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The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George…
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The Sign of the Beaver (original 1983; edition 1983)

by Elizabeth George Speare

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3,216461,724 (3.8)35
Member:callen610
Title:The Sign of the Beaver
Authors:Elizabeth George Speare
Info:Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (1983), Hardcover, 144 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:2012, Fiction, Young Adult

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The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare (1983)

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» See also 35 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
What a beautiful book to read aloud, curled up on the couch with my daughter and a cat.

I love the slow growth of Matt's relationship with Attean, and how Speare doesn't shy away from writing about the serious problems between the native people and the European settlers. My daughter and I read about the French and Indian War recently, and this novel helped us better understand the tension between the two groups, and just how intractable the conflict between them was, even when connections were made between individuals.

In addition to the historical context, this novel presents a personal story of grown-up choices, the kind that have no right answer because no matter what you choose, you're giving up something else. Beyond all of this, though, it's just a wonderful story.

I feel like I ought to read Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative again now. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 14, 2014 |
In this book, it had a lot of interesting facts, like how to survive by yourself. and other things like what to eat. This book by Elizabeth Speare is mostly full of suspense and action out in nature. The main character named Matt, can almost be tied to a writer named Thoroue. They both loved the outdoors and loved to discover different types of things. Like how animals react to different types of weather, and new concepts when other animals that live around them. Matt soon met this young Native American that was about his age too. He showed Matt new things that he dint know about, and then soon Matt moved in with him.
I recommend this book to a lot of people that love nature, like me. It is full of suspense and has a lot of interesting facts. ( )
  br14evle | Jun 6, 2014 |
A 12 year old boy fends for himself with the help of an Indian boy.
  butterkidsmom | Jan 18, 2014 |
When I read this book at a much younger age, I adored it. Let's be real, I probably had an unrealistic crush on the fictional Attean. Tall, dark, handsome, strong, intelligent, good with hands... ;)

Alright, alright so he is 14 in this book, but I was merely a young lass enamored with the idea of a gorgeous Native American boy to sweep me off my feet.


Now about the book itself... It is an easy read for 2nd-5th graders, I would say. It doesn't teach much but the plot is catching enough that young readers would devour it. A young boy's father leaves him alone in a cabin surrounded by nothing but forest while he returns to Quincy, Maine to retrieve his wife and child. In his absence, Matt [boy] meets Attean [Indian] and against all odds, they become friends. As things progress, he is invited to join the tribe in their move West. Does he abandon the cabin he's guarded for almost a year or does he wait for his family's return? *cue dramatic music* You'll just have to read it to find out!

What I don't like is the inconsistent writing. The author used very ridiculous speech for the Indians. "Me Attean. We no like white man. White man words bad". She gives the boy's father a type of hybrid old-english-southern-alabama accent, while Matt's is plain ol' english. At times, she uses modern slang such as : "the village was awesome" and "now it looks lame".

( )
  tealightful | Sep 24, 2013 |
Even as a young adult who had never read this work before, I definitely enjoyed The Sign of the Beaver. It was a welcome change from the children's wilderness literature to which I am accustomed, since it takes a different route from the usual "dropped into the wilderness with no supplies" story line. Matt and his father have already settled a piece of land by the time the story begins, and so it was interesting to see how the author depicted the ways in which a young settler, rather than a hopelessly lost and previously urban teenager, would work to survive when left alone in the wilderness. Speare creates a landscape and characters that are detailed enough to make the story easy to picture, but not so detailed that they bog the reader down and leave him or her mired in names, places, and relationships, which makes this a quick, pleasant read, perfect for filling up an hour or two of free time.

One aspect of the story that I really appreciated was its potential for helping children understand the importance of questioning the messages hidden in things that they see, hear, or read. Upon meeting Native Americans and building relationships with them, Matt begins to become aware of the "white superiority" messages hidden in his favourite book, Robinson Crusoe, and reflects on the ways in which those messages may or may not actually apply in real life. This could make the book a useful tool for parents and teachers who want to encourage children to evaluate the truth of the things that they read, especially since, in the story, the reading of Robinson Crusoe and Matt's questioning of the validity of the text's message about Native peoples both occur within a few pages, solidifying the connection between them.

With that said, I think it worth it to add a few words of caution to anyone who, like me, has never picked up this book before and wants to read it for the first time as an older reader. First, it is such a quick read that one can reach the end without feeling like anything has really been read, and the story can seem a bit bland because, due to the length of the story, the characters and the relationships between them grow and change very rapidly, to the point where it sometimes seems unrealistic (for example, a deep dislike can become open friendliness after a single small deed is done). Second, especially towards the end of the story, Speare devotes a lot of space to descriptions of various things that Matt does around the house, which can become a bit tedious if one is not fascinated by that kind of thing. Finally, Speare's attempts to emphasize Matt's growing understanding of the Native Americans and their way of life, as well as his growing awareness of the situation that the arrival of white men creates for the Native Americans, can sometimes be so glaringly obvious that they almost seem silly to an older reader who understands from the start that that will be the "moral of the story."

However, all of my mild criticisms come from the fact that the book was intended for children, and so I highly recommend it to readers of that age group, who will likely enjoy the characters' rapid changes and be at least mildly impressed by the positive message presented in the text, as well as older readers who do not mind reading a pretty predictable (but still quite pleasant) short story. ( )
  athenaharmony | Aug 13, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
The students ... were vocal and articulate in their responses to Speare's depiction of Attean's speech as grunts. I can still hear their voices, 18 years later, as they "talked back" to Speare.
 
In this coming-of-age story set in 18th-century Maine, Matthew Hallowell, left alone to guard the family cabin, is befriended by local Indians (tribe not indicated)…. The Natives speak stereotypical "Hollywood Indian," and the story contains offensive terms such as "heathen," "squaw," and "savage." The story perpetuates the stereotype of the "vanishing Indian." While this book is popular and widely used in classrooms, it is offensive in its portrayal of American Indians.
 
Melody A. Moxley (KLIATT Review, September 1998 (Vol. 32, No. 5))
Schaffert gives Speare's classic story of a 12-year-old boy facing the challenges of young manhood a straightforward yet spirited reading. Matt is left to take care of the pioneer home he and his father have built on the land they purchased in Maine when his father returns to Massachusetts to fetch Matt's mother and sister. Matt, in quest of honey when the molasses runs out, is badly stung, surviving only due to the assistance of Attean, a young Indian, and his grandfather, a chief. In repayment, Matt agrees -- at the grandfather's request -- to teach Attean to read. Matt is reluctant, due largely to Attean's seeming contempt for the activity. But as the boys get to know one another throughout the months ahead, both are surprised by the friendship that is forged. When Matt's father does not arrive and Matt realizes he must face the winter alone, he has to decide whether to go with the Indians as they move their village or stay at the homestead alone. A great choice for family listening, as the listener inevitably considers how s/he would have dealt with Matt's challenges. Schaffert imbues the story with Matt's courage, fear, and uncertainty as well as Attean's grudging friendship for a white boy. He conveys their youth without overstatement, a difficult task for some narrators. Highly recommended. Category: Fiction Audiobooks. KLIATT Codes: JS*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998 (orig. 1983), Ages 12 to 18.
added by kthomp25 | editKLIATT Review, Melody A. Moxley
 
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To William and Michael
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Matt stood at the edge of the clearing for some time after his father had gone out of sight among the trees.
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Book description
Until the day his father returns to their cabin in the Maine wilderness, twelve-year-old Matt must try to survive on his own. Although Matt is brave, he's not prepared for an attack by swarming bees, and he's astonished when he's rescued by an Indian chief and his grandson, Attean.
As the boys come to know each other, Attean learns to speak English while Matt becomes a skilled hunter. Though many months have passed, there's no sign of Matt's family. Then Attean asks Matt to join the Beaver tribe and move north. Should Matt abandon his hopes of ever seeing his family again and move on to a new life?
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440479002, Paperback)

When his father returns East to collect the rest of the family, 13-year-old Matt is left alone to guard his family's newly built homestead. One day, Matt is brutally stung when he robs a bee tree for honey. He returns to consciousness to discover that his many stings have been treated by an old Native American and his grandson. Matt offers his only book as thanks, but the old man instead asks Matt to teach his grandson Attean to read. Both boys are suspicious, but Attean comes each day for his lesson. In the mornings, Matt tries to entice Attean with tales from Robinson Crusoe, while in the afternoons, Attean teaches Matt about wilderness survival and Native American culture. The boys become friends in spite of themselves, and their inevitable parting is a moving tribute to the ability of shared experience to overcome prejudice. The Sign of the Beaver was a Newbery Honor Book; author Elizabeth Speare has also won the Newbery Medal twice, for The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Bronze Bow. (Ages 12 and older) --Richard Farr

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:07 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Left alone to guard the family's wilderness home in eighteenth-century Maine, a boy is hard-pressed to survive until local Indians teach him their skills.

(summary from another edition)

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