Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Katherine Paterson
For ages 12 and up
Penguin, 2004   ISBN: 978-0142402542

Lyddie has only known hardship and now things are worse than they have ever been Lyddie’s father left her family on their small Vermont farm to try to find work elsewhere and to make some money. Nothing has been heard from him in months and Lyddie, being the eldest child in the family, is carrying many of the family responsibilities on her own thin shoulders. She has her brother Charlie to help her, and the two children are determined to stay on the farm until their father returns. Then their mother also leaves the farm taking the small children with her. Lyddie and Charlie want to hold onto the farm, but their mother has other ideas for her children. To their horror Lyddie and Charlie find out that their mother has hired them out to be servants. The children have no choice but to leave their home and to go to do the work that their mother has arranged for them.

   Lyddie decides that she is at least going to try to raise the money needed to pay the debt on the farm. Then she will be able to bring the family back together and perhaps her father will return. This is the dream that she holds on to as she works as a maid in an inn. Her dream then drives her to leave Vermont to seek higher paying work elsewhere and like many other girls before her, she decides to become a factory girl in Lowell Massachusetts.

   It isn’t long before Lyddie finds out how hard life is for a factory girl. The wages are quite good for the times but the hours are long, the work is exhausting and dangerous, and the rules are strict. Lyddie keeps to herself, saving her money and holding out for the day when she will be able to pay off the debt on the farm.

   Then all her plans are knocked awry and Lyddie begins to wonder if her dream is worth all the sacrifices that she has made. Somehow she has lost touch with the world, with the people about her, and with perhaps with life itself. Perhaps saving the farm is not the answer; perhaps there is something else out there in the big world for her to do with her life.

   This deeply moving and highly acclaimed story not only paints a picture of life inAmericain the 1800’s. It also captures the struggles that a young girl’s has growing up and we see her come to the realization that there is so much more to life than mere survival. New doors can open that offer new possibilities and opportunities, and one has to have courage to step through these doors to see what lies beyond.