Alice Dalgliesh

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Alice Dalgliesh
Alice Dalgliesh photo.jpg
Born Alice Dalgliesh
(1893-10-07)October 7, 1893
Trinidad, British West Indies
Died June 11, 1979(1979-06-11)
Woodbury, Connecticut, USA
Occupation Writer and publisher
Citizenship American (naturalized )
Notable works
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
  • The Silver Pencil
Notable awards Newbery Medal runner-up 1945, 1953, 1955

Alice Dalgliesh (October 7, 1893 – June 11, 1979) was a naturalized American author and publisher who wrote more than 40 fiction and non-fiction books, mainly for children. She has been called "a pioneer in the field of children's historical fiction".[1] Three of her books were runners-up for the annual Newbery Medal, the partly autobiographical The Silver Pencil, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, and The Courage of Sarah Noble, which was also named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list.

As the founding editor[when?] of Scribner's and Sons Children's Book Division, Dalgliesh published works by award-winning authors and illustrators including Robert A. Heinlein, Marcia Brown, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Katherine Milhous, Will James, Leonard Weisgard, and Leo Politi. Her prominence in the field of children's literature led to her being appointed the first president[when?] of the Children's Book Council, a national nonprofit trade association of children's book publishers and presses.[2]


Born October 7, 1893 in Trinidad, British West Indies, to John and Alice (Haynes) Dalgliesh, Alice immigrated to England with her family when she was 13. Six years later she came to America[3] to study kindergarten education at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She eventually received a Bachelor in Education and Master in English Literature from the Teachers College at Columbia University. While she was at school Dalgliesh applied for and received her naturalization as an American citizen. She taught for 17 years at the Horace Mann School,[4]:256 while also leading courses in children's literature and story writing at Columbia.[5] Dalgliesh regularly wrote about children's books for Parent's Magazine (1929 to 1943), Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and The Saturday Review.[6] She also contributed to The Horn Book Magazine, including the article "In Mr. Newbery's Bookshop", about John Newbery.[7]

Dalgliesh worked with the textbook department at Charles Scribner and Sons editing social studies books. This led to an invitation to start a children's book publishing department at the firm in 1934. According to Charles Scribner, Jr., at that time "Scribner's employed no women except secretaries. When she came to my father and asked him to give her an office, he replied, 'Oh, do you really need one?'" Apparently he had expected her to begin and run the division out of her home.[8] She held the position of children's book editor until 1960.

After her retirement from Scribner's, Dalgleish became the editor of "Books for Young Readers" by The Saturday Review of Literature. She reviewed books for that magazine from 1961 until 1966.[6]

Alice Dalgliesh died June 11, 1979 in Woodbury, Connecticut. Her papers are held at the University of Minnesota,[9] Vassar College Library, and the Princeton University Library.[6]


Dalgliesh began writing at the urging of Louise Seaman Bechtel, then a publisher at Macmillan, who published her second book, The Little Wooden Farmer in 1930. Seaman Bechtal continued to mentor Dalgliesh after she began working at Scribners.[10]

The Silver Pencil, published by Scribners in 1944, was a runner-up for the annual American Library Association Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor Book in modern terms. The title refers to a silver pencil given to Dalgleish by her father.[11]:217 The book is a thinly veiled partial-autobiography about Janet Laidlaw, born in Trinidad to a Scotch father and British mother, like Dalgliesh. Janet eventually comes to America and becomes a teacher and writer. The book, illustrated by Katherine Milhous, was called by Saturday Review, "a treasure to possess and to keep."[12] Two years later Along Janet's Road, also illustrated by Milhous, continued the story.

Dalgliesh's next major book was The Bears on Hemlock Mountain. She said this simple picture book was based on an old Pennsylvania tall tale.[13] Illustrated by Helen Sewell, it is another Newbery Honor Book.

Her third Newbery Honor Book came two years later, The Courage of Sarah Noble. The book opens with an Author's Note stating that it is a true story. Virginia Haviland, later the first director of the Library of Congress Children's Book Section, said of Sarah Noble, "“Here is a remarkable book for younger readers — a true pioneer adventure, written for easy reading but without any sacrifice of literary quality or depth of feeling.”[14]

Dalgliesh wrote over three dozen children's books, others for adults, and a great many articles and reviews of children's fiction. A number of her books were named Best Books of the Year by Horn Book Magazine.[15] Her non-fiction was often noted by reviewers for its "casual yet factual and detailed style." Frequently her books capitalized on her interest in American history and were praised for their "accuracy and detail as well as her creation of believable characters and dramatic plots."[9] Reviewer Rachel Fordyce pointed to her "strong sense of the child audience... and a delight in language, detail, situation, and action."[4]:258


 A Photo of the Scribners Publishing building in NY.
Scribner's Publishing Building, NY

Under her leadership the Children's Department at Scribners published many distinguished authors and illustrators like N.C. Wyeth, Genevieve Foster and Alfred Morgan. She produced award winning non-fiction, including several ground-breaking science and biography series. Her fiction sometimes pushed the boundaries, as in 1952's Two and the Town by Henry Felsen, in which a young girl becomes pregnant and the couple is then forced to marry.[6]

Dalgliesh also developed juvenile science fiction, and was Robert A. Heinlein's editor for many of his books, from Red Planet, (1949), to Have Space Suit Will Travel (1959). She is reported to have argued with him about the books they worked on together.[16] At one point she commented that she wished she had a girl's writer who could turn out a book a year, as Heinlein did for boys. Taking her idea to heart, he wrote the short story "Poor Daddy", with a teenage girl for the protagonist.[17] Three of Heinlein's juveniles that she published won Hugo Awards for Best Novel.[18]

Francis Felsen, who worked under Dalgliesh as an editor, said she "knew clearly what she liked and didn't like and stood behind it." But she also "let authors write in their own voice, had insights into writers, and a respect for history".[6] Charles Scribner, Jr., came into the business while she was there, and said this of her: "She was a professional through and through. Indeed, she gave me my real education in publishing as a business, as a set of obligations, and as a career requiring the highest standards. She felt she had a calling to be a children's book editor and that her books had to be of the highest possible quality."[8]

Once World War II ended, schools around the U. S. began a major push to increase their libraries. According to Scribner Jr. again, "Alice's list was aimed directly at this very profitable market. All the people involved -- the editors, the artists, the reviewers, the teachers, the school librarians -- shared a common resolve to give American youngsters the very best literature that could be got."[8] Given the number of award winning books she published, it appears the industry felt she was successful. Children's literature authority Leonard S. Marcus says in Minders of Make-Believe, "her department quietly captured the industry's respect and more than a few of its accolades."[19] Besides the three Hugo awards, Dalgliesh published at least eleven Newbery Honor books, three Caldecott Medal books and ten Caldecott Honor books, (including her own). Dalgleish has been "credited with advancing the place of children's literature in the publishing world".[11]:218

Selected works[edit]

  • A Happy School Year, Rand McNally & Company, 1924, (reader);
  • West Indian Play Days, Rand McNally, 1926;
  • The Little Wooden Farmer, Macmillan, 1930; reprint, 1958, with illustrations by Anita Lobel, ISBN 978-0-02-725590-4;
  • First Experiences with Literature, C. Scribner's Sons, 1932, (college textbook);
  • A Book for Jennifer : A Story of London Children in the Eighteenth Century and of Mr. Newbery's Juvenile Library, Scribner, 1940;
  • The Silver Pencil, * C. Scribner's Sons, 1944; reprint, Scholastic Inc., 1992, ISBN 978-0-590-46010-1;
  • Along Janet's Road, C. Scribner's Sons, 1946;
  • Christmas; A Book of Stories New and Old, C. Scribner's Sons, 1950;
  • The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, * C. Scribner's Sons, 1952; reprint, Simon and Schuster, 1992, ISBN 978-0-689-71604-1;
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble, *+ C. Scribner's Sons, 1954; reprint, Baker & Taylor, CATS, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4420-1234-9;
  • The Columbus Story, C. Scribner's Sons, 1955;
  • Thanksgiving Story, ^ illus. Helen Sewell, C. Scribner's Sons, 1954; reprint, Paw Prints, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4395-5424-1;
  • The Fourth of July Story, C. Scribner's Sons, 1956; reprint, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1995, ISBN 978-0-689-71876-2;
  • Aids to Choosing Books for Your Children, with Duff, Annis, (editors), Children's Book Council, 1957;
  • Ride on the Wind, C. Scribner's Sons, 1956, (biography of Charles Lindbergh);
  • The Enchanted Book, C. Scribner's Sons, 1958;
  • America Begins: The Story of the Finding of the New World, C. Scribner's Sons, 1959.

Newbery Honor Book *[20]

Lewis Carroll Shelf Award book (1959) +[21]

Caldecott Honor Book ^[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Something About the Author, vols. 17, Thomson Gale, 1994
  2. ^ "Children's Book Council History". Children's Book Council. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Passenger Record: Alice Dalgliesh". The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Chevalier, Tracy (editor), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, St. James Press, 1989;
  5. ^ Palmquist, Vicki. "Birthday Bios: Alice Dalgliesh". Children's Literature Network. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Miller, Marilyn Lee, Pioneers and Leaders in Library Services to Youth: A Biographical Dictionary, Libraries Unlimited, 2003
  7. ^ The Horn Book, volume 16, July 1940.
  8. ^ a b c Scribner, Charles, Jr., In the Company of Writer's: A Life in Publishing, NY Scribner and Sons, 1990, pg 53.
  9. ^ a b Eyer, Jim. "Alice Dalgliesh Papers". The Children's Literature Research Collections. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Marcus, Leonard, Minders of Make-Believe, Houghton Mifflin, 2008, pg. 120-123;
  11. ^ a b Cullinan, Bernice E. (2005). The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. Continuum International Publishing Group. 
  12. ^ "Stories for Older Boys and Girls". Saturday Review. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Eccleshare, Julia, (editor), 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, Universe Publishing, 2009, pg. 243.
  14. ^ "Virginia Haviland: Children’s Librarian, U.S.A.". The Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  15. ^ "Fanfare Best Books of Year List". Library Thing. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  16. ^ Heinlein, Robert A, and Heinlein, Virginia; Grumbles from the Grave; Del Ray; 1989
  17. ^ Patterson, William H., Robert A. Heinlein: 1907-1948, Learning Curve, vol 1, Tor, 2010
  18. ^ "Hugo Awards: Results". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  19. ^ Marcus, Leonard S., Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature, Houghton Mifflin, 2008, pg. 123.
  20. ^ "Newbery Awards". Retrieved May 5, 2012. 
  21. ^ Creighton, Sean and Cunningham, Sheila, Literary Laurels: A Reader's Guide to Award-Winning Children's Books, Hillyard, 1996, pp. 25–34
  22. ^ "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 

External links[edit]