Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
The year is 1844. The place is Vermont. The book starts out with Lyddie staring down a bear and rescuing her family. Lyddie is only ten years old when her mentally unstable mother apprentices her to a tavern and her brother to a miller. The family is in desperate need of money. The father abandoned them years earlier to go out West. Lyddie has to save the farm and keep the family together. The year at the tavern is so tough that she has to formulate a new plan.
She makes it all the way to Lowell, Massachusetts. Textile factories could offer her more money - $2.00 a week! Diana mentors her immediately. Shuttle, weft, and warp become second nature to Lyddie. She doesn't want to get too close to Diana because she doesn't want to sign Diana's work-revolt petition. Brigid is the one who helps her the most. Brigid would read to her. To keep herself improving, Lyddie would copy a page of Oliver Twist at night. The next day she would place it by one of the looms in order to practice the words. Lyddie never loses sight of her goal. Just when she thought that things couldn't get any worse, she gets fired from the factory.
Don't let the title of the book fool you. This book is for everyone. Lyddie is sprinkled with tidbits of abolition, child labor exploitation, and more. The historical accuracy of this book is impeccable: the textile mills, the diseases, the thirteen hour work day, the six-day work week.
This book was given the Childrens Notable Book Award. However, it is the sequel, Jip: His Story, that won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The book's main theme is self-reliance. The main character's name is Lyddie Worthen, but it should be Lyddie "Worthy"!