CRC Information

The Sign of the Beaver Book Cover

The Sign of the Beaver
Book Review
New York: Dell (1983)
135 pages
grades 4-7
ISBN 0-440-47900-2

 

RATING:  Harmful - Stereotypical and Racist

During the summer of 1769, Matt Hallowell and his father buy property in an up and coming town-site in Maine. Matt is left alone to guard the house when his father returns to Quincy Massachusetts to get Matt's pregnant mother and sister. While waiting months for his family to return to their cabin, 12 year old Matt endures many miss fortunes during his first two months alone.  His fathers gun is stolen by a questionable red bearded guest, a bear breaks in and leaves him with little food supplies, and the dark shadows seem to be Indians watching Matt everywhere he goes. Matt is saved by two Penobscot Indians. Saknis and his grandson, Attean (14 years old), when he is almost drowned trying to elude a swarm of bees. To thank Saknis and Attean for saving his life Matt gives them his “only possession”, a book.  Saknis asks Matt to teach Attean to read the white man’s signs, and in making a “treaty” Attean would provide Matt with food. During the months to come Attean ends up teaching Matt how to survive without guns, metal fish hooks and steal traps and how to find his way through the forest without getting lost. Matt shares his Robinson Crusoe book and bible stories with Attean.  The boys become companions (not necessarily friends) and hunt and fish together often.  You find that Atteans’ distrust of “whites” comes from the loss of his mother and father, as well as hunting territory to the incoming settlers.  As winter sets in Saknis offers to adopt Matt and take him north with the tribe as it moves west beyond the reach of settlers. Matt was impressed that Saknis offered the chance for him to be considered Attean's brother, but he also knew he must wait for his own family. His family finally returns in December and Matt waits to gradually tell his family all about the “Indians,” figuring they wouldn’t understand.

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