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Book Review

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After Matt and his father build a wilderness cabin in Maine, Matt's dad leaves him in charge and journeys to collect the rest of the family. When Matt is attacked by a swarm of bees, a Native American chief and his grandson, Attean, nurse Matt back to health. The chief sends Attean to learn English from Matt. The young Indian behaves badly, however, and Matt learns it's because white men killed Attean's parents. Matt and Attean eventually become friends and teach each other ways to survive. When Matt's family is late in returning, Attean invites Matt to join his tribe.

Christian Beliefs

Matt's father has only one book, the Bible. Matt shares the stories with Attean because they're full of adventure, and he's trying to get Attean interested in learning English.

Other Belief Systems

When Matt tells Attean the story of Noah, Attean says he already knows a similar tale about an American Indian who created people as well as other creatures and objects. Attean also goes on a hunt with the older men as a rite of passage to find his manitou, or the spirit assigned to him.

Authority Roles

Though a kind, encouraging role model, Matt's father leaves him alone for months, out of necessity, as he goes to get the rest of Matt's family. When Matt's mother finally arrives, readers learn she pushed the journey along with no regard for her own serious illness so she could get back to her son. Attean's grandfather looks after Matt and teaches his grandson to do the same, despite the animosity between their cultures.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 12


Elizabeth George Speare






Record Label



Houghton Mifflin


On Video

Year Published



Newbery Honor Book, ALA Notable Children's Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Horn Book Fanfare, Booklist Editors' Choice, Christopher Award, Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, The New York Times Best Book of the Year


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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