The Cross of Lead, by Avi, is about a thirteen-year-old boy, Asta’s son, who losses everything with the death of
his mother. Harassed, attacked, and accused of stealing money by John Aycliffe,
the man in charge of the manor, Asta’s son eventually makes his way back to his rented hut only to find Aycliffe’s
men destroying it. He turns to the only man that he could trust, Father Quinel.
Through Father Quinel, he learns that he was baptized
with the name Crispin and that his mother could read and write. Doing what Father
Quinel said, Crispin fled the village because he was called a ‘wolf’s head’: to be killed on sight. After fleeing the village, Crispin meets up with a juggler, Bear. Bear makes him become his servant and they begin traveling the English countryside together.
Being protected by Bear, they head for Great Wexly
and get help from Widow Daventry. Crispin hides behind the secret panel in the
room in ordered to hide from the soldiers looking for him. After Bear is taken, he asked the “Good Widow, can you read?”
Her reply was simply “a little.” Crispin asks her to read the words
on his lead cross. He learns that Bear knew what his cross has said for awhile:
“It says, ‘Crispin—son of Furnival!” Widow Daventry informs
Crispin that his mother “was the youngest daughter of Lord Douglas Crispin realizes why he had been chased by Aycliffe
and proclaimed a wolf’s head. Now, Crispin must risk his own life
in order to save the life of his friend Bear.
Crispin is confronted with Aycliffe, once again,
and confronts him about killing Father Quinel. “It’s you who fears
me.” Crispin told Aycliffe, “You fear I’ll become you lord.”
Crispin swears that he Aycliffe lets Bear go that
they will leave the village and never return. Aycliffe takes Crispin to the bloodstained
and bruised Bear only because Crispin promised to give the cross of lead to him. There
is a fight just inside the walls of Great Wexly, before Crispin and Bear leave. Bear
flings Aycliffe’s body in the air when he lands on a soldier’s sword killing him. Crispin runs over the Aycliffe’s
body and places the cross of lead on top of it. They laugh and hug as they make their way outside the great walls of Great
Wexly to freedom.
Avi’s Newbery Award winner, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, is the tale of the perils of life in feudal England. Readers are able to identify with the main character, Crispin, because some of them
have actually lost the same things. Crispin, a protagonist child of thirteen, has lost everything of importance to him including
his mother and home, and is left without knowing his true identity.
The reader learns about life in England
during the 1300s as Crispin travels the countryside seeking his true found freedom.
As Crispin learn how things are different in the big villages so does the reader. “In my village, refuse was
heaved behind our houses. In Great Wexly, foulness lay on the wide road where
we walked.” The main road were not “dirt and mud, but laid out in
stone.” The building made of slate and stone were sometimes two and three
stories high and had did not have thatched roofs as he was used too seeing.
The theme of coming to know one’s true identify,
helps Avi, to pull the reader into the plot of clearing one’s name. Avi
accomplishes the plot by staying realistic to the time period. Avi presents the
facts that many Lords had children with women other than their wives. The big made the smaller their servants the same why that Bear made Crispin his servant. When one is threatened, one usually hides and tries to find out why they are being chased, just as Crispin
tries to do. These are matters that can still be seen in society today. Crispin befriends a wandering juggler who teaches him to think for himself. Once Bear
and Crispin make it to Great Wexly, the story really begins to build suspense as they try to stay clear of John Aycliffe,
a relative of the widowed Lady Furnival. Since Crispin is the bastard son of
Lord Furnival, Lady Furnival wants him dead so that he can not challenge the Lordship.
A compelling historical fiction novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, captures the reader attention so that they can see, taste, smell and hear the sights
14th century England. You will not want to put it down until you finished reading.
Crispin: The Cross of Lead. New
York: Scholastic. ISBN: 0439574676.