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Cheaper by the Dozen (Perennial Classics) Paperback – May 28, 2002
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“Gay and lighthearted...One of the most amusing books.” (The Chicago Sun-Times)
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"Instructive, funny, and very readable." (School Library Journal)
About the Author
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. was born in 1911 in Plainfield, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Michigan. He became a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II and received a Bronze Star and Air Medal. In 1947, he joined the staff of what is now the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. A columnist and reporter, he authored and coauthored several books, including Belles on Their Toes (with Ernestine Gilbreth Carey), How to Be a Father, and Time Out for Happiness. In 1950, he was corecipient (with his sister) of the French International Humor Award for Cheaper by the Dozen. He died in 2001.
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This is the story of a family (a big one) and of the two fascinating, unusual people who created it. It's also a look at the early years of the 20th century and how they changed life for all time. We think of it as a lazy, nostalgic time when people were rooted in tradition. In reality, it was a time of rapid change when Americans were excited about the future and their growing importance in the world. Industries were waking up to new ways of doing things that increased productivity. Increased productivity meant lower costs, which meant that the average citizen could enjoy products (like automobiles) that had been rich men's toys only a few years before. It was a time of prosperity and optimism.
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were efficiency engineers who were at the forefront of this movement. And like all engineers, they tended to run their home by the same principles that guided their profession. As their oldest daughter points out in her humorous-but-incisive introduction, a great deal of "regimentation" is absolutely necessary in a large family or chaos reigns. Not that there wasn't plenty of chaos anyway, and most of it is hilarious.
Lillian Gilbreth was of the generation called the "New Woman." Feminism wasn't born in the 1960's, but had its roots in the era when women were fighting for the right to attend college, to be professionals, and to vote. With her proud husband supporting her, this gentle but strong woman took her place in a profession that even today is still largely male-dominated. And she raised a houseful of children while she was doing it!
It's also the story of a successful marriage which tragically ended too soon. I love the contrast between the bombastic self-made man and the quiet girl from the wealthy California family. Each brought strengths into the partnership and they respected and supported each other both personally and professionally.
Yes, this is a book that would not (as we used to say) raise a blush on the cheek of a modest young lady (assuming you could find one) but it's also a down-to-earth telling of family life in an era when there were no "experts" telling people how to raise their children. The story of two very different people and how they loved and taught their large brood is not just entertaining, but educational. I loved this book as a child and I enjoyed reading it again. I can't really imagine anyone who WOULDN'T. It's a true classic.
Most recent customer reviews
Brilliant characterisation. Simply Delightful