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Carlson, Natalie Savage

CARLSON, Natalie Savage

Born 3 October 1906, Winchester, Virginia; died 23 September 1997

Daughter of Joseph H. and Natalie Villeneuve dit Vallar Savage; married Daniel Carlson, 1929

When Natalie Savage Carlson was eight years old, her first story was published on the children's page of the Baltimore Sunday Sun. Later, the family moved to Long Beach, California, and after majoring in journalism, Carlson spent three years as a newspaper reporter for the Long Beach Morning Sun.

Carlson's mother was of French-Canadian extraction, and this French influence is evident in Carlson's choice of subjects and geographic details. Carlson's The Talking Cat, and Other Stories of French Canada (1952), Sashes Red and Blue (1956), and The Letter on the Tree (1964) are among others with French Canadian settings. Wings Against the Wind (1955) was first written as a French class composition. The Family Under the Bridge (1958) has a Parisian setting, in which the Tournelle Bridge serves as a shelter for a fatherless family. Befana's Gift (1969) has an Italian setting, while The Song of the Lop-Eared Mule (1961) takes place in southern Spain. The Tomahawk Family (1960) is the least successful, as it describes a locale which Carlson apparently did not know thoroughly—South Dakota.

Diverse family patterns appear in Carlson's books, but there is always warmth. The white girl in Ann Aurelia and Dorothy (1968) lives in a foster home, since her mother left to marry Mr. Lacey. The three children in The Family Under the Bridge (1958) are fatherless. In The Happy Orpheline (1957) 20 orphans live with Madame Flattot and are upset with the possibility that the favorite, Brigitte, might be adopted. Carlson's autobiographical books, The Half Sisters (1970) and Luvvy and the Girls (1971), tell of a closely knit family.

In Carlson's books, situation and dialogue are filled with humor. Albert and Pierre kick each other as they pull the church bell rope, and it tolls crazily at a funeral in The Letter on the Tree (1964). The orphan Brigitte in The Happy Orpheline lets the dogs loose, thinking this the most wicked thing she could do, and they upset the marketplace.

The Family Under the Bridge was a Newbery honor book, and has been published in paperback and a number of translations, as have many of Carlson's other books. Carlson was nominated as the U.S. candidate for the International Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1966. Most of her books have remained in print, particularly those with strong setting, family ties, and humor.

Other Works:

Alphonse, That Bearded One (1954). Hortense, the Cow for a Queen (1957). A Brother for the Orphelines (1959). Evangeline, Pigeon of Paris (1960). Carnival in Paris (1962). A Pet for the Orphelines (1962). Jean-Claude's Island (1963). School Bell in the Valley (1963). The Orphelines in the Enchanted Castle (1964). The Empty Schoolhouse (1965). Sailor's Choice (1966). Chalou (1967). Luigi of the Streets (1967). Marchers for the Dream (1969). Marie Louise & Christophe (1974). Marie Louise's Heyday (1975). Runaway Marie Louise (1977). Jaky or Dodo? (1978). Time for the White Egret (1978).

The papers of Natalie Savage Carlson are in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.


Carlson, J., "Family Unity in N.S.C.'s Books for Children" in Authors and Illustrators of Children's Books; Writing on Their Lives and Works (1972).

Reference Works:

SAA (1971). More Books by More People (1974). More Junior Authors (1963).

Other reference:


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