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The Sign of the Beaver

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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 cheif 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 ...
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The Sign of the Beaver

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Overview

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 cheif 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?

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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Editorial Reviews

Dee Benson
Left alone in the Maine wilderness, while his father returns south to get the rest of the family, 12-year old Matt is charged with protecting his family's new property and log cabin. While awaiting his family's return, Matt faces many challenges. Thanks to a Native American chief and his grandson, Matt learns survival skills. More importantly, he discovers friendship and develops an appreciation for another culture.
Mailbox Bookbag Magazine
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Matt learns from the Indians how to survive on his family's Maine homestead in the 1700s. He must decide whether to winter with them or go it alone. This was a Newbery Honor Book and also the recipient of the Scott O'Dell Award. 1993 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Elizabeth George Speare's acclaimed, captivating historical novel (BDD) set in the 1700s receives a fresh treatment here, thanks to narrator Greg Schaffert's fine, crystal clear narration that brings the story to life. Speare's evocative tale tells of the mutually beneficial friendship that develops between Matt, a 13-year-old white boy living alone in the wilderness, and Attean, a proud Native American on the verge of manhood. Matt is guarding his family's newly built cabin while his father travels to retrieve Matt's mother and sister. Attean saves Matt's life after a terrifying bee attack (beautifully brought to life by both Speare and Schaffert). The two become reluctant pals: Matt teaches Attean how to read, and Attean shows Matt how to hunt, set traps and gather. Soon Matt must make a choice: join Attean's tribe or wait for his family to return. Speare's Newbery Honor winner is a good adventure story that will hook those interested in survival stories. It will also serve multicultural collections.-Brian E. Wilson, Oak Lawn Public Library, IL
From the Publisher
* "Matt joins other memorable characters, Kit, Julie, and Karana, finding his inner strength and values in a changing world in this well-written and fast-reading story." School Library Journal, starred review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440800385
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1984
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

"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 and came to Connecticut. Not till both children were in junior high did I find time at last to sit down quietly with a pencil and paper. I turned naturally to the things which had filled my days and thoughts and began to write magazine articles about family living. Then one day I stumbled on a true story from New England history with a character who seemed to me an ideal heroine. Though I had my first historical novel almost by accident it soon proved to be an absorbing hobby." Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994) won the 1959 Newbery Medal for THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, and the 1962 Newbery Medal for THE BRONZE BOW. She also received a Newbery Honor Award in 1983, and in 1989 she was presented with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her substantial and enduring contribution to children’s literature.

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Read an Excerpt

Matt stood at the edge of the clearing for some time after his father had gone out of sight among the trees. There was just a chance that his father might turn back, that perhaps he had forgotten something or had some last word of advice. This was one time Matt reckoned he wouldn’t mind the advice, no matter how many times he had heard it before. But finally he had to admit that this was not going to happen. His father had really gone. He was alone, with miles of wilderness stretching on every side.

He turned and looked back at the log house. It was a fair house, he thought; his mother would have no cause to be ashamed of it. He had helped to build every inch of it. He had helped to cut down the spruce trees and haul the logs and square and notch them. He had stood at one end of every log and raised it, one on top of the other, fitting the notched ends together as snugly as though they had grown that way. He had climbed the roof to fasten down the cedar splints with long poles, and dragged up pine boughs to cover them. Behind the cabin were the mounds of corn he had helped to plant, the green blades already shooting up, and the pumpkin vines just showing between the stumps of trees.

If only it were not so quiet. He had been alone before. His father had often gone into the forest to hunt, for hours on end. Even when he was there, he was not much of a talker. Sometimes they had worked side by side through a whole morning without his speaking a single word. But this silence was different. It coiled around Matt and reached into his stomach to settle there in a hard knot.

He knew it was high time his father was starting back. This was part of the plan that thefamily had worked out together in the long winter of 1768, sitting by lamplight around the pine table back in Massachusetts. His father had spread out the surveyor’s map and traced the boundaries of the land he had purchased in Maine territory. They would be the first settlers in a new township. In the spring, when the ice melted, Matt and his father would travel north. They would take passage on a ship to the settlement at the mouth of the Penobscot River. There they would find some man with a boat to take them up the river and then on up a smaller river that branched off from it, many days’ distance from the settlement. Finally they would strike out on foot into the forest and claim their own plot of land. They would clear a patch of ground, build a cabin, and plant some corn. In the summer his father would go back to Massachusetts to fetch his mother and sister and the new baby, who would be born while they were gone. Matt would stay behind and guard the cabin and the corn patch.

It hadn’t been quite so easy as it had sounded back in their house in Quincy. Matt had had to get used to going to sleep at night with every muscle in his body aching. But the log house was finished. It had only one room. Before winter they would add a loft for him and his sister to sleep in. Inside there were shelves along one wall and a sturdy puncheon table with two stools. One of these days, his father promised, he would cut out a window and fasten oiled paper to let in the light. Someday the paper would be replaced with real glass. Against the wall was a chimney of smaller logs, daubed and lined with clay from the creek. This too was a temporary structure. Over and over his father had warned Matt that it wasn’t as safe as a stone chimney and that he had to watch out for flying sparks. He needn’t fear. After all the work of building this house, Matt wasn’t going to let it burn down about his ears.

“Six weeks,” his father had said that morning. “Maybe seven. Hard to reckon exactly. With your ma and sister we’ll have slow going, specially with the new little one.

“You may lose track of the weeks,” he had added. “Easy thing to do when you’re alone. Might be well to make notches on a stick, seven notches to a stick. When you get to the seventh stick you can start looking for us.”

A silly thing to do, Matt thought, as though he couldn’t count the weeks for himself. But he wouldn’t argue about it, not on the last morning.

Then his father reached up to a chink in the log wall and took down the battered tin box that held his watch and his compass and a few silver coins. He took out the big silver watch.

“Every time you cut a notch,” he said, “remember to wind this up at the same time.”

Matt took the watch in his hand as gently as if it were a bird’s egg. “You aim to leave it, Pa?” he asked.

“It belonged to your grandpa. Would’ve belonged to you anyhow sooner or later. Might as well be now.”

“You mean — it’s mine?”

“Aye, it’s yourn. Be kind of company, hearing it tick.”

The lump in Matt’s throat felt as big as the watch. This was the finest thing his father had ever possessed.

“I’ll take care of it,” he managed finally.

“Aye. I knowed you would. Mind you don’t wind it up too tight.”

Then, just before he left, his father had given him a second gift. Thinking of it, Matt walked back into the cabin and looked up at his father’s rifle, hanging on two pegs over the door.

“I’ll take your old blunderbuss with me,” his father had said. “This one aims truer. But mind you, don’t go banging away at everything that moves. Wait till you’re dead sure. There’s plenty of powder if you don’t waste it.”

It was the first sign he had given that he felt uneasy about leaving Matt here alone. Matt wished now that he could have said something to reassure his father, instead of standing there tongue-tied. But if he had the chance again, he knew he wouldn’t do any better. They just weren’t a family to put things into words.

He reached up and took down the rifle. It was lighter than his old matchlock, the one his father had carried away with him in exchange. This was a fine piece, the walnut stock as smooth and shining as his mother’s silk dress. It was a mite long, but it had a good balance. With this gun he wouldn’t need to waste powder. So it wouldn’t hurt to take one shot right now, just to try the feel of it.

He knew his father always kept that rifle as clean as a new-polished spoon. But because he enjoyed handling it, Matt poked about in the touchhole with the metal pick. From the powder horn he shook a little of the black powder into the pan. Then he took one lead bullet out of the pouch, wrapped it in a patch of cloth, and rammed it into the barrel. As he worked, he whistled loudly into the stillness. It made the knot in his stomach loosen a little.

As he stepped into the woods, a bluejay screeched a warning. So it was some time before he spotted anything to shoot at. Presently he saw a red squirrel hunched on a branch, with its tail curled up behind its ears. He lifted the rifle and sighted along the barrel, minding his father’s advice and waiting till he was dead sure.

The clean feel of the shot delighted him. It didn’t set him back on his heels like his old matchlock. Still, he hadn’t quite got the knack of it. He caught the flick of a tail as the squirrel scampered to an upper branch.

I could do better with my own gun, he thought. This rifle of his father’s was going to take some getting used to.

Ruefully he trudged back to the cabin. For his noon meal he sat munching a bit of the johnnycake his father had baked that morning. Already he was beginning to realize that time was going to move slowly. A whole afternoon to go before he could cut that first notch.

Seven sticks. That would be August. He would have a birthday before August. He supposed his father had forgotten that, with so many things on his mind. By the time his family got here, he would be thirteen years old.


From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.

Copyright 1984 by Elizabeth George Speare
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 330 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(193)

4 Star

(63)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(32)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 331 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 7, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    15 years later, this book stuck with me.

    I read this book in the fifth grade. I've since moved on to middle school, high school, college, and now I'm working on my PhD. This book stuck with me as one of the highlights of the fifth grade. I absolutely loved it at the time, and I'm buying a copy now so I can read it over and over again. Matt and Attean's relationship was interesting, and I'm sure that and the cultural diversity aspect was why they made us read it, but most of all I loved the survival aspect of it. I thought it was awesome to see how the Native Americans lived and survived day to day and some of the clever things they did to get by. Even though it is fiction, it's realistic historical fiction, but not the boring kind. I really liked and identified with Matt too (even though I'm female) and he was remembered years later as someone I admired. This book was really fun to read, and I would recommend it to anyone, young or old.

    34 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 11, 2012

    Encourage a student to read this book

    I have used this book for many years in my 4th grade reading class. It is seldom a book they will pick up on their own, but after the first chapter they are hooked and they love it. We have amazing dicusssions about friendship and trust. This book is a great story of a developing friendship between a Native American boy and a settler boy. The settler boy, Matt is left alone in the wilderness and only survives with the help of Attean, a Navie American boy. Several parents also read this book along with us, and they always surprised by how much they like it as well. Due to a early publishing date, words like "squaw" are used that I don't really encourage, but that is about the only thing I don't like about this story. A students should be a proficient reader to read it independently. Elizabeth George Speare deserves the awards she has won for this book and others. For older readers, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is also terrific.

    20 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    Amazing!

    I just finished the book and it was amazing! The day my class finished the book, the teacher gave us a "essay" about which was our favorite book, Esperanza Rising or Sign of the Beaver, and of course, Sign of the Beaver!

    14 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    Best ever love it you read it!!!

    The best book ever !!!!!!!!i loved it and my sisters class read it so good but I did not like the movie

    11 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Love the book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!&L-O-L$$$$$$$¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿^¿???????????????

    Cool





    8 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Awsome

    This is one of the best books I have read

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 20, 2012

    read this book in the fifth grade. I've since moved on to middl

    read this book in the fifth grade. I've since moved on to middle school, high school, college, and now I'm working on my PhD. This book stuck with me as one of the highlights of the fifth grade. I absolutely loved it at the time, and I'm buying a copy now so I can read it over and over again. Matt and Attean's relationship was interesting, and I'm sure that and the cultural diversity aspect was why they made us read it, but most of all I loved the survival aspect of it.

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    January 4 ,2013

    Amazing

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    Awesome

    Have to read!

    5 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2013

    Great

    Great

    4 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    AWESOME!!!

    Gives interesting facts about indians. P.S. "my social studies teacher goes crazy over them"

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2012

    Interesting

    Kinda good but if they added more specific examples as i a common nine year old would like to see here so writing a book report would be more simple

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2012

    Awesome

    This a awesome book i am reading.It's for school i recamenad

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Awesome

    I am reading this for school and I am only on chapter 2 and it is really good!

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good book for school readings

    My son really enjoyed this book.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    WOW!!!!

    I thought this was going to be a boring book about Pioneer Life but it wasn't! We read it in class and I know if the teacher hadn't made us read it I would have missed out on a lot

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    This book is awsome

    I love this book my teacher read it to me at school once.it took a long time to readbut it was worth it

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    Awesome

    One of the best books ever just hoped that attean did not leave matt

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

    Hrat Great

    I am reading this bo for school and it is really good. At first i thought it would be boring but it is amazing. The friendship beween matt and attean is inncredible

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2012

    Pretty good

    Wouldn't read it myself. I had to read it 5th grade. Actually pretty good. Gets better around chapter 4.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 331 Customer Reviews

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