The Cross of Lead (Crispin Series #1)

The Cross of Lead (Crispin Series #1)

4.0 227
by Avi
     
 

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"Asta's Son" is all he's ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less—no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by… See more details below

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Overview

"Asta's Son" is all he's ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less—no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name—Crispin—and his mother's cross of lead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in 14th-century England, this Newbery-winning novel centers on an orphaned outcast who gets pegged for murder. "How the boy learns his true identity and finds his place in the world makes for a rattling fine yarn," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
When his mother dies, the thirteen-year-old boy grieves his loss. He is alone in the world, never having known his father. In fact, he doesn't even know if he has a name. He has always been called Asta's son. Events become puzzling when Asta's son learns he has been declared a "wolf's head," which means anyone could kill him, for he is not considered human. It is said that he stole money from the manor house. Asta's son wonders why the steward would make up such a story. The village priest tells him he was baptized "Crispin," gives him his mother's lead cross and tells him he should leave the village for a big city where he could become a free man within the year. Father Quinel promises to tell him what he knows about his parents, but before he can do so, he is murdered. Fearing for his life, Crispin leaves. After several days he meets a large, red-bearded man called Bear. He makes Crispin swear to become his servant, but through the course of the story their friendship develops to the point where Bear thinks of Crispin as his son. Bear is imprisoned as bait to catch Crispin. The young boy, armed with the knowledge of what is written on his mother's lead cross, attempts a brave rescue of his friend. Crispin's identity will not come as a surprise to the sophisticated reader. Avi creates a strong sense of time and place by using the first person narrative. As Crispin learns about the world of fourteenth century England beyond his village, so too does the reader. The harshness of medieval life is presented, with descriptions such as that of the hanging man, but it is done without sensationalism. Avi has described the smells so well, you would think you were there. While it is Crispin'sstory, it is the character of Bear that will entrance the reader. 2003, Hyperion,
— Sharon Salluzzo <%ISBN%>0786808284
VOYA
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 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
— Rebecca Barnhouse
Living in the hopelessness of servitude to a cruel feudal lord in 14th century England seems bleak enough for any teenage boy, but Crispin, the protagonist of this historical novel, has even more to bear. Not only are his parents dead, the cruel steward, John Aycliffe, falsely accuses him of two crimes — stealing money from the manor and murdering a priest. He's proclaimed a "wolf's head," a person who has committed so heinous a crime, that anyone may kill him for a reward, no trial needed. Escaping, Crispin starts a journey that eventually brings him face to face with the truth of his father's identity, and his own as well. Along the way, he discovers a new "father" in the person of a wandering minstrel named Bear. He also discovers a world he never knew existed and develops a strong sense of self and an emotional independence he could never have developed had he simply accepted the fate life seemed to have dealt him. Historically accurate in its references to the Peasant Revolt of 1381, Crispin provides an insightful look at life in medieval England for a teenage boy caught in the hopelessness of the feudal system. Students will identify with his sense of loss as he buries his mother and takes on the responsibilities of feeding and caring for himself. They'll learn to love and appreciate Crispin's surrogate father Bear's rough mannerisms as they get to know him. 2002, Hyperion, 262 pp., Ages young adult.
—Wendy Kelleher
School Library Journal
As with Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1995), the power of a name is apparent in this novel set in 14th-century England. "Asta's son" is all the destitute, illiterate hero has ever been called, but after his mother dies, he learns that his given name is Crispin, and that he is in mortal danger. The local priest is murdered before he can tell him more about his background, and Aycliffe, the evil village steward for Lord Furnival, declares that the boy is a "wolf's head," less than human, and that he should be killed on sight. On the run, with nothing to sustain him but his faith in God, Crispin meets "Bear," a roving entertainer who has ties to an underground movement to improve living conditions for the common people. They make their way to Great Wexley, where Bear has clandestine meetings and Crispin hopes to escape from Aycliffe and his soldiers, who stalk him at every turn. Suspense heightens when the boy learns that the recently deceased Lord Furnival was his father and that Aycliffe is dead set on preventing him from claiming his title. To trap his prey, the villain captures Bear, and Crispin risks his life to save him. Avi has done an excellent job of integrating background and historical information, of pacing the plot so that the book is a page-turner from beginning to end, and of creating characters for whom readers will have great empathy. The result is a meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action.-Cheri Estes, Detroit Country Day Middle School, Beverly Hills, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A tale of one boy's coming into self-knowledge is set against a backdrop of increasing peasant unrest in 14th-century England. Crispin does not even know his own name until his mother dies; he and she have lived at the literal margin of their small town, serfs, and therefore beneath notice. Suddenly, he is framed for murder and has a bounty put on his head. Escaping, he encounters the mercurial itinerant juggler Bear, who takes him on as servant and friend, teaching him both performers' tricks and revolutionary ideology-which puts them both in danger. After a rather slow and overwritten start, Avi (The Good Dog, 2001, etc.) moves the plot along deftly, taking the two from a Black Death-devastated countryside into a city oozing with intrigue, from the aristocracy to the peasants. The setting bristles with 14th-century details: a decomposing body hangs at a roadside gallows and gutters overflow with filth. The characters are somewhat less well-developed; although the revolutionary and frequently profane Bear is a fascinating treasure, Crispin himself lurches along, progressing from milquetoast to restless rebel to boy of courage and conviction in fits and starts, driven by plot needs rather than organic character growth. The story is set in the years just prior to the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and one of the secondary characters, the revolutionary priest John Ball, was a key historical figure. Most children will not know this, however, as there is no historical note to contextualize the story. This is a shame, as despite its flaws, this offering is nevertheless a solid adventure and could serve as the jumping-off point for an exploration into a time of great political upheaval. The titlehints at a sequel; let us hope that it includes notes.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439574686
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
06/22/2004
Series:
Crispin Series, #1
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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