As a semi-only child (my half siblings are ten and twelve years older than I am), I’ve always been enthralled with books about families with lots of kids. Here are a few favorites:
Papa’s Wife — Thyra Ferre Bjorn
Based on the author’s childhood, Papa’s Wife is about a Swedish pastor who marries his maid, raises a large family, and immigrates to the United States. Though I’ve only read Papa’s Wife, two more books follow: Papa’s Daughter and Mama’s Way.
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers — Maria Augusta Trapp
In a very similar vein, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers focuses on Austrian widower Captain Von Trapp, who marries his children’s nanny and immigrates to America. The Sound of Music, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, is based on this book.
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew — Margaret Sidney
Times are tough for the five children raised by their widowed mother, but their stories are always hopeful, sweet, and downright cosy. Oh, how I loved the Peppers when I was in fifth grade. Who wouldn’t want a baby sister named Phronsie?
Cheaper by the Dozen ; Belles on Their Toes — Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
And two more based on a real family, the Gilbreths of Montclair, New Jersey. Mr. Gilbreth, an efficiency expert, and Mrs. Gibreth, a psychologist and engineer, use scientific methods to raise their kids. An especially fun thing for me to learn was that one of the younger Gilbreth boys — Dan, I think — ended up being my grandfather’s college roommate!
All-of-a-Kind Family — Sydney Taylor
Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie — I wanted to be the sixth sister in this series about a family living in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Readers might recognize Sydney Taylor’s name from The Sydney Taylor Book Award, which is “presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.”
What books about large families would you recommend?
I recently read The Story of the Trapp Family singers after my kids became obsessed with The Sound of Music. I was blown away by the spiritual depth of the memoir. A really wonderful read! Another favorite of our family is The Fairchild family series by Rebecca Caudill. Happy Little Family is the first book and it features a large loving family from the mountains of Kentucky.
Isn’t it an amazing book? I’d had it for years and just recently read it. Handed it off to my running partner once I finished. The story and the faith represented in it are both simple and profound.
Thank you for the Fairchild Family recommendation. My May B. was nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Award, and I have to confess I had no idea who she was. Must learn more.
Faith Hough says
I’ve read all of these but the first–as soon as I get past my “no library until I finish some books I own” months, I’ll have to find it!!
I love books about big families, and I keep toying with the idea of writing one, as it would fall squarely under “write what you know”… I was one of five, as was my husband….my dad was one of 12, and I have over 50 first cousins. But–it’s really hard to do! (Which makes me appreciate these books so much more.) The difficulty is creating a unique personality for each of the characters and letting them each shine without bogging down the story. I am really in awe of how well Jeanne Birdsall accomplished this in The Penderwicks series.
I still am amazed we both wrote about this exact same topic this month. Great minds. You’ll love Papa’s Wife.
Jennifer Rumberger says
I remember reading The Trapp Family Singers when I was younger. I don’t remember much, except that it was a good book. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any others with big families.
Debbie Watley says
I love, love, love the Cheaper By the Dozen Books! How cool that you have a personal connection! I also loved the Trapp book, and I think I read all the Papa books years ago. I haven’t read All-of-a-Kind Family, but it sounds right up my alley.
Other large family books I loved were Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom. And I loved tv’s The Walton’s (although I’ve never read the book it’s based on).
The personal connection is the icing on the cake for me. My grandfather attended two universities, with a Gilbreth as a roommate at one and Sam Walton of Wal-Mart at the other. Which one impresses me more? The Gilbreth, of course!
Elizabeth Varadan says
I loved Cheaper by the Dozen and The Trapp Family singers, and several of the Sydney Taylor books. You feel like you could just move into their lives. A favorite of mine was the Five Children trilogy by Edith Nesbitt. These are fantasies, but funny, and the children are very “real”. There’s a cosy feel to these books that made me want to read them a gain and again. I think some of that cosiness has gone out of a lot of today’s books.
I’ve never read Nesbit’s Five Children trilogy but absolutely loved The Railway Children. Something to look into. Thanks!