The Sign of the Beaver

The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
(Random House, 1983), pb., 135 pp.
Ages 6-13

This is pretty good book set in the frontier of Maine in colonial America. The main character, 12 year old Matt, along with his father has gone out to their newly purchased land in Maine to build a house and plant their crops. Then the father leaves his son with the home and crops to retrieve the rest of the family. On his own the boy must work hard, deal with visitors and Indian encounters. When his father’s return is delayed he faces difficult choices regarding survival, friendship, loyalty and perseverance.

The key value of the book, in my opinion, is the portrayal of responsibility and perseverance. The story is adventurous in places but slow in other places. The value of books emerges in the story when an Indian chief wants Matt to teach his grandson to read. The value of good stories is particularly highlighted. The boy even realizes along the way that the best stories he has are Bible stories. However, there are also less positive takes on the faith in the book.

This book has won numerous awards, but I was not so overwhelmed. In the end, it is a worthwhile read though not a “favorite.” It provides a good portrayal of frontier life in this era.

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