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The Sign of the Beaver  By  cover art

The Sign of the Beaver

By: Elizabeth George Speare
Narrated by: Greg Schaffert
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Publisher's Summary

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 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.

What listeners say about The Sign of the Beaver

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Progressive Yet Problematic

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Good story, dubious dialog, irritating music

What made the experience of listening to The Sign of the Beaver the most enjoyable?

The story

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Sign of the Beaver?

When the main character encounters a bear.

What does Greg Schaffert bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Annoyance.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When the rifle is stolen.

Any additional comments?

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Mediocre performance, ok book

I only purchased this book because my son had to read it for school. We used the audio version in the car to save some time. If the narrator had been better we might have listened at home too but I was really disappointed in that. He read very fast and with little inflection or emotion. The character voices were flat with little difference between them. Not very engaging at all, especially for a kid’s book. I

3 people found this helpful

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Whole Family Enjoyed This

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.

3 people found this helpful

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The past isn't always what you remember.

Proving how much racism and predatory behavior towards children can you cram into a childrens book while making it all feel totally normal and non threatening. I was so excited to get this book among others for my kids. I had remembered so many good things and how they made reading so much a part of my life. Then we were listening together and I'm more than a little horrified at the portrayal of the Indians, their spaghetti western speech, their limited intelect in everything that isn't hunt or gather. I get it was normal to the time to write this way but come on. Then there is the abandoning of the main character in the virtual wilderness by the parent and the weird random predatory guy who pops up and is definetly eyeballing more than the food and shelter but neither are portrayed as life-threatening as they really are. No wonder I couldn't tell racism or predatory behavior from a hole in the ground growing up. These kinds of books normalized it in ways I was too young to challenge.

2 people found this helpful

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Great story for my 8 year old!!

we loved it, as a family. worth a buy, and we'll worth the 10 dollars.

2 people found this helpful

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Derogatory

At first I thought this book would be good to use with a group of children to teach them about Native American culture. But after reading it I realized it is full of derogatory terms and stereotypes. I will not be using it with a book group.

1 person found this helpful

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Good story

Other than a few negative references to Christianity in the beginning this was an excellent book a good story and I would read it again.

1 person found this helpful

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The Sign of the beaver

It was a good book and I would recommend this to people because of the story behind it

1 person found this helpful

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loved it!

it was so interesting! I had read the book before but this brought it fresh to my memory! it's definitely a top story! the reader was great too!

1 person found this helpful