Crispin: The Cross Of Lead

ISBN: 0439577756
ISBN 13: 9780439577755
By: Avi

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Adventure Childrens Currently Reading Fiction Historical Historical Fiction Newbery To Read Ya Young Adult

About this book

Set in 14th-century England, Avi's (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) 50th book begins with a funeral, that of a village outcast whose past is shrouded in mystery and whose adolescent son is known only as "Asta's son." Mired in grief for his mother, the boy learns his given name, Crispin, from the village priest, although his presumably dead father's identity remains obscure. The words etched on his mother's treasured lead cross may provide some clue, but the priest is murdered before he can tell the illiterate lad what they say. Worse, Crispin is fingered for the murder by the manor steward, who declares him a "wolf's head" wanted dead or alive, preferably dead. Crispin flees, and falls in with a traveling juggler. "I have no name," Crispin tells Bear, whose rough manners and appearance mask a tender heart. "No home, no kin, no place in this world." How the boy learns his true identity (he's the bastard son of the lord of the manor) and finds his place in the world makes for a rattling fine yarn. Avi's plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns and treachery aplenty, but it's the compellingly drawn relationship between Crispin and Bear that provides the heart of this story.

Reader's Thoughts


The final piece of my quest to read three Newbery books over the summer is in place! It took me a while to finish this one, mostly because of a lack of reading time during the first few weeks of being back at work.It wasn't a slow read because I didn't like it. On the contrary, this was a rich and wonderful adventure, with complex characterizations, and an engaging plot. Historical fiction isn't a big seller with kids nowadays. I think they see it as boring, old-fashioned, and lacking in action. Granted, the language and style is a bit different than in contemporary realistic fiction, but there is plenty of action and intrigue available.It is the 1300s, and Crispin has been brought up by his mother as a peasant in the small village of Stromford. He was called only "Asta's Son," and didn't discover his true name until his mother's untimely death. When she dies, mysteries concerning Crispin are suddenly brought to light, and he is forced to flee in fear of his life. He escapes with only her lead cross, upon which is mysterious writing. Like most peasants, he is illiterate, and can't even tell what it says. Soon after hitting the road, Crispin becomes apprentice and surrogate son to Bear, a traveling entertainer. But even Bear's protection is not enough as Crispin's past comes back to haunt him. I enjoyed Crispin's growth from shy, stuttering outcast to confident and courageous young man. The setting of the story was at a time when the lands were owned by lords, and the majority of the people worked for them, barely scraping by. People were wretchedly unhappy, and Crispin's new master, Bear, is involved in the struggle for change. He encourages Crispin to think for himself and speak truthfully. I also liked the spiritual element of the book; Crispin has a deep and profound faith, but learns from Bear that you can love and trust God without trusting the church, which was horribly corrupt at the time. When Crispin makes a vow, he considers it holy, and that to break such a vow would be mortal sin. That kind of conviction and integrity are in short supply these days!This story continues in two more books. Though I have heard they aren't as good as the first, I've found the story intriguing enough to want to know what happens next.

Kathy Davidson

Asta's son is a nobody. He lived in England in 1377. After his mother died his life really began. He had a strong faith in God and he believed God would lead his life. The village Father told him his real name was Crispin. The steward of his village wanted him dead. He had to run away, but found a friend in a man named Bear in a deserted village. Bear teaches him to be a traveling Jester, but has a secret. He knows more about Cristpin than Crispin knew himself. They traveled to Great Wexly where they found out the lord of the land had died. Crispin found out he was illegitimate son of the lord of the land and that was why everyone wanted him killed. His only friend Bear was taken by the steward for interrogation. Crispin decided he had to save him. So he went to the prison and confronted the Steward. Crispin confronted the bully and the bully backed down. The bully had to be killed in the end, but Crispin and his friend went free. I enjoyed his tale. There was a lot of description of the buildings and life in the fourteenth century. It was amazing to hear about the sights, smells, and sounds of the era. There was little the people could do to free themselves as Crispin and Bear dreamed of, but otherwise it was true to the time.


This book was not one of my favorites. I thought it was written well enough, with an interesting story line and idea, but I don't think it was quite good enough to win the Newbery award, especially after reading some of the books that earned an honor for that year- books that were written far better, and dealt with bigger issues in better ways than this book. I don't have anything in particular against this book other than not being overly impressed with it, but I almost feel that they gave Avi the award because he already had two honors, and they felt that he should just get the award this time. (Although with that logic, it STILL should have gone to Nancy Farmer...) Anyway, not a bad book by any means, but it was nothing stellar.


This was better than I expected. The only reason I read it is because I have a goal to read all the Newbery Award winning books. I'm so glad I did. I love a book where the character goes through a transformation for the better. This book is about a boy who finds a new life after the death of his mom. I'll definitely be reading the next one.


Winner of the 2003 Newbery, this historical novel is set in England, 1377. Crispin, an orphan peasant, is told by his village priest that there is a secret regarding his birth. But after stumbling upon the cruel village steward making a secret plan in the woods, Crispin is declared a “wolf’s head” – a non-person whom anyone may kill for a reward – and he is forced to flee. He comes upon Bear, a jester who secretly works to bring a worker’s revolution to England, and together they travel to the “big city” of Wexly, where to Crispin’s horror the steward has followed them, and both their lives are in danger.This is an interesting choice for the Newbery – Avi strives hard to recreate the historical milieu in which Crispin lives, so first and foremost, the prose is absolutely drenched in medieval Christian thought. Although Bear is an apostate, Crispin and many other characters are literally “God-fearing,” expecting swift and horrible punishments for their every transgression and believing utterly that a broken vow to Jesus (no matter how profane or involuntary) will result in immediate damnation. Then, just so everyone has something to be offended about, Avi has Crispin, if not explicitly reject this mindset, at least question it; he stops praying and pledges to make his own decisions, and later uses the binding power of an unwilling vow as a tool for his own ends. Finally, there’s the vocabulary: in addition to words like “trepidation” and “disconsolate,” Avi doesn’t shy away from the archaic terms: mazer, patten, kirtle, withal. It’s a terrific historical adventure story, I would think suitable for older teens and up; its value is not so much in the plot (which is fairly straightforward, hardly original, and rather far-fetched at the end) as it is in recreating the highly religious, hierarchical, nasty, sometimes brutish and short lives of the medieval European.


I had to read this book for middle school and when we first got it I was like okay here we go again another boring fiction book, but when I actually started to read it, I got into it extremely quick because it was so full of adventure and suspense.


Crispin by Avi is a thrilling book about a young 13 year old boy who lives in a small village called Stromford. Crispin is wanted all across the land because he was accused of theft. Crispin and his companion Bear embark on a journey to the palace where they hope to find a place to stay and find out who Crispins father is. I first read this book a long time ago and I really enjoyed it from what I remembered but I decided to read it again and it was even better then the first time I read it. Crispin is full of twists and turns and you can never be certain about anything in this book. Crispins personality is adventuress and smart. He is a witty kid and never trusts anybody but Bear. Bear is a jest ore that Crispin found when he flees the village. Bear is a huge guy on the outside but very kind to Crispin. Crispin is a young boy who does not yet know what he is capable of. Bears personality is very outgoing and nice, he always looks after Crispin because Crispin has no parents anymore. Bear and Crispin get to the kingdom to find that they have been waited for by the soldiers and the new king were the plot goes I'm a totally exiting and horrific direction. I really loved this book! I would suggest it to everyone and it's a must read.

Sarah Rosenberger

The boy everyone called "Asta's Son" lived with his outcast mother in a poor English village during the middle ages. For thirteen years, his life consisted of little more than praying, going to church, and trying not to starve, but when he is accused of a crime he didn't commit and forced to flee from his town, he quickly learns there is much more to the world than he ever dreamed...I didn't love this, and am surprised it won the Newbery Award. The details were good, but authors like Tamora Pierce include comparable details in a less dry manner. The constant religious talk might make it hard to use in public schools, while Bear's skepticism about Christianity would make it hard to use in Christian schools. There were other things that I found strange - for example, early in the book, Crispin freaks out upon seeing a dead body, but later, he participates in a murder and literally walks away laughing and playing the flute - but in general, it just felt very shallow, even for a children's book. I'm looking forward to discussing this one in my book group to see what I missed...Good choice for tween boys who want historific.


i didnt hate it as much as greg did, but i know what he means about it being a little flat. i probably would have enjoyed this as maybe an 8 year old. is that too old - i dont remember what i was doing at 8, except i had unfortunate teeth. im not going to run right out and get the sequel to this or anything, but its a perfectly serviceable medieval tale of secret origins and poverty and swords.


Loved it! Set in the 14th Century. Historical fiction at it's best. Great bits of wisdom. "Music is the tongue of souls" "The only difference between a dead fool and a live one is the dead one has a deeper grave". He is a great author and I am looking forward to reading more of his work. Our children could learn many lessons from this book as can we. I started this book yesterday afternoon while I was waiting at the DMV and finished it this morning. Could not put it down, and I will think about it for days.


I read this book as part of my quest to read all of the Newbery books. This was not one of the betters ones.I can't believe how little happened in this book. It was so slow. There was (at least) one chapter about standing helplessly in the forest for a day, waiting until nighttime so that the plot could move forward. Another chapter about eating lunch. Another about packing up lunch to continue hiking.I didn't like any of the characters. The protagonist goes from frustratingly obedient to frustratingly disobedient. The plot surprises were not surprising.I wondered if the book was acclaimed for its wealth of vocabulary words to look up, such as mazer (a drinking bowl), wattle and daub (the building technique) and the various liturgical hours (fixed times of prayer). However, I'm not sure it would do well in a public school curriculum, since the whole text is peppered with constant God, Jesus, Hell and prayer. I know it is an important facet of the characters, but I am reminded of George Carlin's list of people he could do without, which includes "anyone who mentions Jesus more than three hundred times in a two-minute conversation."There is one historical character in the book (John Ball), so I wonder if the series is meant to describe the Peasants' Revolt from a child's point of view? I don't think I'll pick up the others to find out.


“Asta’s Son,” as he is called, is left to his own devices when his mother dies in 1377 in the tiny, poor English village of Stromford. He doesn’t have a family and knows nothing of his father. All his mother leaves him is a cross of lead that he carries with him as he flees his village when declared a “wolf’s head”—a person who can be killed on sight—for allegedly committing a crime. His priest, the one person he trusts, is murdered after trying to help and telling Asta’s Son his real name (which is Crispin). Crispin’s world has turned upside-down.After days trying to survive on his own in the woods, Crispin encounters a huge man in an abandoned church named Bear. Bear forces Crispin to swear to name him his new master. At first, Crispin despairs over this, but as time goes by, he realizes that Bear is a smart, kind man who truly cares about his well-being. Although Bear treats Crispin well, he keeps secrets from him, such as: who is Bear really, how does he know how to read and write, and why is it so important that he get to the town of Great Wexly for the Feast of John the Baptist? Of course, it doesn’t help that they keep running into the man who declared Crispin a “wolf’s head” either—even in the huge town of Great Wexly.This book is a great, fast-paced read. Crispin, who at first seems a bit wishy-washy and timid, grows hugely as a character and we end up rooting for him as he fights (yes, fights!) for who and what matters to him.

Donna Galanti

This was book was enjoyable, an easy read. I especially enjoyed the character of Bear and his relationship with Crispin, yet I felt it could have been so much more. The story fell a bit flat and could have benefited from deeper emotion through more action/dialogue. Also, at times I felt like the writing was a bit lazy (needed an editor) as it was repetitious. Within 2 paras the world "tumultuous" was used twice (a pretty big word to use so close together). And a big self-awareness Crispin had was buried in the middle of a chapter, and then the same sentence was repeated at the end of the chapter. And THE big climactic moment was also hidden in the middle of a chapter with no lead-up to it at all, no sense of it coming, no suspense, no tension - and nor did Crispin's reaction validate the importance of this info. Also, the villain was a bit 2-dimensional to me and could have been fleshed out more. And Crispin, the hero, could have been a bit more fleshed out to make him more likable as well.OK, these may be small things but took me out of the story and left the "big moments" feeling a bit flat. This all being said, it was hard for me understand why it was given the Newbery Medal. And THAT being all said, it was still an enjoyable read with likable characters (Bear the most) and I am giving the 2nd book a chance.


I enjoyed this book very much. It was interesting and kept me curious about how the characters were going to get out of their tight spots. The end was quite a stretch, though. It did drive me a bit crazy that Cripin kept not following directions and getting himself in deeper trouble, but maybe that was an authentic 13 year old boy thing and I am just a cautious grown-up with no sense of adventure.


A great intro to historical fiction for the elementary school age kiddos, but interesting enough for the parents to read too! I will wait a few years before I introduce my six year olds to this series because of the violence but I am excited to do so when they are ready!Recommended to me by the Maple Elementary school librarian!

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