Reviews for Crispin : The Cross of Lead


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 May 2002
Gr. 5-9. In his fiftieth book, (see interview on p.1609) 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. ((Reviewed May 15, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Spring
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. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2002 #5
Falsely accused of theft and declared a "wolf's head" (whom any man may kill) after his mother's death, humble, pious Crispin flees the feudal village where he was raised and the steward who wants him dead. Taken in as an apprentice by a massive, red-haired, itinerant juggler who calls himself Bear, Crispin learns about music and mummery, about freedom and questioning fate, and about his own mysterious parentage that seems to be the reason behind the steward's continuing pursuit of him. Avi writes a fast-paced, action-packed adventure comfortably submerged in its fourteenth-century setting, giving Crispin a realistic medieval worldview even while subverting it with Bear's revolutionary arguments. Once master and apprentice arrive in Great Wexly for the Midsummer's Day festivities and some seditious intrigue on Bear's part, Avi slows down and offers both the reader and Crispin a chance to look around, but things speed up again with the reappearance of the steward and pursuit through the streets of the medieval city. The cause for the steward's enmity is finally revealed-Crispin is the illegitimate son of the local lord, who recently died without an heir-but the expected ending gets a surprise twist when Crispin trades this birthright for Bear's safety. From Crispin's initial religious dependence and inability to meet others' eyes to his eventual choice of his own path and freedom, the theme of self-determination is carried lightly, giving this quick, easily digested thriller just the right amount of heft. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2002 May #2
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 Death-devastated 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) Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 June #4
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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 June #1
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) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2002 June
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.

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VOYA Reviews 2002 June
In 1377 England, mysteries surround thirteen-year-old Crispin, a serf from a rural village who never knows his own name until his mother dies. Nor does he know just who his mother really was-why she was an outcast or how she learned to read and write. Shortly after her burial, Crispin finds himself pursued by men who mean to kill him for reasons he does not understand. He escapes, only to be captured by a huge juggler named Bear. Bear teaches Crispin to sing and play the recorder, and slowly they begin to get to know one another. When they perform in villages and towns, however, they discover that the hunt for Crispin is still in full swing. For Crispin, this situation makes the question of Bear's trustworthiness vital, for Bear has secrets of his own. The suspense stays taut until the very end of the book, when Crispin uncovers his identity and then must decide how to act on that information. His journey to selfhood recalls Alice's in Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice (Clarion, 1995/VOYA August 1995). Like Alice, Crispin casts off his timidity to make a place for himself within a society that would discard him. As does Cushman, 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 at its finest.-Rebecca Barnhouse. 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2002 Voya Reviews

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