Lyddie is a young girl who is separated from her family and made to work in order for them to keep their farm.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" describes the habit of trying to compete with your peers' social status, wealth, and possessions. This article explores our systems of status and class, and why there exists this pressure of social competition.
Have students read this text after finishing chapter 3, “Cutler’s Tavern,” in order to provide them with context on social class and its influence on individuals. When Lyddie first sees the woman in the silk dress, she believes she is elegant. However, by the end of the chapter, she discovers she’s a factory girl. Ask students to try and pinpoint what it is about the factory girl that is most alluring to Lyddie; her status, her possessions, or the money she claims to make? Is Lyddie’s drive an attempt to “keep up with the Joneses”?
In these excerpts from Frederick Douglass' autobiography, African American hero and champion for the Freedmen of America tells audiences how he learned to read.
Introduce this excerpt to the students after they have read chapter 6, “Ezekial,” in order to give them further insight into the life of a slave. In what ways is Douglass’ experience both different and similar to Lyddie’s? How does Lyddie’s life at Cutler’s Tavern compare to her life before freedom? Keep in mind that Ezekial hopes she finds freedom as well, despite their differences.
In "Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Acceptance Speech," Yousafzai accepts the Nobel Peace Prize and speaks about the importance of education.
Have students read this text after chapter 12, “I Will Not Be a Slave”, to connect Yousafzai’s struggle for education with Lyddie and Betsy’s desire to learn. Ask students to compare Yousafzai to a character in Lyddie — what does Malala have in common with these characters? Compare Malala’s experience to Diana’s attempts to educate the girls on unions and workers rights. At the end of the chapter, Lyddie decides to keep her head down and keep working. What would Malala think of Lyddie’s choices?
Carl Sandburg's poem "Halsted Street Car" (1916) is a critique of working conditions in Chicago. In it, Sandburg paints a powerful picture of the weary faces of the working class.
Introduce the poem “Halsted Street Car” after reading chapter 17 “The Doffer,” to gain perspective on industrial workers like Lyddie and her peers. Consider how the speaker in the poem describes the workers on the streetcar specifically as “tired” and “empty.” If Lyddie were on the streetcar, would she resemble the workers described? Would her sister, Rachel, also resemble these workers? Compare Lyddie’s concerns about Rachel’s health to the speaker’s view of these tired and empty faces.
In "Fear Prompts Teens to Act Impulsively," Laura Sanders explores the psychology and biology behind why rebellious behavior peaks during the teen years.
Introduce this text after Chapter 20, “B is for Brigid,” to facilitate a discussion on Lyddie’s outlook — particularly in regard to Mr. Marsden. Is Lyddie impulsive and fear-driven, as this article suggests teens tend to be? Consider the article’s argument that teen brains get “rewired” alongside Lyddie’s previous experience with Mr. Marsden.
William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was an English poet, critic, and editor. His best known poem is "Invictus," published in 1875, which he wrote just following the amputation of his foot due to tuberculosis.
Have students read this poem after they have completed the novel. Students can use the poem to help analyze the characterization of Lyddie and her emotional state at the end of the book. Ask students to consider whether Lyddie is finally “master of [her] fate.” What characters throughout Lyddie are masters of their fates? Consider, in particular, Ezekial Freeman, Betsy, and Diana.