Review of Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville’s Famous Conjoined Twins
by Sarah Miller
Middle School, High School    Schwartz & Wade/Random    320 pp.    g
4/21    978-0-593-11972-3    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-11973-0    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-11974-7    $10.99

On February 5, 1908, conjoined twins were born to Kate Skinner, an unwed mother, in Brighton, England. Mary ­Hilton, the opportunistic bar owner who had hired the expectant mother for no pay in exchange for midwifery services, quickly adopted the girls from Skinner and proceeded to charge customers for a peek at them. Carnivals of the time featured a variety of so-called “freaks,” people with atypical physical features. Capitalizing on this, Mary began touring the twins, first in England, then Europe and Australia, before landing in America. Here they made the jump to vaudeville, becoming a sensational box office hit in the 1920s. When Mary passed away, guardianship passed to her daughter and son-in-law, who continued to shamelessly exploit the twins. Ultimately, however, the sisters broke free of their control and began managing their own business affairs, though much less successfully. After their careers ended with a steady mix of burlesque shows, nightclub acts, and state fairs, they retired to North Carolina, working in a grocery store, before passing away in 1969. True to form, Miller’s (The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne ­Quintuplets, rev. 9/19) account is meticulously detailed and draws a clear line between facts and speculation, especially when it comes to the motivation of various characters. This comprehensive biography also provides a healthy dose of social history, particularly as it relates to entertainment, gender roles, and disability. A section of ­black-and-white captioned photographs is inserted in the middle, while an author’s note, bibliography, and source notes are appended.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.
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Ann Clare LeZotte

I just brought this book home from the library. This terrific review puts it at the top of my TBR!

Posted : Jul 18, 2021 09:35



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