Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder Kitchen

Spic-and-Span!: Lillian Gilbreth's Wonder Kitchen

Monica Kulling
Illustrator:  David Parkins 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Tundra Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-1770493803

Lillian Gilbreth grew up in Oakland, California in the late 1800s. Her family was very well off and she lived in a mansion where there were always servants around to take care of everything. Most girls from wealthy families got married young and did not work for a living, but Lillian was different. She wanted to go to college and she wanted “a life of adventure and challenge.”

   In 1904, when she was twenty-six, Lillian married Frank Gilbreth. They were both “efficiency experts” who helped factory workers to find ways to complete their tasks faster, better, and with less effort. Lillian and Frank had eleven children and thankfully they applied some of their efficiency techniques to their home life. Every child had jobs to do, and he or she was expected to complete each task properly. Thus their home was well run when it could so easily have been chaotic.

   In 1925 Frank died very suddenly of a heart attack and Lillian had to figure out how she was going to provide for her large family by herself. Economies had to be made and Lillian sold the family car and decided that they would have to make do without a cook. Lillian and her older daughters were going to have to learn how to cook.  With three of them working in the kitchen at the same time, they were always getting in each other’s way because the kitchen was so badly designed. Something had to be done.

   In this excellent picture book biography readers will discover how the mother of eleven became a “pioneer” in the field of ergonomics. Thanks to her, kitchens and workplaces are better and happier places to work in today. Lillian appreciated how important it was to have workplaces that were light, cheerful and designed with the worker’s needs in mind.

   With an engaging and interesting text, and wonderful illustrations throughout, this is a book that will show children that reading about the lives of people can be fascinating. It is almost like stepping into the past and taking a journey. 

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