Alice Dalgliesh – Part 6 in my series on Third Culture Kids children’s book authors
To continue (or get back to – I should say) my series on Third Culture Kid children’s authors, I would like to introduce you to Alice Dalgliesh (October 7, 1893 – June 11, 1979). If you use Sonlight Curriculum, you are already familiar with her Newbery Honor book, The Courage of Sarah Noble.
Alice was born October 7, 1893 in Trinidad, British West Indies, where she spent the first thirteen years of her life. Alice and her family then immigrated to England where she attended school. Six years later she came to the United States to study kindergarten education at the Pratt Institute in New York City. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master degree in English Literature from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
After completing her schooling, she taught for 17 years at the Horace Mann School in New York City. She also taught courses on children’s literature and story writing at Columbia University.
In 1934, she started a children’s publishing department at Charles Scribner and Sons, where she worked until 1960. Under her leadership the Children’s Department at Scribners published many distinguished authors and illustrators.
Children’s books by Alice Dalgliesh:
The Silver Pencil (1944)
The Silver Pencil is a young adult novel. Based on the author’s life, it tells of the childhood and young adulthood of Janet Laidlaw in the early years of the twentieth century. She moves from Trinidad to England, then to the United States and Nova Scotia, becoming a teacher and a writer.
The title The Silver Pencil comes from the fact that Janet’s father gives her a silver pencil the Christmas before he dies, to begin writing stories about Trinidad and the family’s house on the hill. Many years later, she finds the silver pencil and begins to write again bringing back to life all her memories of her life, both past and present.
As a semi-autobiography, it shed light on the issues that Alice faced as a child and young adult, adjusting to other cultures, first British culture, then American culture.
The Silver Pencil also deals with issues of loss and grief that comes from being a third culture kid. The fictional character (as well as Alice) did loose her father when she was a child, but also faced separation from her mother and brother for many years, spending holidays away from family in new places. The search for home and belonging are themes that are extensively explored in this novel.
Friendships are also focused on in this novel and play such a vital role in her life. Friendships are what helps her through many difficult moments.
I recommend this novel for ages 12 or older, especially introspective teens, who love to read and write. If your daughter loves Anne of Green Gables series, this novel is sure to be a hit. I think it’s also a good read as an adult novel. I read it this past summer and spent many evenings reading it, way past my bedtime! This is also great third culture kid book.
A Newbery honor book
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard (1954)
For ages 7-10
Published in 1954, this short novel is the story of a little girl who travels to Connecticut with her dad in the early 18th century to begin building a home. When the father must return to help the rest of the family travel back, Sarah is left behind with the Schaghticoke tribe.
This book is hard to put down. It’s also a great read-aloud book, which can easily be read in one sitting. I love the fact that Sarah becomes comfortable with living with and learning from the Native Americans, who show great sensitivity and hospitality towards Sarah.
This short novel speaks volumes about courage and overcoming fears in new situations. It is a good starting point to talk about cultural differences and learning to accept and appreciate those differences.
Based on a true story.
The illustrations by Leonard Weisgard are done in Sepia and black, and compliment the story well
A Newbery honor book
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell
For ages 6-9
Jonathan, who lives at the foot of Hemlock Mountains, is sent on an errand across the mountain. He had never crossed the mountain before and he was frightened. There are rumors that bears have been spotted on the mountain years ago, but everyone reassures Jonathan that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain. As he heads out on a cold winter’s day, he needs all the courage he can muster to make it there and back.
“Jonathan began to think about bears. And to keep up his courage he said, in time to his own slow steps:
THERE … ARE … NO … BEARS
ON… HEMLOCK … MOUNTAIN
NO BEARS … NO … BEARS … AT … ALL.”
…Or are there?
Another Newbery honor book, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain is also a great read-aloud. The theme of courage in the face of danger and fear is presented in a gentle way, in a way that your child will identify with.
I also enjoyed the way, Alice describes the natural world and the animals Jonathan encounters as he treks over the mountain. I also enjoyed how she weaves in the warmth and support of community and family life described in the book.
The illustrations by Helen Sewell are in black and blue, in the Pennsylvania German decorative art quality. They are very simple, but it is the simplicity of them that draws you in. I love Sewell’s illustrations of the cut-out cookies the mother makes for a family christening.
Note: I find it fascinating that both Alice Dalgliesh and Jean Fritz, neither of whom grew up in the United States, ended up not only writing award-winning children’s books, but books focusing on American history. Jean Fritz says her fascination with history was fueled by her deep desire to belong.
I think researching our roots, and knowing who we are in community is so vital to our identity – I encourage you, whatever your background is, to teach your children about where they come from, their past, their family roots. I have enjoyed as a TKC, learning about my own family’s history, as my mom has shared with me about her childhood in England and her extended family, and my father has shared about his roots in Hungary.
Other novels by Alice Dalgliesh
The Little Wooden Farmer (1930, reprinted in 1958) illustrated by Anita Lobel
The story of a wooden farmer and his wife, who get help from a captain and his ship to add animals to their little farm. For Ages 3-6. Illustrated by Anita Lobel. The beauty of this book is it’s simplicity, both in the text and the illustrations. A book that will be requested often and encourages creative play. note: unfortunately, this little gem is out of print –
The Thanksgiving Story (1955) illustrated by Helen Sewell –
A Caldecott Honor book, this is the story of the first Thanksgiving, based on the narrative of Giles, Constance and Damaris Hopkins who were aboard the Mayflower. On the journey, they welcome their baby brother Oceanus. They arrive at Plymouth and survive that first brutal winter to celebrate and give thanks to God along with the Indians who helped them fight off hunger, cold and sickness. For ages 5-8
The Columbus Story (1955) illustrated by Leo Politi
The story of the explorer, Christopher Columbus, his voyage to the West and his discovery of the Americas. For ages 6-10.
The Fourth of July Story (1956) – illustrated by Mary Nonnast
The Fourth of July Story is just that – a description of the events that led up to that momentous day when the United States became an independent country. It is written in a way that even younger children can understand and relate to it. For ages 4-8
Newbery Medal runner-up 1945, 1953, 1955
My favorite Alice Quotes:
“To be afraid and to be brave is the best kind of courage of all.”
― Alice Dalgliesh, The Courage of Sarah Noble
“They did not speak in the same words but somehow they understood each other….Friends have ways of speaking without words.”
– Alice Dalgliesh, The Courage of Sarah Noble
“Strange, she thought, how friends come when you need them most! Some of them come and stay a long time…others come in and go out, but always leave something of themselves.”
– Alice Dalgliesh, The Silver Pencil
“What the future held for her she didn’t know. Of two things only she was certain. There would be children- her own or other people’s- and there would be books.”
– Alice Dalgliesh, The Silver Pencil