Lyddie Worthen is a tough Vermont girl who has taken it upon herself to look out for her family's welfare when her father disappears west in hopes of earning money. Lyddie may be able to defend the family against an invading bear, but she's helpless when Ma decides to move in with their aunt and uncle, taking Lyddie's two younger sisters with her and hiring out Lyddie and her brother Charlie. Lyddie eventually leaves her job at an inn in hopes of earning enough as a mill girl in Lowell, Massachusetts to save the family farm. Lyddie does make money, but she learns that money can't buy her a family, and that some things really are more important than her job.
Paterson has a reputation for writing sad books, and with this in mind "Lyddie" was actually not as depressing as I thought it might be. The protagonist is endearing despite her prickly exterior, and the lessons she learns are valuable without becoming preachy.