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*****= An all-time favorite
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The Cross of Lead

by Avi

Reviewed September 30, 2002.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#2, Young Adult Historical Fiction)
Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2002.  262 pages.
2003 Newbery Medal Winner
Available at Sembach Library (JF AVI)

Crispin is Avi’s fiftieth book.  The first one I ever read was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is outstanding.  With Crispin, he has written another excellent historical novel.  It had me completely entranced before the first short chapter was over.

The book opens with the death of Asta, the mother of the narrator.  He soon learns from the priest that she named him “Crispin” at his birth and she wrote something on a cross of lead that Crispin holds.  Crispin cannot read and didn’t know his mother could.  The priest promises to tell him more that night, but before that happens, the priest is killed.  Crispin has been declared a wolf’s head for a theft he didn’t commit.  This means that anyone who sees him can kill him as if he were an animal.

Part of the captivating quality of the book comes from the way the author seems to have perfectly captured the voice of an uneducated medieval peasant boy.  We are bewildered with him and long to know what’s written on that cross of lead.  And why do the steward’s men chase Crispin all the way to the town?  On the way there, Crispin meets Bear, a traveling juggler.  Bear is a well-drawn character who further draws us into the story.

The book cover says ages 10 to 14.  I would say that’s about right, although I would amend it to “10 and up.”  It’s a gripping and interesting story.  I didn’t want to put it down to go to work.

Reader comment:  A reader gives this book Five Stars.  
Another reader gives it Two Stars.  
Another reader gives it Four Stars and says, "Great Story! I didn't want to put it down. It kept me interested and guessing what would happen next! It almost seems like this all happened once."

Other books by Avi:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Strange Happenings
The End of the Beginning
Don't You Know There's a War On?

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved. 
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