Natalie Savage Carlson was born on October 3, 1906 in Kernstown, Virginia, but spent much of her childhood on a farm on the Potomac River in Maryland. She showed literary promise from a very young age; for example, her first story was published on the children's page of the Baltimore Sunday Sun when she was only eight years old. At age four, she was sent to a convent boarding school along with her three older sisters, remaining there for three years before she returned home to be tutored by a family friend. When she was eleven, her family moved to Long Beach, California, where she completed her high school education in parochial schools.
During 1927 to 1929, she worked as a writer for the Long Beach Morning Sun, when she met and married Daniel Carlson, a naval officer. After her marriage, she moved around a great deal, since the Carlsons were subsequently stationed in Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, and France, where they lived for many years in Paris. They also traveled widely in western Europe. As a result of her extensive travels, Carlson's stories describe the lives of children in such diverse locations as an orphanage near Paris, the Arab quarter of Marseilles and the slums of Rome, and she emphasizes local customs and celebrations in her books.
Her first book, The Talking Cat and Other Stories of French Canada, was set in the region where her mother was born, and was published in 1952. Carlson was awarded the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award in 1952 for The Talking Cat and in 1954 for Alphonse, That Bearded One. One of her best-loved books is The Family Under the Bridge; first published in 1958, it became a Newbery Honor winner in 1959. Many readers will remember her series of Happy Orpheline books about a group of French orphans and their carefree lives. In 1966, Ms. Carlson was the U. S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen International Children's Book Award. Materials for fifteen of her novels are held at the Children's Literature Research Collection at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. Carlson passed away on September 23, 1997 in Middletown, Rhode Island.
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