To celebrate Jennifer’s Becoming Clementine making her debut, her blog is taking a French state of mind. Ah, France! Home of Edith Piaf, french bread, croissants, french braids, viva la France!
Oddly when I think of France, I think of the Happy Orphelines. You might be scratching your head, thinking what are the happy orphelines? Merde! You never heard of them! Tsk, tsk!
The happy orphelines woudn’t hang out with Annie or Harry Potter. Maybe they would, but they wouldn’t get why they were so sad about having no parents. They were happy about being orphans (orphelines is what they are called in France) They were well fed, well dressed, and went on field trips around Paris; touring the sewers (yes, this was an actual field trip, hard to believe) walking around Paris, having a lovely time.
I loved the books for the stories of course, and the fact that several of the books were done by Garth Williams. I loved Charlotte’s Web, so I knew his drawing style right away. I remember noticing Bridgette and Fern looked alike with their coloring; I almost wondered (and I know this is awful of me) if Mr. Arable was in France during the war. Can we prove that he might’ve fathered a little girl? Who knows? Oh, I went there. Yes, I’ve watched too many soap operas in my time. But there is a similarity.
When I was older I was surprised that Natalie Savage Carlson was not French. She grew up in the South (and wrote a middle grade novel about race relations) yet all the orpheline books are set in France, along with The Family under the Bridge, another middle grade novel that won a Newberry Honor and made into a musical written by Kathie Lee Gifford.
What I loved about the orpheline books is that they loved their lives. Yes, it would be great to have parents, but they had Madame (the woman who ran the orphanage) they had Therese the helper. What more could they want? The orphanage they lived in was falling down all around them, but they had each other. They accepted life as it was. Sometimes that is incredibly hard to do. I’ve been bummed this past week; a possible writing opportunity has been delayed. However, I remembered the orphelines. They accepted whatever was thrown at them, and were grateful for the small things. For me I realized a delay did not mean it was over, kaput. It’s just a delay. Nothing more, nothing less.
When I was little and my mother was done with a book she was reading to me, I would say “Make more!” I wanted more of the story, more of the author. I felt like that when I realized there were no more orphelines books for me to read. But they are forever alive, walking in Paris, happy in the knowledge they were together.