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4.2 out of 5 stars
Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2003 John Newbery Medal Winner)
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91 of 102 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified 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.
While trying not to reveal any more of the story, I'll also tell you that there is a character in here who I find darn near as lovable as Hagrid.
I hope that Avi is contemplating a sequel to this one--the end came way too soon for me.
Richie Partington
[...]
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 19, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified 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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2003
Format: HardcoverVerified 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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a book with detail but it is not at all boring. The details are quite exciting and keep you very interested in the plot. Much more adventurous than any Harry P. book. What I enjoyed most was that nothing was predictable in the story, I was always surprised. If you liked it or other adventure books for teens check out SB or God as well.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Avi's wonderful books for a long time. Some such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and The Fighting Ground were big favorites when I was younger, and I still love returning to them from time to time. I was really excited when I learned that Avi had finally won the Newberry medal with Crispin The Cross of Lead, and having read it, I think that this is his best.
The story follows Crispin, a young peasant in the Middle Ages. The death of his mother and some mysterious surrounding circumstances force Crispin to flee his home with some powerful people trying to kill him. He falls in with Bear, a traveling juggler who becomes a father figure, who helps Crispin in his flight to happiness.
Everything is perfect about this novel. Crispin and Bear are well-characterized, and their relationship is truly touching. The plot has a lot of action and is quick paced. Primarily, the book is great for the way it deals with pain. Crispin's faith and perseverance in the face of extreme pain is amazing and is a remarkable message for children (and adults) in these difficult times. I can't say enough for this book. It definitely deserves the Newberry. I hope Avi writes fifty more books this good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
"I keep asking myself if I felt different, if I was different. The answer was always yes. I was no longer nothing."

What's so important about a name? Does it give you something? Does it lay out a path for you to follow? Does it tell you who you are?

Crispin doesn't know his name because his father died years ago in the plague. "Asta's Son" is all anyone has ever called him. Doing their best to survive in meager conditions, he and his mother live among the poorest of the poor in fourteenth-century medieval England. Until his mother dies. Then, on a midnight trip to Father Quinel's quarters to learn the truth about his father, Crispin interrupts John Aycliffe, the steward in those parts, meeting secretly with a strange man in the forest.

Next thing Crispin knows, Father Quinel has been murdered and people are trying to kill him. He is labeled a Wolf's Head, which means anyone who finds him can kill him without impunity. On the run from everything relating to his prior life, without a name or a plan, he is stopped by an enormous man who calls himself Bear. In exchange for letting him live, Crispin if forced to vow service to Bear as his Master now. Where this will take Crispin, he doesn't know, but he isn't sure he wants to find out. People are still hunting for him, but why? And how will he ever find a new life under these conditions?

Avi's CRISPIN: THE CROSS OF LEAD tells the heartmoving story of a young boy in search for his name, and not just any name, a name he can live by. Set against the backdrop of medieval Christianity, Crispin's prayer is this: "Let me play the music well. Let me be a credit to my master. And I beg Thee, let me have a soul, that I too may sing and dance."

Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading Crispin : The Cross of Lead, but do not feel that it quite reaches Newbery quality. Other of Avi's books, notably Nothing But the Truth and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, are much better reads. In the genre of Medieval Fiction for kids, Karen Cushman's books rate higher. I will recommend Crispin to my students, but not with quite the enthusiasm of the others mentioned above.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
A story set in the Middle Ages when feudalism is at it's height, the Black Death has already passed through the land, and God is a major part of everyday life. Crispin has lived his 13 years under Lord Furnival, and has known nothing but poverty, farming, and the name "Asta's Son." Crispin's life becomes complicated when his mother dies, and only then does Crispin begin to find out more about himself, his father, and the world around him. He also discovers he's a quick learner--a man nicknamed "Bear" teaches him how to juggle and play the recorder. Crispin also finds he's wanted for theft and murder, two things he did not commit. As time passes, Crispin learns the truth behind the accusations, and realizes his entire world will be more than just turned upside down.
Avi has woven an incredibly detailed tale. The reader will feel s/he is right there with Crispin because of all the "extras" Avi included--from food to clothing to worship styles to the layouts of the cities (muck and stench included). Readers will sympathize with Crispin, and will even find themselves reprimanding him when he sneaks out. The shifts in his character were a little disturbing (between curiosity and apathy), but overall Crispin is a full character.
This book is perfect for those who love Karen Cushman (The Midwife's Apprentice), or for those who aren't quite ready for Michael Cadnum (Book of the Lion). It also complements A Door in the Wall (Henry) and The Trumpeter of Krakow (Kelly).
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