How would you feel if you were 13, left alone in a cabin in the wilderness, responsible to take care of it until your family arrived?
That’s the situation Matt finds himself in at the beginning of The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.
Through various circumstances, Matt finds himself both in need of and indebted to the Indian tribe who lives nearby. At first he is distrustful of the Indians, only to find they feel the same way about him. He promises to teach a boy his age, Attean, how to read, but he eventually realizes that it’s Attean who must teach him how to live in the wilderness. When his father is delayed in returning with his family for unknown reasons, Matt’s very survival is dependant on the Beaver clan’s goodwill.
The Sign of the Beaver will broaden your child’s perspective. Younger kids tend to think their family or culture has the best or only way of doing something. It’s good for kids to learn to imagine life through the eyes of another person. Speare doesn’t elevate one culture over the other. In the end, both Matt and Attean gain a mutual respect for each other.
Watching Matt’s struggle to survive may leave your kids grateful. Most American’s don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from or if they’ll be able to last the winter. They don’t have to wonder for months how their family is doing, they can just call.
On the other hand, your kids may just run outside and start crafting snares and snow-shoes. And that would be a wonderful reaction to this story as well. I hope this book inspires them to use their resourceful imaginations.
Can you tell I loved just about everything about this book? We listened to it as an audiobook in the car, which gave us plenty of opportunities to pause and talk about it. And, no surprise, it’s a Newbery-Honor book.
What book has broadened your child’s perspective?