Bookworm: Vaudeville’s famous conjoined twins

Also, two new books from National Geographic Kids

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville’s Famous Conjoined Twins”

  • By Sarah Miller
  • c. 2021, Schwartz & Wade Books
  • $17.99, $23.99 Canada; 310 pages

What a pair! You and your friend, you’re like two peas in a pod. Yin and yang. Where one is, so’s the other. You’ve been pals since forever and you do everything in tandem. Two sides of a coin. Like bread and butter. As in the new book “Violet and Daisy” by Sarah Miller, you’re almost literally joined at the hip.

“Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville’s Famous Conjoined Twins” by Sarah Miller.

Kate Skinner had plenty of reason to scream. She’d been in labor for hours, and the pain was excruciating. The midwife thought the baby was stuck, until she realized there were two babies. And then, with “a great deal of unusual twisting and turning,” twins were born, and Kate screamed again.

Her newborn daughters were attached at the base of their little spines, an issue that didn’t affect their overall health or well-being: the girls shared a rectum, tailbone, and anus, along with some muscles and skin but they were normal children otherwise. Kate didn’t know that, though, and she refused to care for her babies, and so the midwife, Mary Hilton, took them in and gave them her surname.

Outwardly, Hilton was a kindly woman who loved the girls named Violet and Daisy, but the truth, says Miller, was that she abused them and displayed them for money. Later, Hilton’s son-in-law and daughter did the same, bouncing the growing girls from continent and manager to the next place and sideshow, ultimately landing in America. Through the years, the Hilton sisters made their foster family and various managers they hired very wealthy but in a then-scandalous, nationally-followed court case they launched when they were young adults, they learned that the money was largely gone...

"Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins" author Sarah Miller.

To twenty-first-century eyes, what happens in “Violet and Daisy” may seem sadly, tabloidishly familiar. But keep reading: there’s more to this true story, and it’s quite compelling.

Author Sarah Miller captures reader’s interests by setting the stage at the beginning of her book, explaining why the Hilton sisters’ mother was so aghast at their birth, and showing the ease that Mary Hilton enjoyed when taking advantage of the entire situation for years. To know how and why both things occurred is a lesson in cultural history.

Miller’s account of the court case comes roughly in the middle of this book, and it’s likewise beneficial if you can see the wide picture. America wasn’t very enlightened throughout most of Violet’s and Daisy’s lifetimes, as evidenced by the details of their lives and the touchy legalities of the normal existence they craved. Medicine was still, by modern standards, rather crude. And yet, the court judgement and the Hiltons’ subsequently successful career show a nation hurdling through many advances that could only portend good.

But not entirely: how Daisy’s and Violet’s lives take a turn, and how they end, is the perfectly tragic period at the end of a heartbreaking sentence.

You might find this book in the YA section but don’t let that deter you: it’s one you’ll want to find and savor. “Violet and Daisy” and a bookmark. What a pair!

More:Bookworm: ‘Let’s Talk’ is for gluing together relationships and hearts

"101 Life Hacks" by Aubre Andrus and "Almanac 2022" by National Geographic, both from National Geographic Kids.

“101 Life Hacks”

  • By Aubre Andrus
  • c. 2020, National Geographic Kids
  • $9.99, $12.99 Canada; 208 pages

“Almanac 2022” by National Geographic

  • c.2021, National Geographic Kids
  • $14.99 352 pages

This summer, you’ve made a promise to yourself: you’re going to become smarter.

You’re going to have a totally fun summer, but you’re going to make it count by learning new things. Maybe you’ve got your eye on a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Perhaps you want to impress someone. or you want to get a jump on school for next fall. Whatever your reason, see if these great books will help you reach your goals....

“101 Life Hacks” by Aubre Andrus and “Almanac 2022” by National Geographic, both from National Geographic Kids.

If someone’s always telling you to “use your head,” then “101 Life Hacks” by Aubre Andrus is right up your alley. In this book, you’ll find more than one hundred really great ideas to make life easier while they also stretch your brain’s creativity.

For your next school year, learn how to keep a paper document looking fresh without a folder. Find out how to keep dirty sneakers from messing up your gym bag. Sharpen your memory and vocabulary with a song. Learn easy (and impressive) math hacks. Be a better world citizen with ideas for cleaning up, saving the environment, and leaving the planet a little nicer. Then learn to de-stress with some great ideas for relaxation, perfect for kids ages 8-to-13.

For this summer, see how to eat a cupcake without getting frosting on your nose. Learn how to pack, so you can actually carry more in your suitcase. No cupholder? No problem, when you have this awesomely helpful book!

Once your life is hacked, now make your brain even better with “Almanac 2022” from National Geographic Kids.

Let’s say you need to bone up on your geography. “Almanac 2022” has pages and pages of information on countries around the world, including pictures of flags in full color, plus details that’ll make you a geography whiz. Or take that interest in Earth to another level by reading the section on Earth science, which includes minerals, rocks, volcanoes and more – then keep going, to read about what’s way outside Earth, in space.

If you love animals, be prepared to happily browse the “Almanac 2022,” because there are critters all over this book! First, check out the entire first section here for an animal overdose, then drop in elsewhere to learn about frogs, dogs, and hogs. Read about blue-footed boobies, earthworms, and polar bears. Find about creatures that crawl, slither, and walk – including human creatures like you.

Kids ages 7-to-14 will find pages of jokes and fun, plenty of trivia, facts to learn, statistics to use, lessons on map-reading, history, technology, gardening, and astronomy. They’ll read about dangerous animals, take fun quizzes, learn about the weather, and get up-to-speed on the U.S. Constitution. This is the kind of book that’s fun to read, highly portable, great for vacations, and it can be happily borrowed by any adult who’s close by.

The National Geographic Kids folks have lots of other appealing books for readers in this age group, as well as for littler kids, too. Ask your bookseller or librarian for more. Your favorite smarty-pants will thank you.

More:Bookworm: Two great books about dogs

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.