3. The Sign of the Beaver

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Pages: 135
Finished: Jan. 6, 2009
First Published: 1983
Awards: Newbery Honor, Scott O'Dell Award
Genre: children, historical fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reason for Reading: read aloud to my 8yo.

First sentence:

Matt stood at the edge of the clearing for some time after his father had gone out of sight among the trees.

Comments: 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 the Indians than the boy learns from him. Matt's father also does not come back as the months go by.

A wonderfully, beautiful story of friendship between two people of different cultures. Matt's misconceptions of the Indians are challenged as he learns a new way of living. The Indian boy is disdainful of the white boy who does squaw work and doesn't know how to do anything. A bond slowly grows between the boys as they learn from each other and prejudices are set aside.

This is not a plot driven story but more of a slow moving story of two people and their cultures. I've read this about three times now and both my older son and the 8yo really were riveted with the storytelling. Speare is a writer who writes beautiful language and weaves a tale that really makes the reader (or listener :-) care deeply for the characters. I think this book will especially be appreciated by boys and I recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone. A favourite!


  1. I read The Witch at Blackbird Pond by this author last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. I hadn't thought to look for other books by her.


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