Just recently I read Crispin The Cross of Lead, a 262 paged historical fiction novel. Crispin The Cross of Lead is by AVI, an author from Colorado. He wants his readers “to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read,” (AVI). He is honored with a Newbery Medal for Crispin The Cross of Lead and a Newbery Honor for Nothing but The Truth. Also, it’s worth mentioning that he writes mainly historical fiction.
Crispin The Cross of Lead is, according to Kirkus Reviews, the book offers “a solid adventure and could serve as the jumping-off point for an exploration into a time of great political upheaval,” (Kirkus Reviews). It has won a Newbery Medal and an ALA Notable in 2003. It has also gotten starred reviews on School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. It has won countless other awards as well, such as, the Colorado Book Award and a children’s choice nominee in Kansas, Vermont and Texas. “This novel is historical fiction as its finest,” (VOYA) according to a VOYA review of the book. Just if you didn’t know this, Crispin The Cross of Lead is one of Mr Jockers all time favorite novels. He was actually the one who recommended it to me near the beginning of the year. I still need to thank him for the adventure he’s provided me with this book. It was a beautifully crafted novel with amazing story telling and is filled with amazing character development. It describes each and every setting better than a movie could show you! It has really gotten me interested in the 14th century, or commonly know as medieval times, and the book even contains details on John Ball and the Peasant’s Rebellion in England.
In the book, Crispin The Cross of Lead, the main character, Crispin, a peasant, is proclaimed a Wolf’s Head, which means that anyone has the right to kill him. He was proclaimed a Wolf’s Head by John Aycliffe, his villages steward. The story starts in the small, poor village of Stromford where Crispin’s Mother, Asta, dies and he is left with her cross of lead. Soon, he is framed for murdering the villages priest, Father Quinnel. Before he died though, he told Crispin to run away form the village and go north. During his travels, or his escape, he meets Bear, a giant red-bearded man dressed as a jester. It turns out he was not a jester as I had assumed, but a juggler. Long story short, Crispin becomes his apprentice and learns to play the recorder. While their relationship is poor at first, it betters throughout the book until they’re constantly giving their lives for each other. They soon arrive at Great Wexly, the capital. There, though, they find troubling news. Lord Furnival died and they find John Aycliffe had also traveled to Great Wexly. This is where the climax of the story begins, and I don’t want to spoil much of it, so I’ll mention some key points. They hide out at the Green Man’s Tavern. Bear meets with “the brotherhood”, lead by John ball. Bear gets captured, and that’s where the climax of the climax happens, so I won’t spoil it.
I was, at first, reading only a chapter every so often, but as Crispin met Bear, the story truly started. I finished the rest of the book in two days. One moment in the book got me feeling proud for Crispin, me feeling as if by reading the book this far, I’ve helped him discover who he truly is (and of course defeat the bad guys). Although the story is based of a historical time period, it was completely new to me. We had never learned about the Medieval Times before. The most I’ve been exposed to was going to Medieval Times a couple of times. To me, the book was very similar to another book I had read though. That book was, The Novice, a fantasy novel also based in medieval times. Actually, I’m pretty sure Lord Furnival is in that book too. Unlike Crispin The Cross of Lead though, The Novice is a fantasy books, where the enemies are the Orcs, so yeah. Fantasy. Spots in the book, like the talk of the “Peasant’s Rebellion” got me very interested in Medieval. Because of this, I am planning to read another historical fiction book next.
When Crispin talks to Bear, it seems they have a father, son relationship. They even pose as Father and Son to avoid suspicion in the towns they travel to. What makes the book’s character development so good tough, is how dramatic it is. Remember what I said about their relationship? Well, it wasn’t like that at first. “‘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!'” (pg. 73) What I like about this passage is how it reveals Bear in the way Crispin would be seeing him. A giant, scary man who looks driven mad, who is now his master. Throughout the beginning of their relationship it’s just Bear’s voice booming for Crispin to do something. What’s weird though is that after a while, Crispin seems to accept his fate, but then enjoys his fate and even becomes Bear’s apprentice. Finally, in conclusion, I think this book will rest in my top 5 books of all time. It just has a good charm to it and kept me entertained under my covers late at night. Overall, this book is a definite 10/10.
Sincerely, Sam Wizda
1 thought on “Sam Wizda Letter Essay #6: Crispin The Cross of Lead”
I’m so happy you really liked this book. I really like historical fiction and you don’t find too many well-written YA books set in the the middle ages or the medieval time period, which is a fascinating part of history. Avi is great. Read more of his stuff.