March book reviews: The Sign of the Beaver

I recently read The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, for history.  A long time ago my Mom read The Bronze Bow to Becca, Spencer, and I (for history), which is by the same author.  I know at least one of you–a.k.a. Ellen–has already read this book. 🙂 I do not remember it real well, as I was pretty small, but I remember it well enough to compare the books.  I am also in the middle of reading Calico Captive.  Maybe I will do a review of that when I finish it.

The Sign of the Beaver takes place in the 1700s; and is about a thirteen-year-old boy named Matt.  He and his father go as some of the first pioneers to build a house in the wilderness.  Matt’s father then leaves him alone to defend the cabin while he goes to get his mother and younger siblings.

By the morning after that Matt decided that it was mighty pleasant living alone.  He enjoyed waking to a day stretched before him to fill as he pleased.  He could set himself the necessary chores without having to listen to any advice about how they should be done.  How could he have thought that the time would move slowly?  As the days passed and he cut one notch after another on his stick, Matt discovered that there was never time enough for all that must be done between sunrise and sunset. (7)

But living alone becomes less enjoyable when Matt faces unexpected problems.  Losing the gun his father left and losing most of his stored-up food due to a careless mistake, for instance.   Only after Matt hurts himself in a desperate attempt to get food, do the Indians who have long been watching him show themselves.

The Indian chief offers to bring Matt food if he will teach his grandson how to read in English.

“Attean learn,” he said.  “White man come more and more to Indian land.  White man not make treaty with pipe.  White man make signs on paper, signs Indian not know.  Indian put mark on paper to show him friend of white man.  Then white man take land.  Tell Indian cannot hunt on land.  Attean learn to read white man’s signs.  Attean not give away hunting grounds.” (31)

A task that is easier said than done.  Matt has never taught anyone to read and Attean has no interest in learning.  As the days pass the two boys begin to do more and more things together.  Although forced to admit that the Indian boy is teaching him valuable lessons about life in the forest, Matt finds spending time with him frustrating, due to Attean’s scorn of all white men and their customs and tools–which he goes to no pains to conceal.

Attean had only meant to help him.  If only he didn’t have to be so superior about it… He just wished he could make Attean think a little better of him.  He wanted Attean to look at him without that gleam of amusement in his eyes.  He wished that it were possible for him to win Attean’s respect. (57, 58)

I have to say I was infuriated by Attean arrogance as well, and read the whole book in one day because I could not bear the suspense!  It does have a happy ending though–not a perfect one, but a good one.  I am seeing that as a theme in Miss Speare’s books–at least in The Bronze Bow and The Sign of the Beaver.  I am not sure how Calico Captive ends.

And I am not giving spoilers about the white stranger, Ben.  I read two descriptions of this book, that both gave away his good guy/bad guy identity, leaving me just waiting around for things I knew had to happen.  Like when someone gave me their opinion of Strider before I read The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, and gave away all the suspense.  Small a part as he plays, I do not want to spoil the questions for you.

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. (3)

This is probably the shortest book review I’ve ever done! 🙂  Any of you read this book?  No commenting spoilers please, though!  Any of you (besides Ellen) read any of Miss Speare’s other books?  Happy Thursday!

12 thoughts on “March book reviews: The Sign of the Beaver”

  1. Great book review, Hanna! I have read ‘The Sign Of The Beaver’, and ‘The Bronze Bow’ (Both for school). I enjoyed ‘The Bronze Bow’ better than ‘The Sign Of The Beaver’, but it was still a very good book! Do you have a favorite of the two? ~Savannah

          1. It was great! All your reviews you have done so far have been awesome! I like that you don’t give away the ending of the book in your reviews. If you did, I probably wouldn’t want to read the book as much :-). ~Savannah

  2. Great book review!! Well, Yes, I’ve read The Bronze Bow, but not The Sign of the Beaver. A similar ending?? Hmm, maybe you could e-mail me a hint about how similar……..??? 🙂 🙂 #IReadTheEndOfABookBeforeIReadTheBeginning 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. Seriously, Ellen? You really expect me to do that??? I’m NOT going to spoil it for you!
      I will tell you that “The Sign of the Beaver” has a more final ending. “The Bronze Bow” is pretty open-ended and make you want to make up your own story… almost like it needs a sequel, if I remember right. “Sign of the Beaver” isn’t like that. It’s not a perfect ending, and there isn’t really a way to get a perfect ending. Enough said.

      1. Ooo! Good. The Bronze Bow has a TERRIBLE ending!!! I love the book, but the end is disappointing!! I’ve made up an end! 🙂
        Couldn’t you tell me a little bit more?? Maybe just like, how old Matt and Ben are….?? 🙂 🙂

          1. Oh! Thirteen?? That’s how old I am! Over thirty?? Oh my!!!
            No, I’m not happy yet! Maybe, you could tell me, if they have any siblings??
            #ICanGetSomethingOutOfAnyone 🙂

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