The Barnes & Noble Review
Winner of the 2003 Newbery Medal, Avi's action-packed adventure, Crispin, transports us back to 14th-century England, where a young serf on the run from his miserable past comes to discover not only his true identity but a sense of self-worth.
Infusing his tale with a deep sense of medieval time and place, Avi recounts the harrowing story of a "nameless boy" known only as "Asta's son." When his mother dies and the village steward unjustly accuses him of murder, the boy flees for his life, carrying with him his mother's lead cross and the newly revealed knowledge of his real name: Crispin. On the run, he becomes the servant and then the friend of a hulking juggler named Bear. En route to a clandestine meeting with social reformer John Ball (a real historical figure in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381), Bear is captured and imprisoned. Crispin sets out to rescue his master and discovers along the way the life-changing secret engraved on his mother's lead cross.
Crispin is one of Avi's most engaging characters, and this story one of his most moving adventures. Emerging from intense poverty of life and spirit, this young serf evolves into a complex and brave hero, as he learns that knowledge is the power that leads to true freedom. Readers will be swept away by the rich prose and historical details; Crispin is a life-affirming book that picks you up -- and doesn't let you down. Matt Warner
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.
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
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.
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.