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Crispin: The Cross of Lead Paperback – June 1, 2004
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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1. The plot and prose are both good and something that I could imagine a 12 year old boy getting into (I have two sons). There are a number of good aphorisms that are worth noting and can provide a basis for further discussion with your children.
2. There are no, um, romantic scenes and no questions that you would have to answer about those thing that you might not want to.
3. The book is historical, and your son (or daughter) just might learn something from reading this.
4. There are quite a few new vocabulary words for your child to learn to increase their vocabulary. (Doff. Tunic. Kirtle. Solars. Recorder. Daub and Wattle. Yewbow. Porticullis. Caterwauling. Glaive. Tonsure. None/Prime. Sconce)
5. The book puts me in mind of another very good book for children that I've read (A Single Shard) in that the story had a message. (And this is rare when one considers the huge number of books that detail teenage angst at great length with no ultimate conclusions.) The messages were: i. Having a skill is a good way to not be hungry; ii. Being able to read and being familiar with the written word is a great advantage; iii. Being friendly is not always the same thing as being helpful; iv. A man's word is everything. (None of even the most objectionable characters did not keep their word in this book.)
There was one drawback, and that is that the book was very heavily centered around the church (our house is Jewish and not Christian), and that can cause some awkwardness-- but you can't have everything.
Verdict: Highly recommended, even at the new purchase price.
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