The Sign of the Beaver

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The Sign of the Beaver
The Sign of the Beaver.jpg
Author Elizabeth George Speare
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's historical novel
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
February 1983
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book
Pages 135
ISBN 0-395-33890-5
OCLC 9219453
LC Class PZ7.S7376 Si 1983

The Sign of the Beaver is a children's historical novel by American author Elizabeth George Speare, which has won numerous literary awards. It was published in February 1983, and has become one of her most popular works.

The idea for this book came from a factual story that Elizabeth George Speare discovered in Milo, Maine[1] about a young boy who was left alone for a summer in the wilderness and was befriended by a Native American and his grandson.[2]


The Sign of the Beaver tells the story of a 12-year-old boy, Matt James Hallowell, and his father, who, as early settlers, together build a log cabin in the wilderness of 18th-century North America. Matt is left alone to guard the cabin and his family's claim of land while his father heads back east to pick up his mother and sister and bring them back to the cabin. Alone, Matt has to work together with a Native American named Attean and Attean's family.


This book has been criticized for racism and negative stereotypes of Native Americans, as well as for historical inaccuracies in its portrayal of Penobscots. A review by Marlette Grant-Jackson on the website of Humboldt State University's Indian Tribal & Educational Personnel Program (ITEPP) rates it as "Harmful" and points out how Native children may be negatively impacted by seeing themselves portrayed as scary, dirty, and stupid.[3]



  1. ^ Library Thing. "The Survival Story". Retrieved 26 Jan 2014. 
  2. ^ McCarthy, Tara (2002). Literature Circle Guide: The Sign of the Beaver. New York, NY: Scholastic. p. 9. ISBN 0-439-35542-7. 
  3. ^ Grant-Jackson, Marlette. "The Sign of the Beaver: Book Review" (PDF). Humboldt University Indian Tribal & Educational Personnel Program. Humboldt University. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Bank Street College of Education. "The Children's Book Committee: Past Award Winners (1943-2007)". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  5. ^ Library Thing. "Book awards: Christopher Award". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Sign of the Beaver Lesson Plan". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c d Random House. "Teacher Guide: Sign of the Beaver". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  8. ^ Horn Book Fanfare. "Hornbook Fanfare's Best Books of the Year 1980s". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  9. ^ Scott O'Dell. "Winners of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. 
  10. ^ "Young Hoosier Book Award History". Retrieved 30 Nov 2009. [dead link]