Book Reviews

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey | Book Review

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey | Book Review Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Genres: Memoir
Original Publication Date: 1948
Source: I purchased this book

Cheaper by the dozen? What do you get when you put twelve lively kids together with a father—a famous efficiency expert—who believes families can run like factories, and a mother who is his partner in everything except discipline? You get a hilarious tale of growing up that has made generations of kids and adults alike laugh along with the Gilbreths in Cheaper by the Dozen.

Cheaper by the Dozen

Translated into more than fifty-three languages and made into numerous films over the years — including a classic 1950 film starring Myrna Loy and a cult favorite in 2003 with Steve Martin, Hilary Duff, and Alyson Stoner — this memoir is a delightfully enduring story of family life at the turn of the twentieth century.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, is a fictionalized memoir about the famous Gilbreth family from Montclair, New Jersey.

The truly remarkable Frank Gilbreth, Sr., and Lillian Moller Gilbreth were efficiency experts who raised their 12 children in Montclair. The story is a delightful one about growing up in such a large family in the early 20th century.

The Gilbreth Parents Were True Originals

The parents seemed to be exact opposites. The father is a self-made man who started his career as a bricklayer.

He became fascinated with the idea of becoming more efficient at bricklaying. Frank did not attend college because of a lack of funds.

Lillian had a Ph.D. and joined her husband in trailblazing the new field of time and motion study (aka efficiency experts). They made a great team since they worked well together professionally and personally. Cheaper by the Dozen is a mostly hilarious book because Frank had unusual methods for raising children to save time and be more efficient.

Frank believed that the efficiency methods he used in the workplace could work just as well with children. His children were expected to learn how to type, learn languages and skip grades in school. They were almost guinea pigs for some of his ideas but he truly loved his children.

My Thoughts On The Book

I refer to the book as fictionalized because the book never mentions that one of the children, Mary, died at a young age. She is just simply never mentioned in the book.  It is not until the second book that Mary’s fate is revealed (but only in a footnote).

Many of the events actually happened, although not necessarily in the way they are portrayed in the book. I loved this book as a kid, reading it over and over in a paperback version. It is a wonderful book for anyone to read in any age group.

What Happened Later to the Gilbreths

Cheaper by the Dozen is meant to be a fond, nostalgic look back from a post-WWI perspective at a more innocent time.

The book was published in 1948 and was a huge success, spawning a charming film version (with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy) and also a sequel, Belles on our Toes. There was also a modernized 2003 remake of Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin.

By the way, the Gilbreth house was located on Eagle Rock Way in Montclair, but the family had it demolished.

There is also a biography about Lillian Moller Gilbreth: Making Time: Lillian Moller Gilbreth — A Life Beyond “Cheaper by the Dozen” by Jane Lancaster.

Some consider Lillian Gilbreth to be the first organizational psychologist. She was also a professor, adviser to Presidents, and one of the first female engineers.

There is also a Gilbreth family tribute site: The Gilbreth Network.

For more about the Township of Montclair, I have written about the childhood home of Buzz Aldrin and also about the branch library.

Please read my review of Five Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History about a very different New Jersey family and also The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone | Book Review.

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1908 – 2006) was an American author. She co-wrote Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes with her brother Frank G. Gilbreth.

About Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.

Frank Gilbreth Jr. (1911 – 2001) was an American journalist and author. He co-authored, with his sister Ernestine, the autobiographical bestsellers Cheaper by the Dozen (1948; which was adapted as a 1950 film) and Belles on Their Toes (1950; which was adapted as a 1952 film).

I love books, writing, film, and television.

One Comment

  • Con

    I read and reread this book and the sequel many times because it was in my grade school library. The movie looked dreadful so I have avoided it. But I was in Montclair for a funeral right before the pandemic and had hoped to find the house, so was disappointed to read it had been demolished.

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