Book Review: The Sign of the Beaver

Sign of the Beaver, The

“Six weeks,” his father had said that morning. “Maybe seven. Hard to reckon exactly.”

Six weeks, maybe seven. That is the length of time thirteen-year-old Matt must hold down his family’s claim on his own. Alone in the Maine wilderness, it doesn’t take Matt long to run into trouble. A bear breaks into the cabin and destroys much of his food supply, and Matt is attacked by a swarm of bees when he attempts to get honey from their hive. Saknis, an Indian, nurses him back to health and makes a treaty with Matt. Saknis’s grandson, Attean, will hunt for Matt if Matt will teach Attean to read. At first, Attean has little but contempt for Matt and his white ways, but over time Matt wins Attean’s respect, and a friendship is forged between the two boys.

I grew up watching Keeping the Promise, a movie based off of The Sign of the Beaver. I didn’t discover the book until I was thirteen, and I was delighted to find it much different and even better than the movie. Skimming through it again to write this review reminded me just how much I enjoyed it. It’s also unique in that most pioneer stories are set out west, while this book explores an eastern frontier. Another book that works well both as a fun read and as a history curriculum supplement.

Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Audience: Middle Grade–Tween
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 135

Book Review: Moccasin Trail

Moccasin TrailI’m still trying to work out exactly what to call this month’s theme. Frontier stories or stories with a native american theme or frontier stories with a native american theme. Anyway. You get the general idea. 😉 I’ve decided to try a new take on the monthly theme. I’ll still be announcing one, but I won’t tell you which books I plan to review. There are two reasons for this. One: to keep you in suspense. 🙂 Two: to give myself a bit more flexibility. If you have any feedback on this idea, please let me know. I’d love to hear it! Now, the review of one of my newest favorites.

Jim, if you’re still alive, come help us….If you ever cared anything for mother or any of us, then come. It’s our only chance.

Moccasin Trail encases a powerful story about the strength of family in a page turning adventure from the days of the pioneers. Jim Keath ran away from home as a young boy and now, at the age of 19, is more Indian than white. When he receives a letter from his younger brother pleading for help in staking a claim, Jim rejoins what is left of the family he ran away from nine long years ago and finds himself stuck between two worlds.

Jim’s confusion over how to fit in and the pain of rejection that he tried to hide even from himself makes him an easy character to like. Eloise Jarvis McGraw does an amazing job of showing his struggle and inability to understand what his family expects of him while maintaining his rugged, impenetrable personality. You will be rooting for him the entire time as he transforms from a rugged, wandering loner to an equally rugged but devoted, responsible family man. A masterfully told story.

Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Audience: All Ages (Intended for Middle Grade readers, but this seriously isn’t a book you want to limit to 8-12 year olds.)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 247

What is your favorite frontier/wild west story?