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


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.

NSAndrew Liebergen

The Cross of Lead is a very interesting book. I liked it, but I don’t know if it is for everyone. It is kind of a tired story line about being accused of a crime he didn’t commit, reminded me of the fugitive. His arch-enemy is John Aycliffe, who for some reason does not like Crispin. I found the English phrases interesting, such as the term Wolf’s Head, meaning that anyone who sees the boy can kill him. There is some mild violence of Father Quinel having is throat slashed while helping Crispin escape, but nothing to graphic. Predictably, he meets an adult named Bear who mentors him in juggling, staying alive and eating rabbits. They go into a city where they find themselves entangled in a mystery. I am sure for a teen reader this book will be interesting and fascinating. It is well written and has an easy to read lyricism to the text. For the older reader who might be more familiar with the plot line, it might get a little boring. It is a great book for about a 5th grader, give or take a grade level. It is full of questions and secrets to answer. Students should get really engrossed in it.


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.

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.

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.


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.


3.5 stars. I liked this book much better than I expected. Bear is delightful, and I would happily read more about him. I figured out the "twist" pretty early on. It felt like it dragged a bit at the end, but that may be because I was listening to it and it took several days longer than it would have if I had read it.

Jill Williamson

Review by Jill WilliamsonAsta’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 fascinating 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.

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.


In all honesty, this book blew me away. I wasn't expecting much from it, due to the mediocre reviews, cheesy cover art, and YA category. But one sentence into it, I was hooked.One main complaint about the book that I've read was that the main character seemed "flat." Well...yes, at the beginning, he was. But I believe he was intentionally made that way. His self-discovery and the unfolding of his character during the story were natural and believable. The plot moved along so quickly that I had to force myself to slow down and enjoy the style. His writing is absolutely beautiful. Also, there are a TON of great theological talking points in this book. It raises some really good questions, but is never preachy. I will definitely be finding the next book in the series!


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 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.


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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