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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books:
Gone but Not Forgotten
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist, sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.

Leclaire Gowans Alger/ Sorche Nic Leodhas

The name of Leclaire Alger is not likely to ring bells for anyone, but carillons chime whenever I hear it. Leclaire Alger was born in 1898 in Youngstown, Ohio. She was a sickly child, home ill so often her parents finally decided to have her homeschooled. She was an early reader who turned into a writer by imitating her father and sister, both of whom did freelance writing.

Leclaire Alger was a page at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh in 1915, and she worked for the New York Public Library from 1921-25. In 1926 she entered the Carnegie Library School; she graduated with her certificate in 1929, and worked for the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh until 1966. Leclaire Alger led an exemplary professional life, but she had a secret.

Leclaire Alger, Librarian, was the alter-ego of Sorche Nic Leodhas, storyteller. Sorche Nic Leodhas told stories of kings and clans, princesses and cailleachs; she told stories from the Scottish highlands and the Western Islands, ghostly narratives of doomed love and eerie legends of inescapable curses. Oh, but she told a grand tale! Leclaire Alger told stories, too, of course, in books like Jan and the Wonderful Mouth Organ (Harper, 1939) and The Golden Summer (Harper, 1942), but it was Sorche Nic Leodhas who set down the old Scottish tales heard from family and kin, strangers and travelers, put them into collections like Thistle and Thyme, Claymore and Kilt, and Sea-Spell and Moor-Magic.

Her storytelling style was lyrical and poetic; her elegant language lent itself to the romantic, the adventurous, the humorous, and the uncanny with equal dexterity. It is unlikely you will find these tales anywhere else except in her collections--she (and her family) deliberately sought out and collected those tales that had not yet been written down. She heard them at clan gatherings, family reunions, ceilidhs, and Gaelic club meetings, and she remembered them with a faultless ear and a musical tongue the likes of which we'd be hard-pressed to find even in today's most well-retold folktales. Go look on your shelves, and with any luck at all you'll happen upon one, two, three or all of her collections. Take them down and open them up, read them alone and read them aloud, and become another who knows why a storyteller like Sorche Nic Leodhas will never be forgotten.

--Janice M. Del Negro, Editor


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This page was last updated on May 1, 1998.