My girls and I finished our latest chapter book read-aloud after an intermission from it which was precipitated by the Thanksgiving holiday and all the accompanying hullaballo. We read The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. I had seen this title repeatedly on numerous homeschooling message board threads, etc., so I thought we’d give it a go. It turns out that it was a winner and it was also a timely read in that it is set during the Christmas holiday season.
The Family Under the Bridge is set in Paris. It is the story of the Calcet family: a mother, an older sister named Suzy, a brother named Paul, and the baby sister named Evelyne. After losing their home, they inadvertently occupy the home of a longstanding homeless man named Armand. Armand is an older man who is rather happy with his lot (or lack thereof) in life, but he is not happy about giving up his abode under the bridge to three winsome little children. Of course, as one would expect from such a story, Armand begins to take the children under his wings, and the story ends up promisingly and happily for them all.
This story was first published in 1958 and is a Newbery honor book. Much of the story itself and the attitudes, however subtle, are dated. This really didn’t bother me too much, but I’m not too politically correct anyway. One example: there is a huge group (family?) of gypsies in the story, and while they are portrayed positively, some of the stereotypes (i.e. the idea that they are thieves, the inevitable fortune-telling, etc.) are brought out, but it seemed to me that most often Carlson was trying to combat those stereotypes. The other issue that occurred to me is the issue of homelessness. Armand really is portrayed as a little bit lazy; he seems perfectly happy to be homeless and without responsibility. However, he is “rehabilitated” by the love of this little family in the end.
The only real problem I had with this story is that I CANNOT pronounce French words AT ALL, so that hampered my reading. (I took two years of Spanish and one year of Russian, believe it or not, in high school, so everything about French eludes me.) I think my girls enjoyed this one, as evidenced by their cries of “one more chapter” every time I finished a chapter. However, I’m beginning to wonder if this is an adequate measure of success for a read-aloud because I can’t remember a time in the past year when they didn’t say that. 🙂 This story didn’t resonate with me as much as a lot of our other recent read-alouds have, but I still think it’s a worthwhile read-aloud.