31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 1999
This book was a great suprise for me. A young native boy teaches another "white" boy (living on his own) how to hunt without bullets or rifles, fish without a man made hook, make a bow and arrow, and so much more. A wonderful friendship grows between the boys in a time when friendship of this nature was frowned upon. A wonderful story. This book will be even more exciting for the child who loves the outdoors. We adults will learn quite a thing or two as well.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2003
The Sign of the Beaver depicts the experiences of 13 year old Matt. Matt is a native of Massechusetts now commissioned to protect and preserve their families new land in Maine while his father returns to bring the rest of his family to the new land. Through a series of events, Matt receives unexpected friendship from a neighboring Penobscot tribe and a young boy named Attean. He learns how to adjust to his new home and survive even the toughest of situations.
This is a well-written book that is exploding with adventure and emotion. It is book that many children today can relate to as many of them are faced with the responsiblities of an adult at very young ages. The Sign of the Beaver also reveals how first impressions can be reevaluated and friendships can be formed amidst the greatest adversity. I believe this book would be great for any reader, but especially the middle school reader.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2000
The Sign of the Beaver is a great YA novel that will especially appeal to adolescent boys. After settling on their new homestead, Matt's father must return East to bring back his mother, sister, and newborn baby. He leaves thirteen-year-old Matt to care for the place while he is gone, a journey that shoud take less then two months, but ends up being twice that long. Matt has to tend the crops and the house as well as fend for himself when he runs out of supplies to make meals. Along the way, he learns some valuable--and very hard--lessons, such as locking the cabin door carefully and taking care of his Pa's gun. When his luck has almost run out, Matt meets Attean and his grandfather, Indians who befriend him. Attean patiently teaches Matt the ways of the wilderness, and soon the cultural gap between them is bridged. The Sign of the Beaver is an excellent lesson in not only history and pioneer life, but also in the effects of racism and prejudice. This is a great YA novel and an excellent choice for readers of all ages.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2001
"The Sign of the Beaver" has been required reading for 5th grade students in our school district for over a decade, and it is one of the required titles that all the students--boys and girls--seem to read with pleasure. Since our 5th grade social studies curriculum covers the settlement and colonial period of American history, this story about Matt's family homesteading in woods of Maine during this period fits in perfectly.
While "The Sign of the Beaver" is an outstanding piece of historical fiction, it is also an exciting adventure story in the tradition of books like "My Side of the Mountain," "Hatchet," and "Island of the Blue Dolphins."
It's been many years since I first read "The Sign of the Beaver," so I decided to listen to the audio-book on 2 cassettes, read by actor Greg Schaffert. Schaffert does a great job of moving this adventure along at a swift pace, and bringing the main characters to life. As one young reviewer wrote here, this story makes a great read-aloud, and listening to the tapes would be an excellent option for students, or for teachers to play for an entire class.
Through Matt's friendship with Attean and his grandfather, chief of the Beaver clan, he learns to survive while his father goes to retrieve his mother and sister to bring them back to the cabin they built. Matt agrees to teach Attean how to read after they save him from life-threatening bee stings. In the end, Matt learns more from his native friend, than Attean does from him.
While it is true that white people unfairly took land from the Indians, and this is a story that needs to be told, there were some subliminal messages I didn't notice the first time I read this book. Although Matt has two books in his cabin, "Robinson Crusoe" and the Bible, he mainly sees the Bible as a bunch of exciting stories, and not as a source for his religion. So, while the Bible is not connected to any sense of spirituality, much is said about the ceremonial life of Attean's tribe, and more specifically about his spirit quest for his manitou. So this book implies that Native American ways and spirituality are superior to the white man's ways and religion.
This is just a small observation, in an otherwise excellent book. It's an exciting historical fiction adventure that students are bound to enjoy. It would work both within the context of studying early American history, or as part of a study on Native American life. As another student reviewer wrote here, this book leaves many unanswered questions, so it's an excellent springboard to learning more about Indians in the past.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2004
I read this book aloud to my children and we all loved it! It is an exciting tale of life on the frontier from a young boys perspective. It was a story of friendship and survival. I don't see how this book could possibly harm anyone. Reading some other reviews written,they paint an ugly picture of what it was about. There were things that were reality back then that were sad and unfortunate but why make like it didn't happen? The Native Americans in this book were heros. It was great to see how skilled they were in making tools and surviving in the woods. What is wrong with that? I highly recommend this book. My 9 and 8 year olds were hanging on every word and couldn't wait to read again. (Perhaps the environment that the reading took place wasn't good for some of the other readers. I can't figure it out. We never saw the movie either.) It was a great intro to study of native americans. We built a teepee and made bows and arrows and have an even greater respect for the indians. It was a wonderful book that sparks the imagination and truly give the reader a love for the Native American way of life.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 1999
A boy named Matt is left alone for over a month. While Matt is out hunting one day, a bear atacks his house. When he gets back every thing is mangled. Matt is trying to live off of fish, when he remembers about the bee tree. He climbs it and takes some honey. The bees start atacking until he finds water to hide in. He is rescued by an indian boy and his grandfather. From then on the indians bring Matt gifts of food medicines and other nececaries. In exchange matt teaches an Indian boy (Attean) how to read. At first Attean rejects to everything Matt tries to teach him, but as time moves on Matt and Attean and Matt do become friends. Matt reads Robin Curusoe every day and Attean teaches Matt something new about the forest every day. I will leave the rest for you to find out about on your own, bust is an outstanding book.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2000
Elizabeth George Speare specialized in historical novels foryoung people. "The Sign of the Beaver" is a classic tale of survival in the wilderness, as Matt must fend for himself while his family is gone. An excellent tale of friendship and learning between Matt and the Indian boy Attean, "The Sign of the Beaver" keeps the action going from start to finish. The novel doesn't flinch from facing the fact that the Indians are going to lose the battle for dominance of the land, but neither does it disrespect their culture. I like "The Sign of the Beaver" even better than "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," which has always bothered me a bit because the ending is a little too contrived (every girl ends up happily married, with no loose ends) and the picture of the Puritans is too cold. Any young reader with a hunger for adventure and learning will enjoy "The Sign of the Beaver."
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 1997
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare is a very good book. It is about a boy named Matt who moves to Maine from Massachusetts with his father in the 1600s. His father goes back to get his mother, sister, and a newborn baby Matt hasn't even seen! One day Matt is climbing a bee tree to get honey when the bees attack! He runs towards the river and jumps in. He is pulled from the river by an old indian chief named Saknis. Saknis nurses him back to health. Saknis signs a treaty with Matt saying that Matt should teach his grandson, Attien, to read. Matt agrees. So Matt semi-teaches Attien to read. He tries to explain things like "A is for arm" so Attien can understand. Matt shows a page from Robinson Crusoe to Attien. Attien thinks white men are morons for printing "arm" all over the page- he thinks each "A" stands for arm. Matt decides to read Robinson Crusoe to Attien. But they explore the forest more than they read. I like the way Elizabeth George Spear brings you into the story and makes you feel like you are there, right in the action. I didn't think the book was long enough. If it was longer it would have been great! I learned from this book that courage is not skin deep. I also learned what it was like to live in the wilderness of Maine in the 1600s. I learned what it was like in an indian village in the 1600s. I recommend this book to people who like very intruguing books, books that can take you to another place, books that can take you to another world or another time in history. Review by Jacob Gilden, Mr. Seely's 4th grade, Duniway School, Protland, Oregon
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
"The Sign of the Beaver" is a book that my children and I enjoyed; they are boy and girl, 8 and 10.
The story is about a boy named Matt whose family is moving to the 'wilds' of colonial Maine. His dad and he have gone out ahead of the rest of the family to prepare a clearing, plant some crops and build a small cabin. Matt's dad then leaves him behind while he returns to Connecticut to retrieve the rest of the family which includes his wife, the baby they are expecting, and his daughter. While Matt's alone, he has a few life defining experiences; amongst them an encounter with a trapper who steals from him, and a tribe of nearby Indians. In particularly, he struggles to have a relationship with a Native American boy named Attean, who is a couple of years his senior.
The book is an award winning chapter read that is written at nearly the 5th Grade level (AR 4.9)
I thought the value of the book was that it directly addressed the 'myth of white guy superiority'. Speare used both examples from DeFoe's "Robinson Crusoe" and some of the adventures of the boys to demonstrate how ridiculous it is to assume that newcomers would understand an environment better than the natives who grew up with it. In DeFoe's case, she ridicules his precepts and roundly shows how the man's prejudice was hurtful.
The other concept I like was that the book tried to show children that most of the time it is individuals who can behave badly, and not groups. Although it could be argued that by making it clear that the Europeans were 'grabbing up' the land without consideration of the people who already live there, that they were in fact behaving badly as a group.
All this said, I think the pacing suffered on account of the complexity of the ideas that the author was trying to get across. And certainly her choice of grammar made the book, in my experience, an exceedingly difficult read-aloud.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 1998
This was a great book! I strongly recommend it for any readers, young or old, who are in for an adventurous tale about a boy and an Indian. The boy, who's name is Matt, is left alone in the wilderness of Maine while his father goes back to Massachussetes for the rest of their family. Matt is left to tend to the corn and the cabin. While doing so, he meets an Indian named Attean. They become good friends. His family is 3 weeks late. He is forced to choose between going with Attean and his tribe or wait for his family. To find out what happens, you'll have to read The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.