Crispin: The Cross of Lead

by Avi

Hardcover, 2002

Call number



Disney-Hyperion (2002), Edition: First Edition, 272 pages


Falsely accused of theft and murder, an orphaned peasant boy in fourteenth-century England flees his village and meets a larger-than-life juggler who holds a dangerous secret.

Media reviews

Rebecca Barnhouse (VOYA, June 2002 (Vol. 25, No. 2)) In 1377 England, mysteries surround thirteen-year-old Crispin, a serf from a rural village who never knows his own name until his mother dies. Nor does he know just who his mother really was--why she was an outcast or how she learned to read and
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write. Shortly after her burial, Crispin finds himself pursued by men who mean to kill him for reasons he does not understand. He escapes, only to be captured by a huge juggler named Bear. Bear teaches Crispin to sing and play the recorder, and slowly they begin to get to know one another. When they perform in villages and towns, however, they discover that the hunt for Crispin is still in full swing. For Crispin, this situation makes the question of Bear's trustworthiness vital, for Bear has secrets of his own. The suspense stays taut until the very end of the book, when Crispin uncovers his identity and then must decide how to act on that information. His journey to selfhood recalls Alice's in Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1995/VOYA August 1995). Like Alice, Crispin casts off his timidity to make a place for himself within a society that would discard him. As does Cushman, Avi renders the sights, sounds, and smells of medieval England accurately and compellingly. He shows the pervasiveness of the church in medieval society and, in a subplot, weaves in details about John Ball and the Peasant's Rebellion. Exciting and true to the past, this novel is historical fiction at its finest. PLB $16.49. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9).
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User reviews

LibraryThing member eduscapes
This Newbery award winning book is set during the middle ages.
LibraryThing member angieh1
Action-filled, long, detailed and beautifully-written book. takes place in the middle ages and tells the life of an orphan, whos mother just died. The boy had been called Asta's son all her life and was told his real name was Crispin. His on only other friend, the priest comforts him until the
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priest is murdered. Crispin had been accused of stealing from a house and was now claimed a wolf's head and could be killed by any. Crispin meets a kind, big man named Bear and there starts the travels of the 2, fights for life and freedom. Long, but fascinating book. Parts of the book just didn't fascinate me and didn't seem to backup the main story.
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LibraryThing member Crewman_Number_6
This book was readable, but utterly predictable from page one.
LibraryThing member mikitchenlady
Wrote a book report as a graduate student :) for this story, for my children's literature class. Actually listened to the audio version, which was painfully slow at times (the narrator choice had much too mature and theatrical of a voice for a young boy). Great story -- my favorite Avi thus far.
LibraryThing member wiremonkey
For years, Asta and her son have lived in the little village in Stromford.They are serfs who till the land of their absentee Lord. For reasons unknown to Asta's son (for he has no name) they are shunned by their community and are made to work harder than everybody else. Then one day his mother dies
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and, overwrought with despair, he runs into the forest where he overhears a conversation between the cruel steward and a cloaked man. The next day he discovers that he has been accused of stealing money from the manor house and is delcared a wolf's head, which means that anyone can kill him. Asta's son must leave the only place he knows in the world and he must do it fast. Set in the middle ages, this is a gripping story of a young man's journey into his own identity. Avi has written a gripping novel for the 8-10 set, complete with short, unintimidating chapters and a fascinating bird's eye view of England in the Middle Ages.
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LibraryThing member juliette07
The book begins … The day after my mother died the priest and I wrapped her body in a grey shroud and carried her to the village church.

Set in the world of mediaeval England this book tells of a young boy’s journey from naïve life to knowledge of himself. It is at one level a gripping
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adventure and at another it is one of the battle between power and avarice versus humility, faithfulness and genuine trustworthy friendship. I strongly recommend this book. With characters and writing that sets the scene so vividly it was a truly worthy winner.
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LibraryThing member BridgetteHarmon
Although at first I was deterred by the archaic language that I felt was somewhat contrived and unnatural, this book is unmistakably interesting and powerful. It is set just before the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in England, which is a fascinating period of British history. It is the perfect setting
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for exploring the radical, newly-blossoming ideas of universal liberty and individual freedom.

I also appreciated Avi’s treatment of the medieval church. He portrays both the positive and negative aspects of the church’s permeating influence upon medieval society. Crispin has a devout relationship with God throughout the novel, although he is increasingly willing to question what he knows of God as his character develops. Bear is completely disillusioned with the church, but his bitterness seems to spring from a sincere love for God that was wounded by the harsh reality of life.

Crispin is a very enjoyable read. Avi does an excellent job of holding the reader’s attention all the way to the end of the story by disclosing only enough information along the way to whet the appetite. I am still not completely enamored of his attempt at medieval speech, but his characters are complex, true to human nature, and completely fascinating.
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LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
What an enjoyable book! I couldn't wait to keep reading it every night.

Avi has done a fantastic job of crafting narration that is 100% believable for this time period. Usually I don't prefer books that keep a distance from the character's feelings, which this one tended to do from time to time, but
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the good amount of action kept me enthralled. Surprising and satisfying overall.
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LibraryThing member ERMSMediaCenter
Falsely accused of theft and murder, an orphaned peasant boy in fourteenth-century England flees his village and meets a larger-than-life juggler who holds a dangerous secret.
LibraryThing member cranbrook
Asta's son has no name. And, after the death of his mother, no family to protect him when he is accused of a crime he didn't commit and he has no choice but to leave his village. All he can take with him on the journey is his newly revealed name - Crispin - and his mother's cross of lead.
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Travelling without purpose, through a countryside still ravaged by the effects of the plague, Crispin stumbles upon a juggler, a giant of a man known as Bear. Crispin becomes Bear's servant but the juggler is a strange master offering both protection and encouraging Crispin to think for himself. But Crispin is not safe and it becomes clear he is being relentlessly pursued. Why are his enemies so determined to kill him?
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LibraryThing member katrinafroelich
Set in 14th Century England, Avi is successful in creating a vivid portrait of the feudal system in England. The greatest strength of the novel is Crispin's complex relationship and dialogue with Bear. Although opposites in many ways, together each character strengthens the other and allows for a
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wonderful journey of self actualization -- and free will. At times the language felt contrived and unnatural in it's attempt to maintain historical accuracy and connect with a contemporary audience.
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LibraryThing member airielle
This novel is about a boy whom goes on an adventure. His mother dies, and he was told his father died from the plague a long time ago. He is called, “Atta’s son,” because he doesn’t know his real name. After his mothers death he is blamed for stealing and is wanted. He leaves his village so
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he won’t be caught. He meets his friend Bear on the way. And in the end he finds that the man that wanted him dead is his father’s apprentice.
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LibraryThing member debnance
A boy, apparently a peasant boy known only by the name of Asta's son, finds his mother has died, leaving him an orphan. His whole world shifts and changes when he is given a cross of lead by the village priest and told that his name is the noble name of Crispin. Though he does not know why, he
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becomes the object of a hunt and soon Crispin is on the run for his life.

While on the road, Crispin is befriended by a giant of a man known as Bear. Bear teaches Crispin the ways of the ministrel and together they make their way to the city. Neither Crispin nor Bear suspects that the city contains enemies of both of them.

A riveting story of adventure, but also a story that encourages questioning and thought. Bear is a brilliant man and he shakes Crispin's small world.
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LibraryThing member raistlinsshadow
In terms of the historical accuracy, I was thoroughly impressed by this book. However, in terms of the plot, I thought it was a little bit odd and might have suited better as either a short story written in the same style, or a more informally-written novel. The wording was strange and didn't
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capture the style of an uneducated 13-year-old peasant. The plot was utterly predictable, but it wasn't setting itself up for anything else, so it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was good as a quick read, though—I finished it in about an hour and a half.
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LibraryThing member rangi
Can you imagine having no family, no home, not even a name? What do you have left? Well for this orphan boy in Medieval England, all he has is a simple cross about his neck and a terrible secret that he doesn't even know that makes him a hunted animal. This is a story of going out on the road and
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finding strange friends, and trying to find yourself in a harsh world.
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LibraryThing member michelleramos
This is an amazing story about a young boys difficult journey to find out who he really is. This boy who already has very little, loses everything including his mother. He is accused of a crime that he didn't commit and left with nothing. He needs to go on a long journey to clear his name so that
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he can start to build a life. He meets a wonderful friend along that way that helps him.
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LibraryThing member jepeters333
Boy in medieval England finds out he is illegitimate - he ends up traveling with an entertainer.
LibraryThing member vibrantminds
Set in 14th century England during a time of violent peasant uprisings; the common people were becoming disenchanted with the "Church" and longing for more freedom and equality. The story begins with a young boy, known only as Asta's son, burying his mother and feeling a deep sense of loss.
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Contemplating what he should do, now all alone after his mother's death, he is told by the steward to give his ox to the manor house to pay a death tax. Protesting that he would starve if he did so the steward, John Aycliffe, replies, than starve. Feeling desperate he runs into the forest, hits his head and collapses only to wake to seeing a light. He creeps toward the light and overhears a conversation between Aycliffe and another man. Unfortunately he is seen and chased down but evades capture. The following day he watches as his shelter is torn down and burned. Bewildered as to why this is happening, he seeks out the priest, Father Quinel, who tells him he is a wanted man for stealing money. The priest tells him to hide and come again the following day that he had important information to tell him about his mother and father. He tells him his christened name is Crispin and hands him a lead cross that belonged to his mother. The following night he is detained by a man who tells him that the priest isn't coming and leads him into an ambush. He flees for his life only discovering that the priest has been murdered. He wanders until he comes across a man. known as Bear, who eventually takes him under his wing and together they work to solve his true identity, which is discovered to be the bastard son of the Lord of the land, thus giving him a claim to the royal throne. A good historical fiction based on true characters; the ending is a bit unbelievable but for the audience it is geared toward it is appropriate.
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LibraryThing member mrsarey
Crispin loses his mother, then must immediately run for his life. Set in medieval England, this is an entrancing story of a boy who craves freedom in a world where freedom is hard to come by.
LibraryThing member dreamer2000
Very good book that talks about what it might have been like to have nobody in your live in the 1400's. Teaches how to learn to belong and about love and trust. Great book. Avi paints a great picture in your mind of what it looks like around you.
LibraryThing member nittnut
Crispin The Cross of Lead is a well written book. It is a simple tale that gives the young reader a view of the middle ages. The setting is the 14th century, and it is smelly and brutal. The descriptions of the lives of the common people and the serfs give a fairly clear picture of how hard life
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was then. Crispin discovers exactly who his parents were, and who he is, and deeper still he discovers that he has a choice about who he will become.. Somewhat predictable, but there are a few surprising twists, and the ending is excellent.

The language is fairly simple, but well suited to the subject matter and the age of the intended readers.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
A young orphan is falsely accused of theft and murder, and runs away from his home village. He meets up and joins with a traveling performer and learns secrets about his own history.
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
It's hard to imagine living in the conditions that are described in this novel - of being owned, body and soul, by the local lord. The idea of individual freedom that is part of the air we breathe in the United States, is certainly a modern idea, and one that isn't even shared by most of the world
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today. The story of Crispin and how he comes to discover both his heritage and his identity is an exciting one and leaves me wondering where Crispin will land next.
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LibraryThing member Finleyup1
This book is a perfect example of a knock out story with a FLAT ending. I so wanted this to be a great book (I had been looking at it at the library for almost a year.) Unfortunately, I was diappointed. From the beginning to the middle, I was entranced by Crispin. The characters were real and
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connectable. Each setting was colorfully detailed. The religious undertones were well done. Then I came to the ending. It literally felt like being in a car crash. There I was, cruising along, enjoying the ride, then BAMM! It was over. The only saving grace here could be that Avi picks up the story in the second Crispin novel and carries it through. I have not read it yet. Going off the merits of The Cross of Lead, I wouldn't bother.
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LibraryThing member mistywood
Crispin The Cross of Lead, written by AVI.

This is a story, set in the Middle Ages, about a young peasant boy who becomes an orphan when his mother dies. The priest of the village knows a secret about the boy, and tells him his name is Crispin. The priet askes Crispin to return later that night, for
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he has many secrets to tell th eyoung boy about who he is and about his dead mother. Crispin is wrongly accused of stealing from is Lord, is then proclaimed a "wolf's head", meaning he is less than human and anyone may kill him. He runs away and meets a juggler who has his own dangerous secret. Together, they discover the secret of the boy, known only as Asta's son.

I liked this story. It had many details about life in the Middle Ages, Great Britian. It told about the injustices of that time and the hard life the people had to endure. The book gave me a peek into the past lives of peasants living in the fourteenth century, and made me appreciate the freedoms we take for granted everyday.

Extension Activity: Research the Middle Ages, how they lived, and have the students make a minature replica of a Middle Ages village. This would be a large group or small group project which would span over several weeks. I would have the students write a reflection about their research of the Middle Ages, specifically about how the peasants lived, how it differed from how the wealthy lived.
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