Incredible People: Five Stories of Extraordinary Lives

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Five illuminating stories of very special, very real people

Each chapter in this fascinating book features a biography of one of five people who triumphed over extraordinary circumstances. They include Jack Earle, a young giant, who was a movie star and circus performer; Victor, the French "wild boy", who was raised by a brilliant French doctor; the Hilton sisters, Siamese twins, who were enslaved by managers and performed in vaudeville; Ishi, the last member of a Native ...

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Overview

Five illuminating stories of very special, very real people

Each chapter in this fascinating book features a biography of one of five people who triumphed over extraordinary circumstances. They include Jack Earle, a young giant, who was a movie star and circus performer; Victor, the French "wild boy", who was raised by a brilliant French doctor; the Hilton sisters, Siamese twins, who were enslaved by managers and performed in vaudeville; Ishi, the last member of a Native American nation, who taught anthropologists about his life in the wilderness; and Ota Benga, the first African bushman brought to the United States. Readers will sympathize with these incredible people and how they coped in difficult times.

Presents the stories of six people whose lives were shaped by their physical and cultural differences from the rest of Western society: Jack Erlich, the Hilton Siamese twins, Ota Benga, Ishi, and the "Wild Boy" of France.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Pam Carlson
Ever thought of yourself as different, felt estranged, unaccepted? Just imagine being a giant before the days of supertall athletes, a Siamese twin, the last surviving member of an Indian tribe, a transplanted African pygmy, or a wild child captured in the forest. The people whose life stories are recounted sympathetically here lived always on public display, understood and befriended by few, mocked and exploited by many. Jack Earle, more than seven feet tall, traveled in a side show, starred in silent movies, and was a salesman, until his death in 1952. Ishi, the last of the northern California Yana tribe, seemed to love his life as helper at the Museum of Anthropology in San Francisco. He willingly taught others his language and skills, and the museum curators who cared for him saw him as a friend. Not so the adoptive mother of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, who saw the pair only as her meal ticket. Her family made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the twins' appearances in vaudeville shows, where they danced and played the violin and piano. Family members beat the twins when they dared show some independence. Liberated at age twenty-three by a concerned lawyer, the two never married and spent their final years working in a supermarket, living until about the age of sixty. Ota Benga, a pygmy rescued from slavery in Africa by a missionary explorer, was entrusted to the care of several until he committed suicide, unable to adjust to life in America. Before this, he was exhibited in a cage with the apes in a New York zoo. Some black sympathizers were outraged by this treatment and put him into an orphanage. But no one knew how to treat this grown, tiny man. The last story told here is of Victor, a feral child discovered in southern France in 1800. He was found to be partially deaf, and although a teacher and governess devoted many years to him, he never learned to speak more than a few words or connected with anyone besides the two adults. Drimmer has made a career of writing about the lives of "special" people. His hope is that others will learn from them how to live with dignity in the face of great challenges. A bibliography is included. Grainy, faded black-and-white photographs will not attract readers. Unless assigned or booktalked persuasively, teens will not storm the shelves for this title. Photos. Biblio. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7This is Drimmer's third collective biography about "extraordinary" (meaning special or unusual) individuals throughout history. Here, the author introduces five stories of incredible people, including a set of conjoined twins, a so-called "wild Indian" of the Yahi tribe, a pygmy bushman displayed at the Bronx Zoo, a wild boy found in France in 1800, and a circus performer who was a giant. Drimmer is sympathetic but not condescending as he clearly explains each of his subject's differences. He describes the emotions and motives of the individuals and their families, such as the protectiveness of the giant's parents, or the greed of the stepparents of the conjoined twins as they sought to make a big profit from the girls' appearances. Black-and-white photos appear throughout. With its short paragraphs and inviting typeface, this book makes a fine bridge for reluctant YAs into other works of nonfiction.Linda Beck, Indian Valley Public Library, Telford, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A sad collection of biographies of people who were regarded during their lifetimes as freaks.

Despite Drimmer's thesis that these unusual people overcame their abnormalities, all of them experienced loneliness and unhappiness, with one of them committing suicide. Four of the stories take place during the early 20th century: Jack Earle, a giant whose father encouraged him to join the circus; Ishi, the so-called last Indian in North America; Daisy and Violet, Siamese twins who performed in vaudeville; and Ota Benga, the first Pygmy brought to the US. A fifth story, about Victor, a wild boy found in the south of France in 1800, seems out of place with the first four, unless the definition of an "extraordinary" person is someone who remained "fearful, half-wild, and unable to learn to speak" during his short lifetime. Jack Earle's father told him that "being a freak is only a state of mind." Readers will sense the real tragedy, however, of lives that were led outside the mainstream, and the despair connected with being so different.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689319211
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.23 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.75 (d)

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