. He decided to find another bridge since there were many bridges in Paris, but the children begged him to stay. He softened his heart and decided to stay with the three children and their mother. Armand took the children along with him while he traveled around the streets. It was not long before Armand realized he had gotten himself a family- one he loved with all his heart. They stayed together and Armand soon found a job and got a house for the five of them to live in.
I enjoyed The Family Under the Bridge but it wasn't one of my all-time favorites. It was fairly entertaining. Many parts of the book were exciting and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next, but there were also some slow parts. Overall I thought it was a pretty good book.
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What ever happened to the good old days when children and tramps could live under the bridges of Paris, France in peaceful harmony? Well now we can return once again those halcyon days with Natalie Savage Carlson's Newbery Honor winning little book, "The Family Under the Bridge". A simple remarkably upbeat little tale, it defines what it means to be a family while telling the tale of an adorable homeless man and his unwilling adoption by three fatherless children. As storybooks go, this one has aged a bit poorly in light of its child abandonment and transient issues. But it has a good heart and a fine little story. I'm not going to put it on a pedestal or say that in 200 years it should be remembered as one of the top 100 children's books of the 20th century. But it's cute and probably has legions of fans who remember it from their own youth.

Hobos may come and hobos may go, but Armand of Paris isn't going anywhere. He loves his beautiful French city with its history and ample bridges to sleep under. With winter fast approaching, Armand's just on his way to put his ever moving home under his favorite bridge when he receives a nasty shock. There, camped out under a thin blanket, are three red-haired children. Armand doesn't trust children as a rule. His greatest fear is that he'll grow to love them and then no longer be the freewheeling king of the road that he currently is. These fears prove to be well founded when the kids adopt Armand as an unofficial grandfatherly figure and go with him all around and about the city. Their dream is to someday have a home of their own, and with Armand's help and a little gumption, that dream starts to look a little more possible every day.

The story's cute enough, with Armand as a roly-poly harmless figure leading the kids hither and thither throughout Paris. There are some wonderful sequences with a traveling band of gypsies (who, remarkably, are exempt from that stereotypical magic-creature label they've acquired in hundreds of other children's books). The gypsies are presented as regular folks, which I appreciated hugely. Also, the book has a satisfying ending that all children hearing it will appreciate. Carlson's narrative voice is affecting and Garth Williams's illustrations (you may best remember him as the illustrator of the "Little House" books as well as "The Cricket In Times Square") are striking.

But then there are the problems that a book written in 1958 must face. Now in this story, the mother character regularly abandons her children, without food, under a bridge in busy Paris. She does this, rather than put them in a home where they could get (oh, I dunno) warm clothes and food, because of a fanatical instinct to keep the family together. I can understand this on some level. No one likes to be separated from their relations. However, even after the mother makes the acquaintance of Armand (who she does not trust for a number of reasons), she still leaves her children with him all day. She does not give them any food (they have to eat Armand's), or toys, or really anything to do but follow a fellow they don't even know around and about. When he feeds them during the day by urging them to sing and then collecting money from strangers, she's incensed. Better that her kids go hungry than (gasp, shudder) SING! If the bad parenting going on in this story weren't enough, the idea that people are homeless simply because they are lazy is a bit worn as well. Pretty much every tramp in this book is homeless because he or she wants to be. Plenty get work at a drop of a hat, and at the end of the tale Armand goes from a fellow with zero job experience to the superintendent of a building. And all because he's finally decided to get a job. So when your kids walk down the street and see homeless people asking for food or money, you can bet they'll rest assured that those people are there because they're just too lazy to get hired somewhere. What a lovely lesson to learn from a book.

Ugh. So there's that. It's a nice tale, don't get me wrong. But since I didn't grow up with it myself, I haven't a nostalgia for it that so many others do. I can see its charms and I can see its flaws. I prefer its charms, but I can't help but point out where it goes awry. All in all, it's a fine little story and I don't mean to imply that by reading it your kids will suddenly become callous towards those in need. Just bear in mind what the book is saying.
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on October 4, 2005
I thought this book was great. Right from the start A gypsy tells Armand that he would have an adventure that day. That day he meet the Calcet family and his life was not the same. Even though he tried to guard his heart, the kids got through to him. It is a great book to read with your family because it offers hope and takes you though on an adventure through Paris, including Notre Dame Cathedral, and The Court of Miracles. Armand said "you should never give up hope," when the fisherman wound up the fishing pole and found the missing pair of his shoe. It it a great book for families that are homeless or having a hard time in life and for all ages.
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on August 23, 2007
I picked this book up at the library thinking that it might help me in my own writing process and found it to be a good story with a wholesome underlying message.

Armand is a friendly hobo in Paris who is entering the holiday season. At these coldest of times, he makes his way to his usual dwelling under a bridge. This year he finds three young children and their mangy dog occupying his normal spot.

What Armand comes to find out is that these children and their mother are homeless because they can't afford rent. Armand is firm about moving on because he doesn't want the "starlings" to steal his heart. Yet, the children eventually soften his heart enough that he feels compelled to stay and help.

This story helped me realize why we actually go to work. Most people would probably not go to work if they didn't have bills or a family that needed their care. Honestly, it would be very intriguing to pack a small bag and travel around the country. Oh, you might have to humble yourself and ask for a few things on the way, but it sounds fun. I probably wouldn't mind sleeping outside on occasion. You figure, everyone needs a breath of fresh air and the outdoor sounds could become peaceful. Yet, I suppose there would come a time that you would have to move on.

Armand put it best about begging when he said, "It takes away a man's self-respect." There comes a time in a man's life where he has to decide whether he's a bum or whether he is willing to work. We all know work is not fun. That's why it's called work. You do your job not because you like it (even though that might be the case), but because you must for your family's sake. It is for the love of your family that you move on and face a job full of hardship.

I pray that more people change their ways like Armand and decide to love and care for other people besides themselves.
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on November 16, 2004
by Freya Jamison

Have you ever wondered about homeless people? If you have, then you should read The Family Under the Bridge! In the story, a hobo named Armand goes back to his winter home (under a bridge in Paris, France) and finds three small children there. Armand never liked kids so he tried to get them out but they wouldn't budge and after a while he came to love them. During the next few days he took them wherever he went during the day and he bought them food. About a week after that, two ladies came and threatened to take the children to a boarding school so Armand brought them to the gypsies. So if you like books about love, friendship and caring you should read The Family Under the Bridge!
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on October 24, 2015
Great book I read in school as a child I got this to add to my homeschool and just story book collection for my son who is 4 now. its not enough pictures to keep him engaged fully yet but we made it 4 chapters in one day before he was done checked out completely-- that was just a kind of test to see if he was ready for it and i know know hes not but i love the story and it paints a vivid picture for a child you also get to explain new things to them some words we just dont use so its a good for vocabulary growth and a classic i would say. My son already is putting the story together and feels sympathy for the children and knows Armand does have a heart etc . Its cute to see father christmas introduced as well since we never call him that around here my son has already learned so much from just one go at it i will be reading it many times until hes able to himself in the future.
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on September 6, 2012
The story is great, quite enjoyable to read with our son. I am disappointed with the binding, it's basically a paperback book with hard covers. Not good quality paper for the text block at all, not sure it's worth it buying the hardcover if the inside pages will yellow and turn brittle over time like paperbacks do.
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on August 7, 2014
Armand Pouly is an old Parisian hobo who lives under a bridge in the streets of Paris and relishes his solitary, carefree life, begging and doing odd jobs to keep himself warmed and fed. He says that children are like starlings, and a man is better off without them. However, one day just before Christmas, he returns to his home under the bridge on the Seine River to find three children, Suzy, Paul, and Evelyne Calcet, in his usual place. Their widowed mother, Madame Calcet, can no longer afford their rent since her husband died, so the family was put out of their home and moved to live under the bridge.

At first, Armand is not happy about having the children around, and their proud mother is not at all pleased with his life of begging, so Armand leaves but then begins to worry about the children and returns to see if they are all right, though he is still a trifle apprehensive. However, when they tell him that two women in fur coats visited them with threats to take them away to an institution and put their mama in jail, Armand decides that he must try to help them in some way or another. But what can he do? And where can he go to find help? This book with the adventures of Armand and the children around Paris -- complete with gypsies and a Santa Claus -- won a Newbery Honor Award in 1959. It has been recommended to us by several people.

A mention of cigarettes does occur. Of course, the story takes place in France, so there are references to the religious celebration of Christmas by a Roman Catholic priest. It is not “politically correct” because it makes the homeless look lazy. However, in general, the message of the book is a good one, helping kids who do have to be more mindful of those who don’t. The morals illustrated are that families must stick together and that jobs give self-respect. The book has been called “delightfully warm and enjoyable,” “a story which children will treasure,” “a thoroughly delightful story of humor and sentiment,” and “a charming and memorable story” that is “told with warmth and humor.” I enjoyed reading it and recommend it highly.
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