Title: Cheaper by the Dozen
Author: Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Major Themes: Family Life, Early 1900s, Family Humor
Synopsis: An entertaining rendition of a large family’s life as they grow up together.
If there’s any book that can make my family laugh more, then please tell me about it. Cheaper by the Dozen is both hilarious and thought-provoking. When there are twelve children in the family, you can always expect excitement—especially when their father is a motion-study expert who loves acting as teacher. Our family loves this story as a read-aloud, and several of us have also read through it by ourselves as well.
Frank (Jr.) and Ernestine tell snatches of their family’s history in this story. We read about how their father met and courted their mother, how they decided to have twelve children, and what happened when the family went out for rides in Foolish Carriage (their car). By far, our favorite and most quoted story of all is when Bill honked the electric horn and scared Mr. Gilbreth half to death. Some time before, he had scared all of his children the same way, and Bill thought he needed to experience it as well.
“Did you see the birdie, Daddy?”
There are also more serious places in the story, where we are told of Mr. Gilbreth’s unusual teaching techniques. A genius at time-saving, he couldn’t even bear to waste meal times, so he taught the children Morse code and advanced mental arithmetic. We also learn how Mr. Gilbreth died an early death due to a heart problem, and how that affected the family.
As I’ve read and re-read Cheaper by the Dozen, I’ve come to realize this is more than just a hilarious collection of stories about a large, fun-loving family. The main point of this book is to remember Mr. Gilbreth—a tribute from his children to their dad. While sad at times, this book makes a great family read-aloud. Our family really enjoyed the “real” feel of the book—many of the things mentioned were very relatable, because we could easily see ourselves in their places!
WARNING: There is some swearing and blasphemy throughout the book. It can be easily skipped over. At different times there is lying, or being disobedient to their elders (not always dealt with in the right way).
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, Family Friendly
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults