Review of The Miracle & Tragedy 
of the Dionne Quintuplets

The Miracle & Tragedy 
of the Dionne Quintuplets
by Sarah Miller
Middle School, High School    
Schwartz & Wade/Random    309 pp.   
8/19    978-1-5247-1381-2    $17.99
Library ed.  978-1-5247-1382-9    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-1383-6    $10.99

The “miracle” referred to in the title was of course the birth of the five identical Dionne sisters in Ontario in 1934, the first time quintuplets were known to survive. The “tragedy” is pretty much everything else about their story, with the baby girls taken from their parents to be raised in a custom-built hospital led by the dedicated—and controlling—Dr. Dafoe. “The babies’ parents had to ring a bell at the gate and wait for the guard to let them inside.” As much exposé as biography, Miller’s book is a propulsive account of what life in that hospital was like for the girls, who lived there until they were nine years old, receiving necessary treatment for their initial fragility, certainly, but also serving as both a science experiment and as a tourist attraction, with thousands of visitors lining up daily for a chance to observe the “quints” at play. Their eventual repatriation to the family was a decidedly mixed affair, as the girls had become used to their own society and were not welcomed by their other siblings. They were also, as alleged by three of the sisters fifty years later, sexually abused by their father. To her credit, Miller avoids a sensationalizing tone, allowing the facts to speak for themselves. International media darlings during the Great Depression, the Dionne sisters are virtually unknown to today’s young people, but Miller’s intense focus on what the girls were going through makes their story timeless. Readers may start this account for the horror but finish with sympathy. Substantial back matter includes a lengthy “references” section, thorough source notes, and an index.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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