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The Cross of Lead

(Crispin #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  23,829 ratings  ·  2,028 reviews
"Asta's Son" is all he's ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less - no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published 2002)
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Cindy Here's a few - lack of available food, shelter, bathroom facilities, medical services, freedom, a system that forced you into servitude and probably a…moreHere's a few - lack of available food, shelter, bathroom facilities, medical services, freedom, a system that forced you into servitude and probably a short life span(less)

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Average rating 3.62  · 
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 ·  23,829 ratings  ·  2,028 reviews

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Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: books-for-kids
AVI2.0 Review: With warnings, gender changes, and a post script!

I just dawned on me that the stupid plot revealing subtitle is there because Avi means for this book to be the start of a series, and a quick check shows that there is a sequel.

Avi has a unique skill at flattening characters. Everyone pretty much sounds the same as every other character. ShHe also has a knack of making herhis characters unlikable. Not in the I hate them sort of way, but in the why do I give a (If you are under the
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mark-harmon
i didn't 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 don't remember what i was doing at 8, except i had unfortunate teeth. i'm not going to run right out and get the sequel to this or anything, but it's a perfectly serviceable medieval tale of secret origins and poverty and swords.

come to my blog!
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 vi
Maggie Maxfield
Dec 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I know this is an award-winning book. Avi's historical fiction is exceptional -- even the metaphor and imagery in the book employ phrases consistent with the times. I feel when I read his historical fiction like I can connect all the historical dots. However, I got the feeling that some of Crispin's actions were not consistent with his character, and that Avi had him do them just to advance the plot. And that annoys me. For example, Crispin is painted as an ignorant kid who learns about his plac ...more
Emily Housworth
May 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: newberry-medal, own
This book won a Newberry Medal, which sounds about right, seeing as it’s an absolute dud. It will be the perfect companion for Island of the Blue Dolphins... This is the kind of book that my elementary teachers would’ve loved because it’s historical and contains enough teachable moments to give them some easy essay prompts. It’s also the kind of book that makes students think they hate reading and vow to never pick up a book again because MY GOSH, this is so boring!!

For example, let’s look at wh
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Winner of the 2003 Newbery, this historical novel is set in England, 1377. Crispin, an orphan peasant, is told by his village priest that there is a secret regarding his birth. But after stumbling upon the cruel village steward making a secret plan in the woods, Crispin is declared a “wolf’s head” – a non-person whom anyone may kill for a reward – and he is forced to flee. He comes upon Bear, a jester who secretly works to bring a worker’s revolution to England, and together they travel to the “ ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jill Williamson
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Review by Jill Williamson

Asta’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
Mr. Gottshalk
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been in my classroom for a decade and a half, never read. I wondered why, and gave it a shot, not expecting much. Well, it is a terrific tale! Adventure, intrigue, action, suspense, vivid characters - I really got in to it. One of the best books I have eve read, The Pillars of the Earth, takes place during the same time period in medieval England, and there is something about that time period and setting that connects with Crispin. Although this is a tough read (level W), I would e ...more
Arthur Ivan
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery
I know it’s a series but can the first book give me a bit more of a resolution?
Aj Sterkel
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Can you believe I’ve gone my entire life without reading a book by Avi? He’s written, like, a hundred children’s books. I’ve seen them around, but this is the first one I’ve read. You gotta start somewhere, I guess.

Crispin is a little like Game of Thrones for kids. It’s book #1 in a series. It’s got the medieval setting, some royal scandals, some death, some fight scenes, some characters who can’t be trusted, some orphaned kids who need more parental supervision. Basically, it has all the elemen
“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 (whic ...more
Sarah Sammis
Mar 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: borrowed
Avi's books seem to be span all genres, the only thing that unites them is the intended audience, tweens. Crispin is somewhere in the range of fantasy and historical fiction, taking place in medieval Europe around the time of the plague. The story cover's Crispin's quest to learn the truth behind his birth after his mother's death.

While the book had it's moments, it didn't capture my imagination like Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? The book borrows heavily on the fantasy genre conventions and relies
Apr 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Bekah Palmer
Nov 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
To all the other people who had to read this book in middle school and analyze it for symbolism: I am so sorry for the trauma you have endured.
Crispin is a young and naive main character which isn't in itself a bad thing. In fact, I've read books where this type of character was pulled off miraculously well, but The Cross of Lead is a perfect example of an annoying main character no one is rooting for. Any plot that actually exists is immediately dulled by Crispin's narration and otherwise nonex
عمران ابن مصر
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 ...more
Cynthia Egbert
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-and-read
I love this sense of being dropped into medieval England. The story is worthy as well and I am really looking forward to the continuing adventures of Crispin and Bear. A couple of fine quotes:

"When I think on the perfection of our Savior, I choose to think most upon HIs most perfect laughter. It must have been the kind that makes us laugh too. For mirth is the coin that brings a welcome. Lose your sorrows, and you'll find your freedom."

"A wise man - he was a jester by trade - once told me that l
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I think I would have liked this a lot as a middle-grade reader. It was still all right - I liked the time setting and the characters.
Syd Carp
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was completely amazing. So awesome. Kept my attention the entire time. Very interesting; attention-grabbing; well written; etc.

Recommended 12 (and\or) 13 & up.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A 2003 Newbery Medal winner that is set in fourteenth-century England and is about an orphaned who is falsely accused of several crimes. This is first book in a trilogy about Crispin. Avi is a skillful storyteller and does a great job at capturing this time period.
Anthea Cheng
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
NSAndrew Liebergen
Nov 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 e ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At 13, Crispin's mother, the only person who's ever loved him dies. It's the 1300's and for the son of a peasant, Crispin has had a hard life. Then, he overhears a conversation in the forest and soon he's being hunted. With a price on his head, Crispin is forced to flee the only home that he has ever known. While the world can be a scary place, Crispin learns just how much he doesn't know and that there is just as much good as bad.

I read this as part of the Newberry challenge and thought it was
Alyson Stone
Nov 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: newbery, how-about-no
I couldn't even finish this book. I tried to read this once before and decided to give it another try, but I just couldn't do it. I hate leaving 1 star ratings, but this book just was not for me. I rad about half of it and nothing happened. Nothing at all! I didn't get the point of this book. How it won a Newbery is beyond me. I usually like Avi, but this one receives a huge thumbs down. ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was fast-paced and full of historical details; I found myself reading several chapters at a time and was really interested by it.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really liked this book!! Amazing story and good lesson.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kid-stuff, newbery
I was about 12 when this book first came out (aka, the target audience for Crispin), but I didn't read it for two reasons: 1.) I thought that the name Crispin was stupid (I don't think that now), and 2.) I didn't like the cover (I still don't).

This is another example of "Why did this one win a Newbery award again?" Because from the very beginning, I was not sure where the story was actually going. The book starts to pick up about two thirds of the way in, but for the most part, the story goes so
Samantha Vanderlipp
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The novel begins with the death of Asta, the main character’s mother, which starts the series of unfortunate events for the poor peasant boy. It was not until after his mother’s death that Crispin learns his name and receives a cross of lead, hence the title of the novel. After being forced to sell his only Ox, he is now out of money and his only means of work. Next, he is accused of theft and then murder, eventually labeled as less than human, Crispin flees for safety for death lingers if he st ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Children's Book Club selection. The book is recommended for 2nd Grade plus. Conservatively I would say it's more like 5th grade plus. The plot, while predictable for adults, for children is suspenseful and appropriate. I was reading this to a vast age group and had to eliminate some of the gorey and detailed descriptions, as well as mature language that I wasn't prepared to explain (" bastard" or "slit throat"). As an adult I enjoyed the historical fiction. ...more
Leonard Kim
Jul 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I have read a couple of things of Avi’s before, but those were not his most well-known books. His writing style is not of the sort I usually like, but I did like this book more than others because I think that style fits this book better. However, recent Newbery Honor books, The Inquisitor’s Tale and The Book of Boy could probably be safely recommended over this for today’s readers looking for a medieval tale.
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Avi is a pen name for Edward Irving Wortis, but he says, "The fact is, Avi is the only name I use." Born in 1937, Avi has created many fictional favorites such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, and the Crispin series. His work is popular among readers young and old. ...more

Other books in the series

Crispin (3 books)
  • At the Edge of the World (Crispin, #2)
  • The End of Time (Crispin, #3)

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62 likes · 14 comments
“I kept asking myself if I felt different, if I was different. The answer was always yes. I was no longer nothing…
How odd, I thought; it had taken my mother’s death, Father Quinel’s murder, and the desire of others to kill me to claim a life of my own.”
“Do you ever smile, boy?" he demanded. "If you can't laugh and smile, life is worthless. Do you hear me?" he yelled. "It's NOTHING!” 5 likes
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