Marguerite Lofft de Angeli, an award-winning author who wrote or illustrated nearly 60 children’s books, many of them praised for their down-to-earth portrayals of young people from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds, has died at the age of 98.
Mrs. De Angeli died Tuesday at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia.
In 1950, she received the highest honor awarded to children’s authors, the Newbery Medal, for “A Door in the Wall,” a poignant tale of a crippled child in plague-ridden London. The boy is befriended by a medieval monk who tells him “we must teach thy hands to be skilled in many ways, and we must teach thy mind to go about whether thy legs will carry thee or not. For reading is another door in the wall.”
She received a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for the book in 1961.
Mrs. De Angeli won Caldecott Honor awards for her illustrations in “The Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes” in 1955 and “Yonnie Wonder Nose” in 1946.
After studying art, music and writing at Philadelphia’s Girls High School, she considered pursuing a music career but instead married John de Angeli.
While raising a family in Collingswood, N.J., she began her career as an illustrator with the Westminster Press.
She decided to supply both art and story, and her first book, “Ted and Nina Go to the Grocery Store,” was published in 1935. It was a simple tale based on her children’s experiences.
Her last book, “Friendship & Other Poems,” was published in 1981 when she was 92.
Mrs. De Angeli also examined the speech, customs and dress of the Amish and the Mennonites in “Thee Hannah.” She wrote about the adventures of a 17th Century Swedish girl in “Elin’s Amerika.”
Her “Bright April,” about the life of a black child in a white community, explored racial bigotry. It was honored at the 1946 Herald Tribune Children’s Book Festival.
She is survived by three sons and a daughter.