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 decision when the tribe decides to move north. Is it time for Matt to move on with Attean's tribe and give up hope of his family ever returning?
©2004 Elizabeth George Speare; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
My daughter had to read this book for a school assignment, and I was curious how it had aged. First published in 1983, this book precedes Dances with Wolves by five years (the movie came out in 1990), but I found The Sign of the Beaver far less problematic than that story. I was a bit skeptical -- I expected it to be full of cultural appropriation issues, but it ended up avoiding those issues for the majority of the book, and focused on a friendship between Matt -- a young boy who is left alone in his family's cabin by his father -- and Attean, a Native American boy.
On the plus side, the Native Americans don't rely on Matt to save them, and Matt learns quite a bit of humility and is made very uncomfortable by some of the cultural appropriation in literature (he's reading Robinson Crusoe with Attean at one point). And their friendship feels authentic. On the downside, there are some issues at the end that left me uncomfortable, where both Matt and the author seem to have an attitude of "That's just how it is."
My daughter ended up not really enjoying it too much, but for different reasons -- she felt that it was overly melodramatic, and wasn't taken in by the general story that much.
I'm not sure that Greg Shaffert was the right reader for this book -- he sounded too contemporary, and a little too eager and fast. But while he didn't quite match the tone of the book for me, his reading was sufficient.
All in all, I doubt this is a book I'll come back to, but I was pleased it wasn't as problematic as I expected it to be, and I was glad my daughter had the opportunity to read it.
When the main character encounters a bear.
When the rifle is stolen.
There is music at the beginning of each section that is REALLY annoying and distracting. The sooner producers of audiobooks stop adding music at all, the better, IMHO.
The reader sounds like an adolescent boy, and he does a competent job, but I always groan when a child does the narrating because inevitably, in terms of voices, nuance, and general acting skills, they are not up to the job. Still, it is a book for kids, and kids might connect better to another kid.
No doubt Sign of the Beaver is a well written novel. As for the plot, it is thoroughly convincing; the voice, in the first-person of an 18th-century adolescent boy, equally so. The concept, that the narrator is stranded alone in a wilderness cabin is engaging; its resolution, that a Indian boy and his grandfather come to his rescue, is perfectly acceptable. The only aspect of the novel that is a little tough, at least for an adult reader who is aware of stereotypes, is the cliched manner of speech of the Indian characters. Of course, this can be forgiven, given the time the book was written. (Meanshile, another book, Last of the Mohicans, written almost a hundred years earlier, presents similar characters speaking English in a more convincing way.) Still, this hardly ruins the book; and, it's overall sympathetic and otherwise believable portrayal of the Native American characters more than makes up for it.
I have a sone going into fifth grade. He is dyslexic so I wanted a grade and age appropriate book that he could share when discussing summer reading. He loved this book for the adventures of the woods and the relationships of different cultures coming together.
I think I enjoyed it as much as my son.
This was an assigned read-aloud for our children's homeschool. Occasionally we use audiobook versions for study because it makes it easier on mom not to have to do all the reading aloud. Our children really enjoyed this story.
Report Inappropriate Content