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The Sign of the Beaver

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  17,276 ratings  ·  918 reviews
Twelve-year-old Matt is left on his own in the Maine wilderness while his father leaves to bring the rest of the family to their new settlement. When he befriends Attean, an Indian chief's grandson, he is invited to join the Beaver tribe and move north. Should Matt abandon his hopes of ever seeing his family again and go on to a new life?
Paperback, 135 pages
Published April 1st 1993 by Dell (first published 1983)
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The Book Thief by Markus ZusakA Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba BrayNumber the Stars by Lois LowryThe Luxe by Anna GodbersenThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Teen Historical Fiction
86th out of 832 books — 2,066 voters
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls WilderAnne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George SpeareThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Best Children's Historical Fiction
41st out of 480 books — 508 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 23, 2012 Tima rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: early readers, beginners, 2nd grade
Recommended to Tima by: My 3rd grade teacher
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 r...more
Jun 27, 2008 Sasha rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aaron C
In my book, Sign of the Beaver, Matt an English teenage settler befriends and Indian named Attean. I found this book interesting because during this time the English and the Indians had a relationship that could best be described as fighting.
I couldn’t get over the fact that Matt seemed to be realizing slowly that he wasn’t just bonding with Attean but slowly growing the relationship of a friend. Once Matt started to get to know Attean, through Attean’s father, the boys started to do things toge...more
I've loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond since I was about twelve, but I had somehow never read The Sign of the Beaver. A teacher friend outed me for not having read it in front of her whole class of fifth graders, so then I clearly had no choice. And it was good! It's no Witch, but very few things could be. This is aimed at a slightly younger audience, and it's about a boy and rather more action-oriented.

13-year-old Matt and his father have traveled to the Maine wilderness to build a homestead; t...more
Scarlett Sims
Ok. I had heard various Native American reviewers pan this book for its stereotypical portrayals. I'm still not that great at evaluating Native American literature but I'll list some things that stuck out to me:
1. Usage of the word squaw. I'm pretty sure that's generally not ok.
2. Going off #1, Speare gives the impression that women were not valued in "Indian" culture.
3. I don't think a tribe name is ever mentioned. The Indians are referred to and refer to themselves as "Indians." (from context...more
This was an awesome book. I love reading books like this that show how friendships can develop even when you're of different cultures.
Nicola Mansfield
It's the mid-1700s and Matt and his father have built a cabin in the Maine wilderness. His father must go back and bring the rest of the family back to their new home, leaving Matt on his own to look after their property and crop. Matt soon learns it's not easy to take care of yourself and an Indian comes to his rescue. A deal is made with the man and Matt agrees to teach the Indian's grandson to read the white man's scratching in exchange for food. As the story progresses Matt learns more from...more
A children's book that doesn't pretend to be more than it is--the fairly tame story of a 12-year-old boy left alone in the wild frontier of Maine. He is befriended by and learns from a neighboring tribe of native Americans.
Written in 1984, "Sign of the Beaver" is a bit dated in the way it portrays the native Americans and their pidgin English, but still offers a sympathetic portrait of their plight as white settlers push them from their hunting grounds.
In one especially clever stroke, the Newbe...more
Julie Bennett
Totally a guy book. But, as a girl reading it, I must say that I stayed interested the whole time! Matt and his father, in the 18th century, go to Maine to get everything ready for his mother and sister's arrival such as building the log cabin and planting crops. But Matt's father must go back to get the girls and Matt is left alone in the cabin for the time. Things happen that he can't control and he must learn how to deal with these things until finally some local Indians have pity on him and...more
An amazing story of a young man left to dfend his family's new homestead in Maine as his father travels back to MA to bring back his mother and siblings. During his time alone, he is comes to depend on the Native inhabitants of the region and learns about cultural differences between them.
I read this two years ago for school and I honestly still don't get the point of this book.It makes no sense to me whatsoever.I don't get how a book about a boy living in the woods with an Indian can teach me a life lesson...
Masoomeh Tavakoli
Jun 07, 2013 Masoomeh Tavakoli rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Masoomeh by: بشری
ترجمه پروین علی پور را خوانده ام (با عنوان در سرزمین سرخپوست) و همان را هم توصیه می کنم
(ترجمه ی دیگر متعلق به نسرین وکیلی است که نشر قطره منتشرش کرده)
خیلی حرف دارم درباره اش که بعدا سر فرصت باید بیایم این جا بنویسمشان...
Mr. Stubbart's Classroom Library
This is a historically rich book that takes place during the 1760's just after the French and Indian War. The young main character, Matt, and his father travel up to Maine to turn their land into a farm and to build a home. Matt and his father finish the cabin and Matt is left behind by his father so he can go back to fetch his family and bring them back. This is terrifying for Matt since he will be left alone all winter. Let's just say he has a lot to learn both about himself and about survivin...more
This story takes place in the year 1768, in what will eventually become the state of Maine. Matt, a twelve-year-old boy is left alone in the wilderness while his father leaves to bring back the rest of his family. He must use skills he learns from the Indians who live nearby in order to survive. When Matt meets Attean, a young Indian boy about his own age, they grow together into manhood. As the boys become friends each learns important skills from the others’ culture. Matt becomes a skilled hun...more
"Forgettable" would be the understatement of the century in describing the first 90% of this shlock. There is no conflict or interest in this story until the very end, which rewards us with one of the stupidest "tough decisions" in children's literature history. (No mean feat!)

A white boy, Matt, meets an Indian boy, Attean. While initially reluctant, Attean eventually accepts Matt as a friend. He teaches him how to fish and several other basic aspects of the wilderness. There's no real explanat...more
2.5 stars

This book was a well-written and entertaining boy-coming-of-age-in-nature story in the same genre as books like My Side of the Mountain, Summer of the Monkeys, and Where the Red Fern Grows. However, since it as copyrighted in 1983, and concerns Indians, I couldn't help but be wary of it, especially considering that it is a Newbery Honor book that I remember was required reading for most 4th graders when I was in elementary school. While the portrayal of Native Americans in The Sign of t...more
This well-written children's book did a great job showing what life was like for early American settlers and what kinds of relationships they were capable of having with the American Indians when they cooperated. This depicted a young boy who was asked to hold down the fort all by himself--I think he was about twelve years old--in a gesture of trust and a weight of responsibility that would never be put on a kid in our time. The child is able to hold his own once he accepts help from an Indian b...more
This is a wonderful book by the Newberry award winning author Elizabeth George Speare. It tells of a family who make a claim for land in Maine. The father and their son (about 14) go out to the claim and built a small log cabin. The father then leaves the boy there to keep hold of the claim whilst he goes back to collect his wife and younger children. Nothing goes as the father plans and the boy is left alone far longer than was intended.

He is befriended by a small group of Indians and is taught...more
Emily Birecki
This is not my genre of literature. When I first started this book I thought to myself "here is another manly story about survival", but I was pleasantly surprised. The themes of equality, friendship, bravery, self discovery, and many more make this novel difficult to put down. I think that this would be an awesome story to read aloud to a class of any age, even adults. It deals with pride, insecurity, and even humility. It goes to show that when we are humble, we can learn so much from each oth...more
Read this book as part of the kids curriculum and we all really enjoyed it. It's rare that my kids ask me to keep going when I finish a chapter. I love teaching history through stories and this was a great insight into what life was like for both settlers and for the native american indians, without being particularly biased either way. It was hard to live back then, and it gave both my kids and myself an appreciation for what it took to establish this country and to survive. We also did a few a...more
This was good entertainment!

One of the passages that elevated this book to a four star, was the following:

"Him never do that!"
"Never do what?"
"Never kneel down to white man!"
"But Crusoe had saved his life."
"Not kneel down, "Attean repeated fiercely. "not be slave. Better die."
Matt opened his mouth to protest, but Attean gave him no chance. In three steps he was out of the cabin.

[Matt] "sat slowly turning over the pages. He had never questioned that story. Like Robinson Crusoe, he had thought it...more
I read this book for school, and it is another good read from the author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The book is a wilderness survival novel focusing on the fate of a 12-year-old boy left in the big woods of colonial Maine. He survives theft, killer bees, and a marauding bear, befriends his Indian neighbors, and makes it through the winter to reunite with is family. I am impressed with Speare’s treatment of the Native Americans. Whereas I thought Scott O’Dell’s Sing Down the Moon (another bo...more
Jennifer Margulis
Loosely based on a true story of a young white boy left in Maine alone for the summer and befriended by an Indian and his son, The Sign of the Beaver is a brilliant, touching, compelling, well written, lovely book.
Rebecca Jasman
Publication Date: 1983

Genre: Historical Fiction

Awards won: Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Themes: Native Americans; coming of age; friendship

Annotation: A boy is left alone to watch the cabin that he and his father made in Maine while the father goes to get the mother and other children. The boy faces many challenges, and makes a friend with a Native American boy who teaches him how to survive in the wilderness. When the boy's father is delayed in returning, the Native American boy's g...more
Nov 28, 2008 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Recommended to Megan by: Mrs. Messman
WOW!!! Awsome book! I read it as a school requirement, all night. It's a shorter book but has so much meaning you really have to think about what Matt (Main Character) goes through.

In the very beggining of the book you find out that Matt who has lived in Massachussetts all his life, now has to move to the Territory of Maine (Takes place in the late 1700's) Together Matt and his dad build a cabin, plant crops and set up their land. It is then that Matt is told by his father that he'll be left alo...more
A book that I reread now and again- set in the wilderness of Maine. Matt is left by his dad to keep the crop and cabin going while he goes back to get Mom and the younger kids. The mishaps pile up, a rifle stolen, a destructive bear foraging, and then Matt is stung by a hive of bees. Facing certain death, Matt is rescued by local Indians, his payment to them is to teach reading to a young brave who will be a leader in the tribe. A thorny relationship develops between the boys. Matt gains respect...more
I liked this book more than I expected. It is a great survival story, and it teaches lots about the daily life of the Native Americans in Maine in the 1700s.

I finished reading the book and then went to see the movie Avatar. There are lots of similarities between the two -- a savvy native teaching a clueless foreigner how to survive in nature. The parallels between the enroachment and destruction of the white men on native land is obvious.

I plan to use this a read aloud next year when teaching t...more
Julie Decker
Matt and his father agree that Matt will stay behind and guard the new family homestead in Maine while his father goes off to get the rest of the family. He must survive on his own in the wilderness despite not having much experience, and when he severely wounds himself, he only survives with help from a nearby Indian tribe. The old man who saved him asks for repayment in the form of teaching his grandson Attean to read, since he knows that will be an important skill. Matt and Attean initially d...more
Julie Howard carr
A coming of age book about a boy named Matt who is left in their newly built cabin in Maine while his father goes to Massachusetts to get his mother,sister and the new baby. Although the trip should have taken seven weeks at most, there is no sign of his family. He spends most of his time alone trying to fend for himself. While gone out fishing, a bear eats most of his food which included flour and molasses. Even though he could still eat all the fish that he could catch he craved for something...more
Christian Emmanuel
A coming of age book about a boy named Matt who is left in their newly built cabin in Maine while his father goes to Massachusetts to get his mother,sister and the new baby. Although the trip should have taken seven weeks at most, there is no sign of his family. He spends most of his time alone trying to fend for himself. While gone out fishing, a bear eats most of his food which included flour and molasses. Even though he could still eat all the fish that he could catch he craved for something...more
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Children's Novel about a teenage boy who is left alone in a cabin that he and his father built [s] 7 27 Jul 13, 2014 08:43PM  
Favorite Characters? 3 10 May 06, 2014 06:24PM  
Class of 2014: Book Review 1 4 Mar 27, 2013 08:47PM  
Great historical children fiction. 3 15 Feb 23, 2013 04:24AM  
Class of 2014: Book Review 1 6 Feb 14, 2013 05:47PM  
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I was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1908. I have lived all my life in New England, and though I love to travel I can't imagine ever calling any other place on earth home. Since I can't remember a time when I didn't intend to write, it is hard to explain why I took so long getting around to it in earnest. But the years seemed to go by very quickly. In 1936 I married Alden Speare a...more
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“The two boys stood and looked at each other. There was no amusement and no scorn in Attean's eyes. How very strange, Matt thought. After all the brave deeds he had dreamed of doing to win this boy's respect, he had gained it at last by doing nothing, just by staying here and refusing to leave.” 3 likes
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