Crispin, Cross of Lead
Avi. 2002. Crispin,
cross of lead. New York: Hyperion Books for
Children. ISBN: 0786826479.
Avi effectively transports the reader back in time in this
mystery/adventure set in medieval England. Crispin, an orphan who
sees little value in himself, is forced to flee his village for crimes
he didn't commit. Along the journey he meets Bear, a man who at
first seems enemy but turns out to be friend and teacher. A great
secret unfolds throughout the course of the book, and Crispin must use
all he has learned from Bear in order to save them both.
Avi spares the reader few details about the brutality of the feudal
system. His description of the body of an executed man which has
been left to rot as it hangs from a tree is particularly haunting
(p.55). While living as a serf might be glossed over in the
standard sixth-grade world history textbook, the realities of being
tied to the land and living at the mercy of a master are portrayed
through the life of Crispin.
Language also plays a part in bringing the setting to life. Using
words such as mazer (p.126)
instead of its more modern synonym bowl
add authenticity to dialogue. Figurative language uses verbiage
that a boy of Crispin's station would actually have been familiar with,
such as "I was like a kernel of wheat between two stones." (p.234)
As Avi draws the reader into this orphan's world, the realities of life
in medieval times will become more real to readers as they race to the
end of this fast-paced book to see what Crispin's fate will be.