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Alice Dalgliesh was born in Trinidad, British West Indies, to a Scottish father and English mother, and moved to England with her family at age 13. She began writing at an early age and won a writing prize from a magazine at age 14. In 1912, at age 19, she came to the USA to study kindergarten education at the Pratt Institute in New York City, and stayed for the rest of her life. She earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's in English literature from Columbia University Teacher's College. She taught for 17 years at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale while also teaching a course in children's literature at Columbia. She regularly wrote about children's books for magazines such as Parents, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and The Saturday Review. She also edited social studies textbooks for Charles Scribner's Sons, which led to an invitation to start a children's book department at the publishing firm in 1934. She served as children's book editor until her retirement in 1960.

She then became the editor of the Books for Young Readers section of The Saturday Review of Literature for several years. She began writing books in the 1920s at the urging of Louise Seaman Bechtel, then a publisher at Macmillan, and went on to produce some 40 work of fiction and nonfiction for children, and works about children's literature. Many of them were named Newbury Honor Books and Best Books of the Year, and many were illustrated by Katherine Milhous. Her most famous work is probably The Courage of Sarah Noble (1954).
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