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The Sign of the Beaver

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  32,387 ratings  ·  1,842 reviews
At just 12 years old, Matt must face serious challenges in the Maine wilderness while awaiting his father's return to their cabin.

When he is saved from a terrifying bee swarm attack by an Indian chief and his grandson Attean, Matt gains a valuable friend in the young Indian boy.

As the boys become closer and learn new skills from each other, Matt must face a heart-wrenching
Audio, 0 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published April 27th 1983)
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Janell Schaak The current version that we are using for homeschool has an introduction about this very issue. He addresses the accuracies as well as the shortcoming…moreThe current version that we are using for homeschool has an introduction about this very issue. He addresses the accuracies as well as the shortcomings (using a common trope for the plot, using stereotypes of both how native people would speak the English language as well as stereotypes of native words, etc.) That being said, the intro ends with this paragraph: "However, if one brings to the book a deeper understanding of the period and the native culture that Speare attempted to depict, The Sign of the Beaver has much to recommend it to twenty-first-century readers. The author clearly hoped that we might all learn from each other as did Matt and Attean. At its best, this book is a useful lesson meant to teach the importance of seeing other humans - no matter how different - as beings worthy of respect."(less)
Kahawihson usually bits of bone or rawhide, though I wouldn't be surprised if other First Nation's groups used porcupine quills. Remember for future reference th…moreusually bits of bone or rawhide, though I wouldn't be surprised if other First Nation's groups used porcupine quills. Remember for future reference that when you use the phrase "indian" (which, by the way, is actually considered offensive. Generally we prefer that if you don't know the name of our particular nation, you just use "First Nations" or "Indigenous"), you're actually talking about hundreds of different peoples who all live in different places with different resources on hand, so people who lived around, say, the Eastern Woodlands of North America probably used different things to make sewing needles than people in the southwestern deserts. (less)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's the time of the American Revolution and new Americans like Matt and his family are heading out to colonize areas of virgin territory.

Matt and his father head to Maine territory to stake their claim, which involves declaring their land, building a home and planting crops. Once they've accomplished this, Matt's father is tasked with returning to their home town in Massachusetts to gather Ma, younger sister Sarah, and the new baby, so they may start their lives together in their new home.

In or
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great historical fiction novel for YAs. The year is 1768 in Maine. The white men are taking land from the Native Americans. Thirteen-year-old Matt is left alone after the cabin home in the wilderness is built to grab his pregnant wife and young daughter in Massachusetts. While Matt awaits for their return a sly white man steals his prized rifle. When the rifle is gone, Matt realizes he will starve if he cannot shoot his meals or protect himself.

While in the woods one day he gets a hankering for
╟ ♫ Tima ♪ ╣ ♥
May 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Cindy Rollins
For this category of book: Historical Fiction Mid-Elementary to Middle School this is a 5 Star book.

It is a great book to give a child who needs reading practice but likes good stories. I had my recent students
read it aloud to me and it was perfect for that also.

I have read it several times and still did not get bored this time around.

I would say this also qualifies as The Literature of Honor for Middle Boys which I have not put together yet.
I read this book years ago before I started my Goodreads account and added it to my shelves based on my long term memories of it, but I have lowered my original rating (from 4 stars to 2 stars) after reading several newer articles about its problematic misrepresentation of Native Americans. Please reference these articles in the comments below.
Aaron C
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
A quite enjoyable read for a Sunday afternoon. It's simple and easy, asking relevant questions for any young kid in elementary school. Historical without being too overwhelmingly detailed. Heartfelt and sincere without being too sappy. I feel like I read this back during my early homeschool days, but I've no memory of it. ...more
Jun 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jenna Kilpatrick
This book was very detailed that almost made the book way more interesting. When I found out that the book was based off of an actual story (well mostly) I was shocked with surprise because I usually HATE with a capital H.A.T.E Historical Fiction. The ending of this book took me by surprise because Ben never came back and take something else like Matt's fishing line. He is such a mysterious character that the was surprise to me. ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought the Sign of the Beaver was a five star book because there was so much action that made you wonder will he make it or something else. We read this book during class. It had so many wondering moments like " Will Matts parents make it back to sleep the cabin?" That's why I gave this book the amazing five stars because it was one of the best books I have read. ...more
The Shayne-Train
Both my daughter and I found this book captivating. We're both fans of Native American stories, and of stories of survival. We got both with this one.

Highly recommended for younger readers with a taste for pioneer-life fiction.
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
Jane Stewart
3 ½ stars. Nice story for ages 10 and up.

It’s educational about surviving in the wild Indian style - and seeing a friendship develop between Indian boy Attean and Matt who is 12 years old. Attean’s grandfather wants Matt to teach Attean how to read and write in white man’s language. Attean teaches Matt how to trap, fish, make a bow and arrow, etc. I liked learning things that the Indians did.

It’s a pleasant read, but it didn’t excite me or surprise me the way “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen did. Hatc
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a kid. Fourth grade maybe, it's hard to remember. All I remember is that I loved it. I loved anything about survival in the wilderness. I had wanted to run away with my dog into the woods as a kid and recall reading this voraciously. I would like to re-read it for my inner-child. ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an awesome book. I love reading books like this that show how friendships can develop even when you're of different cultures. ...more
Jenna Petrillo
Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I agree with Liam,this book was truly amazing!I also gave this book 5 stars!
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another reviewer said this is a five star book for late elementary/early middle, and it is! Elizabeth George Spear tells great stories that bring historical periods to life. My 5th grader’s imagination was immediate sparked by the possibilities of living alone in the woods, preparing a home for her family. I loved The Bronze Bow when I was a middle schooler and I’m finally catching up and reading the rest of her books!
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really good the only thing i did not like is that I thought the ending was weird because all that Matt did was tell his parents about Attean I thought it was going to be a little bit more of exiting ending then that. So i gave this book 4 STARS!
When Matt's father goes to fetch his mother and siblings from Quincy, Massachusetts, he leaves Matt alone on their new homestead in Maine. Before long, Matt has met a few people, and forms a significant relationship with Attean, a Penobscot boy, and his grandfather. The grandfather's original intent is for Matt to teach Attean to read, but before long it becomes clear that Attean is the teacher rather than Matt, and that without the input of Attean and his grandfather, Matt's survival would have ...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
Oct 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This did not age well. I would never read this to my 4 year old friend who is Mi’kmaq, never mind any of the other kids in my life, out of shame and embarrassment that this was held up as award winning mandatory elementary school reading in the 80’s. Filled with nonsense racist stereotypes and invisiblizing actual identity (who are the Indigenous people Matt is repeatedly saved by? We don’t get to find out as supposedly the Indigenous people themselves would rather self identity by racial slurs ...more
It was a good book.It had these sad moments in the book,but the rest of it was good.If our you I would read this book.

p.s its historical fiction.
Joey Oborne
I liked this book the begining was "ok" but then it started to get way better!
I wanted to keep reading this book because all of us wanted to find out were his parents where they were WAIT! that would be a "spoiler alert" but you would know if you read the book.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Claire Bell
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like how this book is about the wilderness! We read it on audio and at the end of some chapters cool music played! My favorite characters were Matt, Attean and the scruffy dog! The setting was the forest and we were very anxious to read it! I really loved that book!
Cynthia Egbert
I really enjoyed this adventure with Matt. I wish that my boys had been able to read this one when they were younger. This is just the type of book and hero that my guys love. If you have young men in your life, this would be a wonderful read-aloud together.
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 12 year old boy named Matt is moving into the forest with his family. He and his father went there early to build a cabin while his mom and sisters stayed home. His father has to leave him alone for multiple weeks so he can go get Matt's mom and sister. His father left and Matt had to fend for himself. When he was fishing one day a bear came into his cabin and ate everything. Matt saw a bee’s nest and tried to steal honey, he got stung and fainted. Then an Indian found him and gave him medici ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens, classics
For my 8-yr old son's school, every year he gets a list of like 20 books he can choose from, and has to read around 4-5 and do a book report on them. I usually make him read them all. (Except evil ones like Old Yeller) This year, I realized there were many I hadn't read, or hadn't read in a very long time, so I'm working my way through them so we can enjoy them together. After he's read them, we plan on having movie nights for those that have movies.

This is the first one I read. I'd never read
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
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens, classics
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
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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.” 9 likes
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