Hector Malot
Nobody’s Boy (or: Alone in the World)

Original Title: Sans famille

Rémi spends about seven happy years with Mother Barberin.  When he is eight years old, Father Barberin comes home. An accicent at work left him incapacitated and so he is not happy to see Rémi. The family is poor and the boy only costs money. At night, when Rémi is in bed and Barberin thinks he is asleep, Rémi overhears the conversation between his parents. It turns out that Mother Barberin is not his real mother. Rémi is a foundling and he is probably a child of rich parents, for when he was found he was dressed in precious clothes.

Barberin sells Rémi to Vitalis, an itinerant artist. This is the start of a life of long hikes through wind and weather, without the certainty of a meal and a sheltered place to spend the night at the end of the day.

In the years that follow good and bad times alternate.

When  Rémi finds his own family at last, he is back from where he started his wanderings. He shares his happiness with his faithful friend Mattia and with his foster mother.

‘Nobody’s boy’ is not only just an adventure story. The narrative gives a clear picture of the part grown-ups play in the life of a parentless, defenseless child. The book contains a clear depction of Rémi’s character. He will not be forced to criminal behaviour, never loses hope and courage and remains prepared to help others throughout.


A pleasure to read. Good characters.
Ages 9 and up, or younger if read aloud.


I was also taken with this book, so it was put “very strictly” on the reading list of my three daughters … They were all deeply moved. One of them cried and for a long time couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Rémi had such a difficult fate. The others asked many why-questions about the boy’s life and about children who have to grow up without a family. It is a very emotional book that opens the reader’s heart and makes them more compassionate.


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