Belles on Their Toes by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
I was reminded of this series after scheduling my review of Cheaper By the Dozen, and I’m so glad I read the follow-up title – I enjoyed it just as much as the first (and maybe even a bit more?)
Belles on Their Toes picks up right after Cheaper By the Dozen ends, and what could have been a dreary or sad account manages to be hopeful and surprisingly lighthearted. Their mother ends up being the star of the story, and their love and admiration for her shines through. So while I enjoyed the anecdotes, this book mostly made me want to learn more about Lillian, so I went hunting for more information on her. What an amazing woman!
If you’ve read Cheaper By the Dozen, it’s well worth reading this to continue their story. And even if you haven’t read the first book, I think this can be enjoyed as a stand-alone account. It’s surprisingly quick and breezy, considering it could easily have been a somber tale.
Climb aboard with the Gilbreths in further adventures of this uproarious clan! Belles on Their Toes tells what happens when the Gilbreth boys get growing pains and the girls discover romance.
When Mother Gilbreth decided to carry on the unique engineering career of her husband, the children pitched in, set up a family routine that was hair-raising as well as hilarious. With Mother away on frequent business trips, Anne, the eldest, was naturally elected mother hen to the mighty brood, with Tom, the hired man, in joint command. Tom boasted that he had never followed a recipe in his life and the meals were convincing testimony. When chicken pox hit the household – en masse – it was Tom who played nurse maid, administering the only drug in his medical bag – quinine and caster oil!!!
When it came to romance, everything was decided by the family council – a panel of highly partial judges that more often than not obstructed the course of true love. Ernestine’s adolescent romance was threatened by her brothers’ flourishing manure business. Fourteen-year-old Martha paraded her charms within father’s beachwear regulations (skirts to the knees, black stockings), while her brothers patroled the beach like Decency Leaguers. Anne couldn’t even get engaged without children on her lap!
With all the shenanigans of this lively crew, Mother Gilbreth’s sparkling personality comes through on every page: Mother supervising the younger boys on a shopping expedition (five suits, fifteen neckties, twenty suits of underwear, twenty-five pairs of socks, twenty shirts, five pairs of shoes – all subject to the approval of the brother next in line). If Mother didn’t need a rest cure, the sales clerk did. You will remember Mother on the first Christmas without Dad, creeping down in the middle of the night for a sneak preview of the presents; or sitting at Jane’s graduation, when her dream of sending all the children through college was fulfilled at last.
Belles on Their Toes is as lively as Cheaper by the Dozen. In fact, it is one of the few sequels that is more entertaining than the original.
Title: Belles on Their Toes
Authors: Frank B. Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars
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