Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi, Book 1 in the Crispin trilogy
Published 2002 by Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 262 pages
Genre: Historical drama for tweens
This book won the Newbery Award when it was published, and more recently the author has published two sequels.
It’s A.D. 1377 in rural England. A 13-year-old boy with no name and his mother toil as poor peasants, barely surviving, ostracized by their town. Only the priest is the boy’s friend.
His frail mother dies, and the boy finds himself branded a thief and hunted. It’s the priest who tells him what his baptized name is: Crispin. When the priest is murdered, Crispin leaves the only place he ever knew, taking with him only the cross of lead that his mother gave him–and the knowledge of his name.
But leaving doesn’t take care of the pursuers, who now accuse him of killing the priest. They come after him from afar, even after he’s taken on as a servant by a wily traveling juggler, Bear.
Disasters, and plot twists, one after the other, make this a gripping story, no less than the characters of Crispin and Bear as they must meet the challenges before them.
I read the last book first, since that was what was in my library. I found it a gripping read. Then I read the first book. It has Crispin doing a couple of things that seem out of character, but I was able to overlook that and enjoy reading it. Confession: I didn’t read the second book. But if it’s anything like the third book, it’s a winner.
Caution: In the first book, there is some gore and also an incidence of adultery, which is not condoned.