Lyddie is based on the main character, Lyddie, who is a young girl only thirteen years old. The book is set in the 1840s and Lyddie experiences the Industrial Revolution first hand as she works six days a week in a cotton mill where there are no provisions for safe labor practices, protection of children, or suitable working conditions. Life is a struggle and Lyddie must teach herself to read and write and try to save money so that she can realize her dream of reuniting her displaced family. Lyddie has left to find work after her family suffers a traumatic event and she and her brother are needed to help pay off debts.
There are many harsh life lessons to be learned in Lyddie and questions which could be asked of her relate to her understanding of her situation and her efforts.
1. What was it like to have to spend time in the cabin without your parents?
When Lyddie and Charlie have to spend the winter alone in the cabin, they are basically trapped in their home and must fend for themselves in this harsh environment. This becomes a theme as Lyddie is often trapped by her circumstances.
2. What is it like working so hard but never having enough of the things you need?
In the nineteenth century, families often had to manage with few resources as provisions were often scarce.
3. Why did you decide to run away from the tavern and find work in the mill?
Lyddie believes that her circumstances can only improve. She is treated very badly at the tavern and believes she has a chance at freedom if she leaves. She desperately wants to earn more and save but at the tavern she doesn't even get any of her wages because they are sent to her mother.
4. Do you think that it is fair that you are expected to work and to contribute to the family's financial situation and make life-changing decisions when you are only a child?
In Lyddie's day and even a hundred years later, it was quite normal in working class families for children to be working and contributing to the family's expenses at age thirteen. Many decisions were made simply to survive. Lyddie does, however, have a plan to work hard so she can earn more and spend her money carefully so that she can save. Lyddie has always been very independent and does not like the idea of anyone's charity.
5. What inspires you about Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist and Oliver in particular?
Although Lyddie is illiterate, she is intelligent and learns to read. Oliver Twist is one of her first books. Her situation is not unlike Oliver's.