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Literature / Belles on Their Toes

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Belles on Their Toes , the 1950 sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen, tells how the Gilbreth family was raised by Lillian Moller Gilbreth after the death of Mr. Gilbreth. Despite the family's difficulties as they attempt to balance their budget enough to stay together while Mrs. Gilbreth attempts to make it in the male field of motion study, it still has its predecessor's trademark humor.

This book contains the following tropes:

  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Mother unintentionally creates problems for her children at school by telling stories of how the family uses motion study at home, such as the bath charts.
  • Anything but That!: Tom, the handyman, generally gathers the children in the kitchen for what he calls his "club" (which includes refreshments and storytelling). When he attempts to threaten Ernestine with exclusion from it for scratching her chicken pox, she gasps "in mock terror", "Not that! Anything but that!"
    Tom made no reply. But it was clear that the Princess, as Tom called her, was out of the Club for a thousand years and four days.
  • Tone Shift: Cheaper by the Dozen is a collection of semi-independent chapters that jumps around in time a lot. Belles on Their Toes is told in straightforward chronological order.
    • Cerebus Syndrome: We find out in a footnote in the first chapter of Belles on Their Toes that Mary, the second child, died of diphtheria in 1912. This was apparently too depressing to even mention in Cheaper by the Dozen, so in that book, Mary is born in the chapter "Have You Seen the Latest Model?" and just kind of...isn't mentioned in the rest of the book. They even talk about having twelve children in their car at once...even though Mary died long before the last baby was born, so that couldn't have been the twelve Gilbreth children.
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  • Lethal Chef: While Tom alleges he can cook, he really can't. One leg of lamb he roasts with tomatoes is described as looking like an animal leg needing dressing for a wound. It is so bad that when one of the boys comes down with chicken pox, Anne wonders initially if it was the roast lamb he ate.
  • Obligatory Joke: During one chapter where the Gilbreth boys are shopping for clothes en masse and the salesman asks them what they "want in a shoe", one of the boys tells the others that they had better not say "a foot" to avoid bothering the salesman any more than they are.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Anne's fiance and eventual husband is called Bob, requiring the family to call him "Doctor Bob" to avoid confusing him with their Bob.
  • Present Peeking: One Christmas morning before dawn, Martha comes downstairs to find Mother poking and shaking the presents to find out what they are. Mother confesses that she and Dad always used to come down for "a preview."
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  • Quitting to Get Married: During one of the later chapters, Anne finds a doctor named Bob to whom she will eventually be married. She tells Mother that she really doesn't care about finishing college and would like to get married "right away." Mother insists that she finish her degree first, but she is pleased with the fact that Anne feels so strongly about the match.


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