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Paterson, Katherine. (1992). Lyddie. New York: Puffin Books. 183 pp.

Grade Range: 6-9

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary and Critique

    As the eldest child struggling to hang onto the Vermont family farm with only the help of her younger brother Charlie, Lyddie is despondent to learn that she is to work in an inn to pay off the farm debts while Charlie is let out to the local mill. No stranger to hard work, she befriends the cook Triphena and soon learns about factory jobs in Lowell, Massachusetts. Determined to earn the money faster to pay off the farm debts, she becomes one of many factory girls working long hours in dangerous and unsafe working conditions. Living in a border house in cramped conditions, Lyddie so finds herself becoming friends with her peers and with a controversial worker named Diana, one of the few workers attempting to change the working conditions. Becoming stronger in spirit and independence, Lyddie struggles between achieving her goal of paying off the farm debt and seeing her friends suffer from harsh working conditions.

    One of the few books that addresses the plight of factory workers in the 1840's of an expanding and industrial America, this narrative offers the reader a glimpse of a part of our history not told in textbooks yet remains a global issue today. Young teenage middle school girls will identify with Lyddie as she struggles to overcome obstacles in order to obtain her goal, and realizing in the end that some goals are unattainable while new unforeseen ones are presented.


    Honor Book of the International Board of Books for Young People 1994

    American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults

    American Library Association Notable Children's Book



    Friends and Enemies

    Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

    Challenges and Triumphs

    The Individual vs. Society


Author Information

    Born on October 31, 1932 in Qing Jiang, China to missionary parents, Katherine Paterson grew up with a desire to become either a movie star or a missionary. Political turmoil forced the family to leave China and then Japan as the onset of World War became inevitable. As a young woman, she returned to Japan and grew to love the country. Returning to study for a year in New York, she met her husband and they now live in Vermont with her family. Her writing career began shortly into their marriage and she continues to write today picture books as well as novels for young adults. Her most recent young adult release was The Same Stuff as Stars in 2002. She is the author of Newbery Award winners'Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, and controversial Newbery Honor book The Great Gilly Hopkins.

For more information on Katherine Paterson: This is her official Web site and offers information about Katherine Paterson (e.g., biographical facts, annotated bibliographies of her books, common questions posed by her readers, a list of awards, and upcoming events).

Media Connections


    Norma Rae (1979) Fearing for the safety of her family and friends, Norma Rae overcomes obstacles at work and in her marriage with her attempt to bring a union to the small town cotton mill.

    Matewan (1987) Set in a small West Virginia town in 1920, locals attempt to form a union are thwarted by the company's attempts to bring in cheap labor with the use of African American and Italian miners.

    A Civil Action (1998) This movie describes the trial in and out of the courtroom of a class action suit against a small town near Woburn, Massachusetts against two of the towns main employers, who have been accused of inappropriately disposing of hazardous materials into the local water supply. A money-hungry lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, takes the case and discovers that fighting a big industry can be devastating.

    Harlan County, U. S. A. (1976) A documentary of a year long strike in 1973 by Kentucky coal miners after refusing to sign a contract offered by the United Mine Workers of America and the company, Eastover Mining Company.

    Harlan County War (2000) TV A docudrama tells the story of Ruby Kincaid as she joins an often violent strike led by coal miners after a cave-in almost kills her husband and her father suffers from black lung disease

    Erin Brockovich (2000) A single mom investigates the illegal dumping of waste by a large electrical company in California upon learning about the health threats by its residents.

    Iron Jawed Angels (2004) The story of women's suffrage and right to vote as lived through one of its most controversial founders, Alice Paul, along with key events including meeting opposition with the National Women's Suffrage Association, get arrested and go on a hunger strike.


    Roseanne - (1988-1996) any episode (family relationships, challenges, and triumph)

    Family Ties - (1982 - 1989) any episode (family relationships, challenges, and triumph)


    "She's Not Just a Pretty Face." Lyrics by Shania Twain. From Up!. Mercury Nashville, 2002. (A song that empowers women through their occupation)

Online Resources

Related Texts

    Avi. (2002). Crispin: The Cross of Lead. New York: Hyperion Press, 262 pp. After being wrongly accused of the death of his mother, a young boy flees and learns of his true name from his mother's lead cross, Crispin. He meets up with a juggler named Bear, and young Crispin becomes first his servant and then his friend. He discovers his true quest etched in the cross while he attempts to rescue Bear from prison.

    Clinton, Catherine, editor. (2003). A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women of Today and Yesterday. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 79pp. A collection of twenty poems that relate to women's experiences in oppression and democracy in American history are told from famous women poets including historical figures Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and contemporary authors Naomi Shihab Nye and Julia Alvarez.

    Cushman, Karen. (1995). The Midwife's Apprentice. New York: Clarion, 122pp. Set in medieval England, Alyce is an orphan looking for food and work. She is taken in by a sharp-tongued and overbearing midwife named Jane and is given meager food rations for her long hours of work. Overcoming her nickname of Beetle, Alyce triumphs over slavery to become competition for Jane.

    Dickens, Charles. (1829). Oliver Twist. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard. 212 pp. As a poor young boy forced from his workhouse and living the streets of the Victorian-era London, Oliver experiences mystery, and adventure as he survives the Industrial Revolution in England.

    Gallo, Donald R. Editor. (1999). Time Capsule: Short Stories about Teenagers throughout the Twentieth Century. New York: Delacorte, 221pp. A compilation of ten stories that take place throughout the Twentieth Century that addresses issues surrounding teenagers today including racism, drugs and censorship.

    Ryan, Pam, M. (2000) Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic Press. 262. Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee their life of wealth and privilege after the murder of their father in Mexico. Crossing the border into the United States, they join other migrant workers in the fields of San Joaquin Valley in California on the eve of the Great Depression and migrant worker rights.

    Veciana-Suarez, Ana. (2002). Flight to Freedom. New York: Orchard Books, 215pp. Set in 1967, Yara is a young teenage girl and recent immigrant to America. She relates her feelings, confusion and often frustration as she learns to change and adapt to a new country and living in America while still trying to remain true to her native land of Cuba.

Teaching Ideas

    (1) "How to Quilt a Narrative" This activity is an alternative to a traditional oral/written book report as it provides inspiration for many readers to share stories. A small group of young children reading the same book can create a group-presentation form using a quilt. The first step is to gather materials to use for the quilt which can include the following materials: old fabric remnants, wall paper, old sheets, rags, and T-shirts. Students then cut them into the same size squares, 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" is suggested. After gathering their quilt squares, students then can choose to write down the different characters, use quotes, summarize the story but leave out the end, and leave empty quilt squares for other students to make their comments. To connect the quilt squares, students can either sew by hand, staple or weave ribbon or yarn through punched holes in the materials. Once their quilt is finished, the students present their quilt book report to the class.

    [Summarized from "How to Quilt a Narrative–A New Form for Book Reports" by Rose Reissman in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English, October 1996, p. 8-9.]

    (2) "Play Production: The Sky's the Limit" This activity requires students to create a play based on a story. Details such as writing the script, casting, music, costumes, scenery, and directing must be included in the final product of their Production Booklets. As students negotiate the story themes they would like to emphasize in the story, different interpretations will result in the final production of the play. Students can take on different roles including producer, director and actor as they negotiate the final product as it relates to the audience's reactions to and interpretations of the story.

    [Summarized from "Play Production: The Sky's the Limit" by Robert H. Rempe in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English, October 1992, p. 10-11.]

    (3) "From Book to Scrapbook" This activity requires the students create a scrapbook of a character's life from a novel. Students use a variety of genre's to represent the character's life including letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, photographs, and sketches with accompanying comments about the events. To make the scrapbook as authentic as possible, students can include birth certificates and other official documents.

    [Summarized from "From Book to Scrapbook by Brenda J. Clark in Classroom Notes Plus. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English, November 1986, p. 10-11.]

(Review written by Cecilia Castagnola and edited by Jennifer E. Moore)