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Crispin, Cross of Lead


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.
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Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University