Cheaper by the Dozen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012



Cheaper by the Dozen
by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
★★★★


This book has absolutely nothing to do with the recent Steve Martin movies. It’s a nonfiction account, written by two of the children, of their experiences growing up in a family with twelve kids. Their eccentric father was a motion study analyst and taught them the more efficient way to do everything! He even showed them (while he was fully clothed) the fastest way to wash yourself with soap when bathing.


One of my favorite anecdotes from the book was when the family was visited by a representative of the national birth control society. They were there to ask the mother if she wanted to get involved with their organization (not knowing how many kids she had). Then the father called all 12 children downstairs and the woman just about had a heart attack.

Their father was incredibly focused on teaching them. He quizzed them on multiplication tables, taught them how to type and constantly had recordings going that taught them how to speak French and German. He talked their teachers into frequently letting them skip grades because the kids excelled at such young ages. Unfortunately, as great as that sounds, it’s incredibly hard on the kids to have to make new friends and start all over in a new grade.


"In those days women who were scholars were viewed with some suspicion. When mother and dad were married, the Oakland paper said, 'Although a graduate of the University of California, the bride is, none the less, an extremely attractive young woman.'"

Cheaper photo from here.

14 comments:

annieb said...

I read this book a while back and loved it! The very old movie "Cheaper by the Dozen" starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy has a hysterical demonstration of the bathing technique you spoke of. It is a great movie and available through Netflix.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I really enjoyed this one and also the sequel, Bells on their Toes, which is a bit more bitter-sweet.

Brenna said...

I have to admit when I first saw this I thought it was the book they made the Steve Martin movies from. Those movies are kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. :)

Anyway, this book sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

annieb - I'll have to watch that, it sounds hilarious!

Alex - I hadn't heard of that one, but I'm adding it to my TBR.

Brenna - The Steve Martin movies aren't close to the original book at all, but technically they are inspired by it. The plots are completely different except for the fact that there are 12 kids.

Trisha said...

Even the idea of 12 kids makes me sick to my stomach. One's hard enough. :)

This does sound like a really interesting read though.

Nikki Steele said...

Sounds like such a fun book. I wonder how the process went with having two children cowrite the book -- their different experiences and impressions and such.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trisha - Seriously, me too!

Nikki Steele - I wondered about that too. If they were anything like my siblings and I, they probably rememebred very different details about their childhood.

Bookworm1858 said...

I loved this book so much when I was kid; actually I still really love it. I love all of their stories and the crazy things their father did!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bookworm1858 - I wish I'd read it when I was younger. It was so much fun!

Jenny said...

I loooooved this book when I was a kid, and of course still now. Have you read the sequel? I like it just as much, maybe better -- Belles on Their Toes. It follows the kids into college and stuff, and it's really charming. Lots of good stories.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book as a kid, and also Yours, Mine, and Ours - which was also a true story about a large family - they made a movie about it years ago with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. Great Stuff! My sister and I were just talking about how we loved Cheaper by the Dozen at dinner last Thursday! Great book minds think alike!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenny - I haven't read the sequel, but it's definitely on my TBR list now!

Anon - I loved Your's Mine and Our when I was growing up!!! Such a great movie!

Jenners said...

I'm just waiting for one of the Duggar kids to grow up and give us the inside scoop about living in that big family. I guess this will have to scratch my itch for now.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - Bahaha, you know those Duggar kids are going to have some crazy stories!