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Crispin the Cross of Lead
Hyperion, 2002
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Crispin: Cross of Lead
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Crispin: the Cross of Lead

“Asta’s son” is all he’s ever been called. The lack of name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in fourteenth-century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less—no home, family, or possessions.

Accused of a crime he did not commit, he has been declared a “wolf’s head.” That means he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name—Crispin—and his mother’s cross of lead.

His journey through the English countryside is amazing and terrifying. Especially difficult is his encounter with the juggler named Bear. A huge, and possibly even mad, man, Bear forces the boy to become his servant. Bear, however, is a strange master, for he encourages Crispin to think for himself. Though Bear promises to protect Crispin, the boy is being relentlessly pursued. Why are his enemies so determined to kill him?

Crispin is gradually drawn right into his enemies’ fortress where—in a riveting climax—he must become a different person if he is to save Bear’s life and his own. He discovers that by losing everything, he has gained the most precious gift of all: a true sense of self.

A master of breathtaking plot twists and vivid characters, Avi brings the full force of his storytelling powers to the world of medieval England.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: Like a good number of folks who live in Denver, Colorado, my family and I often go up into the mountains. It can be a very long drive, so we listen to the radio, or music, or, one of our favorites things, lectures on history, literature, or art. One day we began to listen to a series of lectures about the late middle ages. The lecturer was Teofilo Ruiz, a brilliant historian who teaches at the University of California in Los Angeles.

I found the lectures so fascinating I was sure there was a story to be told, and I began to read more and more about that time. Out of this reading I found the story that would eventually become Crispin: The Cross of Lead.

In the course of writing the book I contacted Professor Ruiz, and we became good friends. He even read Crispin in manuscript and was able to point out some historical errors I had made. When the book was published, I dedicated the book to him.

Finally, when the news came that Crispin won the Newbery Award, he was among the very first people I called to share the news.

Awards and Honors

Newbery Award, 2003
ALA Notable, 2003
Starred Review: School Library Journal
Starred Review: Publishers Weekly
Booksense Top Ten
Best Children's Books of the year, 2003 list, Bank Street College of Education
Children's Choice nominee, Kansas
Children's Choice nominee, Vermont
Children's Choice nominee, Texas
Colorado Book award


“The suspense stays taut until the very end of the book, when Crispin discovers his identity and then must decide how to act on the information… . 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 as its finest." (VOYA)

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