The Cross of Lead (Crispin Series #1)

The Cross of Lead (Crispin Series #1)

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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


"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
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

Disney Press
Publication date:
Crispin Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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The Cross of Lead (Crispin Series #1) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 230 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would strongly recommend this book to anybody that likes adventure books that keep you guessing. This book is about a 13 year-old boy named Crispin whose mother died. Shortly after he is orphaned, he is proclaimed a ¿wolf¿s head,¿ meaning anyone can kill him. Crispin is accused of stealing money and the murder of a priest. In most of the story Crispin is running, scared for his safety and his life, because people want to kill him. I would recommend this book to all middle school students.
Ananagram More than 1 year ago
Crispin,by Avi, was a particularly drab book due to its lackadaisical plot line and lack of true uniqueness. In this book, it seemed like Crispin just happened to stumble into situation after situation for the sake of the plot. For example, Crispin happened to stumble into the very church in Great Wexly that contained John Aycliffe, or that Bear and Crispin wandered into the precise town that had Furnival&rsquo;s men in it. Also, Crispin had no real character development until the end, his evolution mirroring that of a graph of global population growth during the 1900s-2000. The plot twist, the very pinnacle of the book&rsquo;s plot, was dry and predictable, building up so much anticipation only to have the reader feeling let down. Furthermore, the book had no closure, it seemed to jump from the fight scene to a happy moment where everyone rejoiced without a care to as what happened five sentences earlier. This book was also filled with cliches, from the first page to the very last line, which felt like it was pulled from a generic book about a teen discovering himself. In conclusion, Crispin was a monotonous book that was not up to the Newberry standards it supposedly qualifies for. -Zofia, Hibler Student
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was gery dry at first but after you kept turning the pages it got better and better. It is a great book and has a great plot. Great for all middle schoolers
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is boring at the begining! But once you get to the middle it is like you are stuck in the middle of CRISPIN THE CROSS OF LEAD. You can not stop reading............ I am reading this book in 6th grade language and didn't want to read it but I'm glad I did! I recommend this to 11+. It truely is an awesoms book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book in schol and I loved it! I do have to say some parts were a little dull but then it got amuzing! Crispin is a perfect book for ages 11-15
cmjlccarlos More than 1 year ago
At the beggining it seems a little boring, but towards the middle the book gets really interesting and entertaining! I was givin a list at the end of fith grade, this and the black pearl were two of the six books! Blac pearl is also an interesting book. I would like to recommend the black pearl to anyone who likes this book. It is about a boy whose mother dies, gets named a wolf's head, and finds a friend. I believe most people will like it!!! I did, and now I must write a report on it. Yay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting so far slightly deppressing but it is the midevil times, so what do expect. I am 80 pgs in and so far it is good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books i have evet read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so boring and is hard to get whats happening in the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CRISPIN wasnt as good as I had hoped. The cover looked good. I admit, it was a catchy cover. But sometimes, this gal(Yes, I am a girl) is very picky. Especially when it comes to run-away, adventure books. Like Percy Jackson. Yeah, thats a good example. Percy Jackson and Coraline are better books than Crispin. I read books better than this. And they are terrible books. Avi, I am dissapointed in this book. No mental pictures to match Crispins personality. I still have lots questions exploding in my brain! Like, WHY DID CRISPIN RUN AWAY THE FIRST TIME? WHY DIDNT HE LISTEN? Those are only some of the questions I have. So, readers, I suggest you DON'T read this book. Avi, I am sorry. But try harder next time. I might still read your boks. But not this ine. Sorry. Once again, Avi.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book and fell in love!These books are to die for! All I have to say,READ THE BOOK!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book is very very boring and uninteresting. There is lots of death and terrible things in the beginning. I did not like it and neither did anyone else who had to read it for my school. Avi's written better books. I could not always understand what was happening partly because I was just reading through not really paying attention to what the book was saying. It also gave a person in my class serious nightmares in the beginning. It was just a terrible book that was boring and kept going.
Novel_Teen_Book_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Review by Jill Williamson

Asta¿s son has never had a name. But now that his mother has died, a priest tells him his name is Crispin. Accused of a crime he didn¿t commit, Crispin flees his village home. On his journey he meets a juggler named Bear, who teaches him the ways of entertaining, self defense, and snaring rabbits. At first Crispin is afraid of Bear, but the man takes care of him and teaches him to think for himself.

Crispin¿s enemies continue to pursue him. Crispin wonders why they are so intent on seeing him killed? He is no one. He and Bear reach the city of Great Wexly where Crispin stumbles onto a dark secret that leaves him no choice but to fight for his and Bear¿s life.

Crispin: the Cross of Lead is a story about a poor orphan in medieval England. Avi creates a world for the reader that shocks and fascinates as much as the plot. It¿s no surprise why this book earned the Newberry. I highly recommend it for everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would highly recommend this book for many reasons. It makes a great summer read for students going into 7th grade. It combines historical violence, emotion, affection, and life and death decisions. This book is full of in-depth descriptions you can always ¿see¿ the picture running through your head. In the beginning, Crispin is a peasant who is considered a nobody but, by the end of the story he finds himself face-to-face with one of the strongest men and he becomes a hero. All in all, I would highly recommended this book for middle school students.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Poor Crispin loses his mother and is accused of stealing. While fleeing for his life he meets a man named Bear who becomes somewhat of a father figure to him. Bear teaches him things he never would have learned and takes him places he never would have gone. On his journey with Bear he learns that his real father is a Lord. He also learns maturity and strength. I was not thoroughly excited to read this book, but once I started I could not put it down. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Avi once again captivated me with this story set in fourteenth century England. A thirteen-year-old peasant boy whose mother, the only person in the world who cares about him, suddenly dies. From the very beginning, my heart hurt for this young boy who, after being falsely accused of theft is forced to leave his village and run for his life. When he meets up with a giant of a man named Bear who takes him on as an apprentice mummer, he learns that his real name is Crispin and that he is the illegitimate son of Lord Furnival and heir to the throne. The villian, John Aycliffe, won't stop until he see 'Asta's son' dead. The action-packed chase through Great Wexley and the events that lead to Crispin's freedom were thrilling. The characters in the story touched my heart -- I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I highly recommend this book to readers both young and old!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading several of Avi's books as a child, my hopes for Crispin were high. As I read the book however, my anticipation quickly turned to disappointment. The storyline and the resolution were shallow. The story took place around a series of seemingly random events during Crispin's journey. Whilte the historical time was rather well represented, it still does not make up for the less than sterling storyline. All in all, I expected a story of more depth from Avi. In comparison to his other books many of which I have read, such as: The Fighting Ground, Poppy, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing But the Truth, The Man Who Was Poe, The Good Dog, and Blue Heron , I must say that Crispin was a big let down.
Anonymous 9 days ago
I am at page 218 and im enjoyong this book like crazy. I dis like a lot of books around the goneria but i love this and would reconmend it to all yall who likes books by Avi. Im a country girl and a usualky only read books that have to do with the country but i decided to give a noncoutry book a try. I cant wait to get done with the next 44 pages to get done with the book and see how Crispen ends up. And if anything happens to Bear. Have fun reading this book. I aint got the time to read it cause i have a trillion things to do a month but i still make time. I will be really suprised if i read this book more than once. I hate reading books over and over again cause you already know what gonna happen. Crispen: Cross of Lead has action, adventure, and curiosity all in one book.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Lord furnival is his dad
Anonymous 9 months ago
Most people are saying its boring at first but actually i got kinda bored near the middle of the book. I recommend this for middle schooler
Anonymous 10 months ago
I loved it and so did my seventh grade students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crispen is an amazing adventure story. I totally recomend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am in 7th grade and read this book in class. This was a GREAT book full of action and suspense. A++++ I would totally reccomend this book :)