Title: Cheaper by the Dozen
Author: Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Genre: Non-fiction, Family
Publication Date: 1948
Purchase Price: $12.00 (paperback)
Written in 1948 by two of Gilbreth’s children, Cheaper by the Dozen chronicles several years in the Gilbreth family. Things are bound get complicated with 12 children running around.
Cheaper by the Dozen is funny, sweet, and irresistibly heartwarming. Pay no attention to its publication date; it’s just as fantastic now as it was then.
A childhood favorite
I have always loved this book. The copy I have was printed sometime in the 1960s, and actually belongs to my mother. The pages have yellowed over time, and the cover fell off several years ago. The pages have been dog-eared and the back cover is torn, and overall the book is in a sad state. But I don’t think there’s ever been a book more loved.
Until I read this book (in middle school), I’d never imagined a family with so many children. I have also always marveled at the ways Gilbreth got his family to learn: painting Morse Code messages on the walls, foreign language records in the bathroom, etc.
Life in the Gilbreth house sounds suspiciously like intelligent chaos, which makes me love it all the more.
In 1950 the book was made into a film, and later a film adaptation of the sequel Belles on Their Toes was released.
These movies followed the books fairly closely, which is more than I can say for the adaptations starring Steve Martin. Those films were a ridiculous attempt to “modernize” the stories, and I think it’s shameful.
You should read Cheaper by the Dozen, or at least see the older film. They’re excellent, with plenty of laugh out loud moments — the ideal book for reading aloud.
” ‘That’s not our mess, Daddy. You know that as well as we do. What would we be doing with empty whiskey bottles and last year’s copy of the Hartford Courant?’ ‘That’s what I’d like to know,’ he’d say, while sniffing the bottles.” (p. 23)
“They had just boarded a train at Oakland, California, after the ceremony, and Mother was trying to appear blasé, as if she had been married for years. She might have gotten away with it, too, if Dad had not stage whispered when she took off her hat prior to sitting down: ‘Good Lord, woman, why didn’t you tell me your hair was red?’ ” (pp. 100-101)
“The way we played [instruments, the music] didn’t tinkle. As Dad whispered to Mother at one recital: ‘If I heard that coming from the back fence at night, I’d either report it to the police or heave shoes at it.’ ” (p. 132)
Do you think twelve children is too many? How many kids are in your family? Don’t you think learning Morse Code would be fun?