Can you imagine being almost thirteen years old and alone in the wilderness of Maine
for more than six months with no other people Eke you living for miles and miles around
you? What if the year was 1768, and you did not have electricity or other modem
inventions? Do you think it would be hard to survive? Well, Matt sure did have a lot of
trouble surviving in The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.
Matt and his dad went to the wilderness of Maine from their home in Quincy,
Massachusetts to build a log cabin for their family. Matt's dad left him alone to go back
to get Matt's mother and baby sister. The next day, he was visited by a man named Ben. Ben
spent the night with Matt in the log cabin The next morning Ben was gone, and so was the
rifle that Matt used for hunting and for protection.
Matt was in for even more bad luck. While Matt was out fishing for food a bear
ransacked his cabin. Later he went to go get some honey from a hive in a tree near his
cabin. The bees swarmed his head. He got into the pond to escape them. His feet got
tangled in weeds at the bottom of the pond. He was saved by two Indians, an old man and a
He woke up in his cabin to see the same two Indians. Their names were Attean and
Saknis. They took care of him for days until he felt better. Saknis asked Matt to teach
Attean the white man's ABC'S, so he did. Matt also read Robinson Crusoe to
Attean taught Matt many things, too. He taught Matt how to make a hook, to capture
small animals a trap, and to make a bow and arrow. Matt also learned about chaw, which was
dried sap of a spruce tree that you chew like bubble gum He teamed some words in Attean's
language and heard stories of Attean's people, too.
One day when Attean and Matt were going to visit the beaver dam, they heard a noise in
the underbrush. A bear cub waddled out. Suddenly, the angry mother bear appeared. Attean
shot her between the eyes and on the shoulder with his bow and arrow.
Late that afternoon, Matt went to the Indian village. They danced and then feasted on
the bear. Attean did not eat any of the bear because it was a tradition of the Indians
that the person who killed the bear could not eat any of it. The Indians began to tell
stories. Matt dozed off and Attean took him to a wigwam.
When he woke up, it was morning. Attean's grandmother did not want Matt to stay any
longer. She did not like white people. Matt found out that Attean's mother had been killed
by a white man. Later, Attean and Matt walked back toward the cabin in silence, Matt
noticed carvings in the trees along the trail. They were the sign of the beaver, the
symbol of Attean's tribe. He knew that he could find his way back to the village, but that
he should not go unless he was invited.
Matt was worried because his father had been gone for ten weeks and he was supposed to
have been back in seven. The weather was beginning to get cooler. One morning he heard
Attean's dog howling. It was stuck in a white man's metal trap. Matt tried to get the dog
free, but the dog snapped at him. He went to the village to get help. Attean was not
there, so he asked the grandmother to help him. She nursed the gash in Matt's hand. Matt
and Attean's sister went and freed the dog.
Matt was invited back to the village. He ate and then watched the women work. They
ground corn and weaved baskets. Then he and Attean joined in the children's games. He left
just before dark. He had a good day with his new friends.
It was a week before Attean came back to visit Matt at the cabin. Attean told Matt the
he had to go to find his manitou. He explained that manitou meant spirit. This was a
ritual that Attean had to go through to become a man.
The next time Attean returned to the cabin his grandfather was with him. His hair was
shaved except for a little braid. Matt knew that Attean had found his manitou while he had
been away. Attean told Matt that his tribe was moving north to hunt moose. He asked Matt
to come with them, but Matt refused. Before he left for the hunt, Attean gave Matt his dog
as a gift. Matt gave Attean his watch in return.
Matt was alone, but he kept very busy. He chopped wood, prepared the cabin for winter
and stored food. He was proud of the mittens, pants, and hat that he made for himself to
keep warm He made a doll for Sarah and became more homesick for his family. When it
snowed, he was stuck inside the cabin.
Three days later, it looked like it would snow again. Matt went outside to get
firewood. He heard a noise. It was his family finally coming home! His father explained
that they had all been sick with typhus. He also found out that the baby had only lived
for five days. His father and mother were both proud of him for being so responsible. His
father talked about the new neighbors that would be moving in soon, and Matt remembered
the Indians who had been his neighbors and his good friends.
In this book, Matt and Attean both learned to get along with people that were different
than them. They learned that it is important to get to know someone before you judge them
on the outside. The lesson of this book taught me a lot. The book was very interesting. I
recommend it to mostly boys, but girls might like it, too.