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The Sign of the Beaver (1983)

by Elizabeth George Speare

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7,672831,098 (3.79)79
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.

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Although he faces responsibility bravely, thirteen-year-old Matt is more than a little apprehensive when his father leaves him alone to guard their new cabin in the wilderness. When a renegade white stranger steals his gun, Matt realizes he has no way to shoot game or to protect himself. When Matt meets Attean, a boy in the Beaver clan, he begins to better understand their way of life and their growing problem in adapting to the white man and the changing frontier.

Elizabeth George Speare's Newbery Honor-winning survival story is filled with wonderful detail about living in the wilderness and the relationships that formed between settlers and natives in the 1700s.
  PlumfieldCH | Sep 22, 2023 |
(Ages 9-11, grades 5-7)
Newberry Honor Book

What a great story full of adventure and survival for any young boy to read. Thirteen year olds back in those days were very mature and independent because they had to be. Today, most thirteen year olds that I know are like spoiled little baby pigs...squealing and complaining, selfish, expectant, wasteful, know-it-all and giving their parents hell, and especially lazy. I should know...I raised three of them. Hell, I was a know-it-all thirteen year old, myself. You can't teach somebody something if they already know everything, right?

In 1768, Matt Hallowell was almost 13 years old when his father left him alone in the Maine woods to watch over their new log cabin they just built on their purchased land while he headed back to Quincy, Massachusetts, to fetch Matt’s mom, sister, and their newly born baby. He would be gone for 6 weeks.

When a white scallawag of a fur trapper came traveling through, Matt fed him and let him sleep in the cabin, but by morning the stranger had left and had left with Matt’s shotgun, his best chance for food and protection, which his father had left with him.

When Matt got himself into trouble climbing a tree, trying to steal honey from a beehive and was stung all over, he could have died had it not been for Attean and his grandfather, from the local Beaver tribe, who had been watching him from a distance and came to his rescue.

In return for saving Matt’s life, Matt would agree to try and teach Attean to read white man’s words from the Robinson Crusoe novel, and so the ensuing friendship began. The friendship would slowly develop as the trust between the two developed, bringing each other into the other’s world and culture. Matt learned from Attean and his people how to survive out in the woods alone. But, more importantly, he learned that they weren’t all savages. In return, Attean learned that not all white people were hard, ruthless and careless people, even though the whites had killed his mother.

This is a great little book for young people to learn that not all people in any one culture are cut from the same mold. In other words, don’t judge a whole race of people, no matter what race, by the bad behavior of a few. Take the time to learn from each other because there is always something to learn. ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
Historical Fiction middle grade novel set in frontier Maine.

13-year old Matt must survive at his family's new homestead while his father travels back to his old home in Massachusetts to retrieve his mother, sister and new baby sibling.
Matt suffers quite a few setbacks during the wait for his family to arrive. He is aided by a Native American leader and, a bit reluctantly at first, by his grandson, Attean, who is around Matt's age.

There is some racial sensitivity shown by Matt towards Attean (when reading portions of Robinson Crusoe), and I enjoyed the friendship which developed between Matt and Attean.
But there are other historical points, such as what homesteading did to Penobscot livelihood, which aren't fully explained. ( )
  deslivres5 | Feb 14, 2023 |
This was a fantastic Newbery. I would read it again. ( )
  Jeffrey_G | Nov 22, 2022 |
A touching book I read in grade school. ( )
  Bookslesstravelled | Apr 15, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 81 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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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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