Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cheaper by the Dozen - Tinylibrarian's review

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Summary: Most people probably know the story - Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were motion study experts and they decided, early in their marriage, that they wanted a large family - an even dozen, if possible. The Gilbreths, especially Frank, used their family as a testing ground for their efficiency theories. This book covers the birth of all dozen, up until their father's death in 1924.

My thoughts: As an only child, this was a very interesting read for me. I can barely imagine one sibling, let alone 11. Large families seem to be viewed as freak shows these days, things that get you your own show on TLC or Discovery Channel. And even at the turn of the last century, a dozen was a pretty big number. But the Gilbreths managed it, and without a lot of the modern conveniences we have today and seem to have managed quite happily.

I had a few mixed feelings about Mr. Gilbreth - he clearly loved his family and was very intelligent and fun-loving. But he also seemed to really enjoy embarrassing his wife and kids, a habit I always find really irritating. But his methods for making learning fun (teaching all the kids morse code by writing out clues with rewards, making room-sized diagrams of the solar system) were excellent and it's clear he placed a great value on education. The contributions he made to industry and the military are very impressive - he consulted for many large companies such as Remington typewriters and Lever Brothers.

I thought it would be dated, taking place as it does in the early part of the 20th century, but it's really not, it feels very fresh. In fact, it gives a great example of the more things changing, the more they stay the same. Mr. Gilbreth rails against the older girls wanting to be popular at the start of the Jazz Age:

Popular. That's all I hear. That's the magic word, isn't it? That's what the matter with this generation. Nobody thinks about being smart, or clever, or sweet or even attractive. No, sir. They want to be skinny and flat-chested and popular. They'd sell their soul and body to be popular, and if you ask me a lot of them do.

Apart from the flat-chested part, isn't that pretty much what we hear about today's teenagers, who in polls often indicate they'd rather be famous rather than smart?

When I have a break in between challenges, I plan to read the sequel, Belles on their Toes, which is about how the family coped after Mr. Gilbreth's death. And I've got the 1950's version of the movie on my to-see list.

What I learned about Raidergirl: Well, this is my second of her picks that I really enjoyed - so I learned once again that she picks great books! In her blurb about it, she mentioned that she loves efficiency and this book is certainly devoted to that. Apparently she "can always get one more dish in the dishwasher," which I can not do. Maybe she could give me some tips. :)


raidergirl3 said...

I'm glad you've liked my picks. You have two of my all time most favorite books on your list - Bridget and Anne, so I think you have great taste too.
I do think I have good spatial abilities, and I hate to wash dishes!

Chris said...

I leave loading the dishwasher properly to my engineer dh. It's a job I hate. The dishes don't fit and some of them don't get clean.

Sorry. That wasn't book related!

alisonwonderland said...

i haven't read Cheaper by the Dozen since i was a teen, but i remember really loving it!

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Raidergirl - Thanks! :) As Anne would say, that makes us kindred spirits, hee hee. I have zero spatial abilities, so that's my dishwasher downfall.

Chris - I usually leave it to my husband, too, and I take them out. I hate loading and he hates unloading, so we split it down the middle and everyone's happy.

Alison - it was definitely fun to spend some time with those dozen. I'm looking forward to the next book.