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Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2003 John Newbery Medal Winner) Hardcover – April 29, 2002

384 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Crispin Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Genre-jumping author Avi clocks in here with his 50th book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, an action-packed historical narrative that follows the frantic flight of a 13-year-old peasant boy across 14th-century England.

After being declared a "wolf's head" by his manor's corrupt steward for a crime he didn't commit (meaning that anyone can kill him like a common animal--and collect a reward), this timid boy has to flee a tiny village that's the only world he's ever known. But before our protagonist escapes, Avi makes sure that we're thoroughly briefed on the injustices of feudalism--the countless taxes cottars must pay, the constant violence, the inability of a flawed church to protect its parishioners, etc. Avi then folds in the book's central mystery just as the boy is leaving: "Asta's son," as he's always been known, learns from the village priest that his Christian name is Crispin, and that his parents' origins--and fates--might be more perplexing than he ever imagined.

Providing plenty of period detail (appropriately gratuitous for the age group) and plenty of chase-scene suspense, Avi tells a good story, develops a couple of fairly compelling characters, and even manages to teach a little history lesson. (Fortunately, kids won't realize that they're learning about England's peasant revolt of 1381 until it's far too late.) (Ages 10 to 14) --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 14th-century England, Avi's (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) 50th book begins with a funeral, that of a village outcast whose past is shrouded in mystery and whose adolescent son is known only as "Asta's son." Mired in grief for his mother, the boy learns his given name, Crispin, from the village priest, although his presumably dead father's identity remains obscure. The words etched on his mother's treasured lead cross may provide some clue, but the priest is murdered before he can tell the illiterate lad what they say. Worse, Crispin is fingered for the murder by the manor steward, who declares him a "wolf's head" wanted dead or alive, preferably dead. Crispin flees, and falls in with a traveling juggler. "I have no name," Crispin tells Bear, whose rough manners and appearance mask a tender heart. "No home, no kin, no place in this world." How the boy learns his true identity (he's the bastard son of the lord of the manor) and finds his place in the world makes for a rattling fine yarn. Avi's plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns and treachery aplenty, but it's the compellingly drawn relationship between Crispin and Bear that provides the heart of this story. A page turner to delight Avi's fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; First Edition edition (April 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786808284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786808281
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

More info at and
Avi is part of a family of writers extending back into the 19th century. Born in 1937 and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools, before going to the Midwest and then back to NYC to complete his education. Starting out as a playwright--while working for many years as a librarian--he began writing books for young people when the first of his kids came along.

His first book was Things That Sometimes Happen, published in 1970, and recently reissued. Since then he has published seventy books. Winner of many awards, including the 2003 Newbery award for Crispin: the Cross of Lead (Hyperion), two Newbery Honors, two Horn Book awards, and an O'Dell award, as well as many children's choice awards, he frequently travels to schools around the country to talk to his readers.

Among his most popular books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic, and The Fighting Ground.

In 2008 he published The Seer of Shadows (HarperCollins), A Beginning a Muddle and an End (Harcourt), Hard Gold (Hyperion) and Not Seeing is Believing, a one-act play in the collection, Acting Out (Simon and Schuster). Crispin: the End of Time, the third in the Newbery Award-winning series, was published in 2010. City of Orphans was released in 2011, receiving a number of starred reviews. Learn more at Follow Avi on Facebook,, where he shares an inside look at his writing process.

Avi lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and family.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 104 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on October 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
CRISPIN: THE CROSS OF LEAD is a thrilling and endearing tale, unquestionably my favorite book of Avi's from the bunch I've read. (This is, in fact, his fiftieth book.) CRISPIN is set in 1300s England. Not only is the story steeped in the history of feudalistic medieval Britain, but Avi brings that history to life most vividly without ever once hitting you over the head with it.
"Time was the great millstone, which ground us to dust like kerneled wheat. The Holy Church told us where we were in the alterations of the day, the year, and in our daily toil. Birth and death alone gave distinction to our lives, as we made the journey between the darkness from whence we had come to the darkness where we were fated to await Judgment Day."
CRISPIN is the name of the 13-year-old peasant main character; although, the only name he's known for himself is "Asta's Son." That is until his mother dies, and in his blinding grief he stumbles upon a secret meeting in the woods between John Aycliffe--the steward of the manor--and a wealthy stranger. In a flash he finds himself the target of a plot in which he is falsely accused of a theft and declared a "wolf's head," allowing anyone to kill him on sight. On his way "out of town" the village priest tells the boy his real name, tells him to hide out for 24 hours until he can round up some provisions, and promises to reveal some more vital information the next day. Then the priest proceeds to get his throat slit and Crispin is on the run with the theft AND the priest's murder hanging over him. What happens to him is one of those stories that is so well crafted that you can taste and smell the settings, as well as hear the sinister growl in Aycliffe's throat, as you anxiously wait for something to go right for Crispin.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on June 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To be honest, I'd never read Avi before even though he has written some very popular novels. But I make it a point to read every Newbery Award-winning novel so I read this book. Now I feel like I've been missing out and should go back and read more of this author. This is a very good book.
Avi's novel tells the story of a young boy of fourteenth century England. He is a nameless, fatherless boy who becomes a fugitive when he is falsely accused of a crime on the very day his mother dies. Inadvertently becoming the servant of a strange entertainer named Bear, he slowly learns the truth of his world and himself. Forced to make some interesting choices at the climax of the novel, the nameless boy surprises the reader by becoming Crispin--but not in the way that might be expected.
If I seem cryptic, it's because I don't want to give away the wonderful twists at the close of the story. Avi has written a wonderfully readable novel which I would recommend to any reader.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on November 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
You may wonder what a high school world history teacher is doing reading a book by Avi.

Well, here's the deal - I am searching for high quality historical fiction in a variety of reading levels for a future project for my class. Avi's 'Crispin: The Cross of Lead' fits the bill perfectly for my students with lower level reading skills.

Set in Medieval England, Avi creates an interesting story and accurately depicts the toil of a peasant's life, pointing out some of the more interesting aspects of that time in history, including the plague, the power of the church, the massive amount of illiteracy, the filth, and more. What I like about it is that Avi writes a simple book without talking down to his readers.

This book fits my classroom's need wonderfully. For all of you teachers out there I strongly recommend it.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amaiia on May 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After his mother's sudden death, a young boy named Crispin finds himself in trouble with authority. When he accidentally witnesses a midnight meeting in the wilderness near his home, the steward of his 14th-century village accuses him of theft. Now he is wanted, dead or alive, for a crime he did not commit. He has no choice but flee from the only home he has ever known, far into the English countryside.
With nothing to his name except a lead cross that belonged to his mother, Crispin sets out on a frightening journey, full of danger and excitement, to save his life and justify himself. But no matter how far he flees, Crispin is pursued. The villagers know he didn't do it, but they continue on under the order of the steward. The same steward that made life terrible for the villagers. He increased labor, decreased pay, and executed the innocent. Why then, are they so eager to follow his orders?
In Crispin, Avi writes yet another incredibly delightful story, bound to hold any reader to the end. This tale of a courageous and hopeful youth will have a place in your heart, and you remember it for years to come. The pages are full of action and suspense, but also present interesting facts in a fun way. Although suitable for ages ten to fourteen, a person of any age would enjoy this compelling book.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I teach fifth grade and read Crispin aloud to my students. We all were spellbound by the story. They begged me to read it to them. I would highly recommend this book and so would they.
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