Cheaper by the Dozen - A Book Review


“Dad himself used to tell a story about one time when Mother went off to fill a lecture engagement and left him in charge at home. When Mother returned, she asked him if everything had run smoothly. ‘Didn't have any trouble except with that one over there,' he replied. 'But a spanking brought him into line.'  Mother could handle any crisis without losing her composure. ‘That's not one of ours, dear,' she said. 'He belongs next door.’” 

I grew up in an average sized family. I had a sister who was three years my junior and then, when I was fourteen, I gained an even younger stepsister. Although we had our share of sibling spats, our house of three girls was generally quiet, orderly, and…well, average. I didn’t know anyone with a particularly large family and had no experience with the nuances of large family dynamics.  As a result, when I picked up the book Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, I was particularly eager to take a peek at their account of large family life. What I did not expect, however, was to find a hilarious and beautiful tribute to a unique father and husband, and a nostalgic picture of typical turn-of-the-century life for an atypical American family.

Frank Gilbreth and his wife Lillie were world-famous efficiency experts in pre-WWI America--who also happened to have a dozen children.  They were an unusual family, not just because of their size, but because of the career and vibrant personality of their patriarch. In this delightful memoir, two of the twelve children recount in various tales the ways in which their father worked out his theories and practices regarding motion study and education in their bustling home. A fascinating and fun read, Cheaper By The Dozen paints a picture of what it was like to grow up with Frank Gilbreth as a father.

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