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


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.

Rebecca Radnor

A mystery/coming of age story. A real page turner. I started reading it at midnight and next thing I knew it was 4am and I'd completely killed my sleep patterns. Really interesting story about a boy who is a serf, who is blamed by his Steward for crimes he did not commit -- apparently as an excuse to legally kill him. The boy runs away, meets a roving entertainer who will helps him (takes him on as his apprentice). The man, who at first doubts the boys story, but when it become clear that Steward really is going to extreme lengths to hunt down and kill the boy the entertainer starts to question why. What unravels is something of a critical commentary of the abuses of power that extreme hierarchy allows.The book isn't Historically correct. It doesn't actually teach you all that much about the period (in terms of the wars, etc). What it does offer is some insight to the mindset of serfs and other people at the lower end of the hierarchy -- and why they were willing to live that way. It claims to take part during the reign of Edward III, only it starts in spring 1377 and seems to run over the course of a few months without ever mentioning the death of Edward... there is only one historical person in the book, John Ball, and he's only a character in passing. The not so hidden curriculum of this book is really about teaching why our system of government (democracy) is superior.


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.


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!


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.


My sixth grade son made me read "Crispin: The Cross of Lead". He's a really advanced reader, but it's hard to get him involved in books. He'd rather play World of Warcraft or play his guitar. He couldn't put this book down and insisted that I read it.I was surprised at the content of the book. Crispin is the bastard son of an outcast peasant woman who never shows him any affection. He doesn't even know his name until after his mother dies. The revelation of his name leads to the murder of the village priest before he learns who his father is. Fortunately, the priest gives Crispin his mother's lead cross before he is murdered. From that point, Crispin is on the run. The lord of the manor frames him for a crime and puts a price on his head. He encounters a man who takes him under his wing and teaches him about life and the world. I thought this was an excellent book. It won the Newbury award. I would caution more protective parents that this book does have a lot of violence and may expose children to ideas you may not want them exposed to like adultery and atheism. I'm glad my son read it, but I did have to do some explaining.

Starla Blake

Avi does a great job of balancing a history lesson about the Middle Ages with an engaging coming-of-age story that includes some mystery, character development, and the presentation of some significant issues to ponder. The book is directed toward an audience of "tweens," but in his typical style of suspense and mystery, he kept my attention to make it a quick read yet evoked some thought and emotions.Crispin starts out as a weak and defeated young man without a father or mother but eventually broadens his world, experiences, and personal constitution as he travels through England with an entertainer, "Bear" who juggles and makes music for a living. On the way, he learns many things about social, political, and cultural issues of the time period (especially the idea of freedom and identity) and he encounters a few surprises about Bear and about himself along the way. It was an enjoyable book and would serve as an entertaining introduction to life in the Middle Ages for a young adult, but it also has the literary merit of characters and theme with some depth to it.

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.

Inspired Kathy

One of my good friends recommended this series to me and I was in the mood for a change of pace in what I was reading so I gave it a try. I thought this was well done middle grade historical fiction. I've read several other books by Avi and enjoy his writing. I felt like I learned a few things and was entertained along the way. Overall a good book I would recommend to those who enjoy Historical Fiction.Content: Clean


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.

Lisa the Librarian

Great example of historical fiction. However, this fact makes the story a bit more obscure for children. Set in the 1600's where the general population was almost considered the property of the landowner and at their mercy. If the Lord of the Manor is an unkind or even brutal man this made life very difficult and sometimes down right dangerous.This story is one that should be discussed with an adult after reading to understand the historical significance.Not really suitable for young children. I'd say 5th grade or higher.I did like the character of Crispen as narrator, it added some honesty and innocence to an otherwise some-what brutal world.


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.


“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.

Chris Meads

This was a good book. Avi made his characters very real for the time period (it sounds like around the Middle Ages). I think it could raise questions for kids to understand the relationship of the church to the country (most likely England), and the rich to the poor. Avi does a good job showing how life was during that time.Crispin is a boy around 13, who has just lost his mother. He has never known his father and doesn't seem to want to know why he is called "Asta's boy" He's always been called that. After the priest and he buries his mom, Crispin runs into the forest and comes upon John Ayecliff (who is taking care of Lord Furnival's lands) and another man. Ayecliff spots him and chases the boy through the forest. He doesn't catch him and the next thing Crispin hears is that he is a "wolf's head because he stole from the manor. Crispin goes to the priest who helps him escape. The priest gives him a lead cross that belonged to his mother.Crispin finds out the priest has been killed. Along the way he meets Bear, who takes care of him and teaches him music and how to protect himself. They make it to Great Wexly and Bear is taken captive by none other that Ayecliff. Crispin learns he is Lord Furnival's son and rescues Bear. He makes Ayecliff take an oath to let the two of them go and at the end Ayecliff doesn't. Bear kills him in the end and he and Crispin leave Great Wexly free men.

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.

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