Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Crispin: The Cross of Lead

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Series: Crispin   

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Annotation: Falsely accused of theft and murder, an orphaned peasant boy in fourteenth-century England flees his village and meets a larger-than-life juggler who holds a dangerous secret.
Catalog Number: #65071
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
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Copyright Date: 2002
Edition Date: 2004
Pages: 310 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-7868-1658-9 Perma-Bound: 0-605-98277-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-7868-1658-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-98277-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2001051829
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
In his fiftieth book, (see interview) Avi sets his story in fourteenth-century England and introduces some of his most unforgettable characters--a 13-year-old orphan, seemingly without a name, and a huge, odd juggler named Bear. At first, the boy is known as Asta's Son, but when his mother dies, he learns from a priest that his name is really Crispin. He also quickly comes to realize that he is in grave trouble. John Acliffe, the steward of the manor, reveals himself to be Crispin's mortal enemy and declares the boy a wolf's-head, which means he is anyone's prey. Clutching his only possession, a lead cross, Crispin flees his village into a vast new world of opportunity--and terror. At his lowest ebb, Crispin meets Bear and reluctantly swears an oath to be his servant. Yet Bear becomes much more than a master--he's Crispin's teacher, protector, and liberator. Avi builds an impressive backdrop for his arresting characters: a tense medieval world in which hostility against the landowners and their cruelties is increasing. There's also other nail-biting tension in the story that builds to a gripping, somewhat confusing ending, which finds Crispin, once weak, now strong. Readers may not understand every nuance of the political machinations that propel the story, but they will feel the shifting winds of change beginning to blow through a feudal society.
Horn Book
Falsely accused of theft and declared a "wolf's head" (whom any man may kill), humble, pious Crispin flees his feudal village. Taken in as an apprentice by an itinerant juggler called Bear, Crispin learns about music and mummery, about freedom and questioning fate, and about his own mysterious parentage. Avi writes a fast-paced, action-packed adventure comfortably immersed in its fourteenth-century setting.
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 Deathdevastated 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 title hints at a sequel; let us hope that it includes notes. (Fiction. 8-12)
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)

School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-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.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

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. A page turner to delight Avi's fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel. Ages 8-12. (June)

Word Count: 48,194
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.0 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 58513 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.1 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q29846
Lexile: 780L
Guided Reading Level: W
Fountas & Pinnell: W
Newbery Medal winner The Cross of Lead is "a page-turner from beginning to end... full of adventure, mystery, and action" (School Library Journal).

"Avi's plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns, and treachery aplenty. . . . A page-turner to delight Avi's fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
" . . . [T]he book is a page-turner from beginning to end . . . [A] meticulously crafted story, full of adventure, mystery, and action."
-School Library Journal (starred review)
"Historical fiction at its finest."-VOYA

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