word craft


Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Crispin The Cross of Lead

Scholas­tic, 2022

Newbery Medal
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audio book nar­rat­ed by Ron Keith

Don’t miss the sequels!
if you liked this book, try:

What’s this book about?

“Asta’s son” is all he’s ever been called. The lack of name is appro­pri­ate, because he and his moth­er are but poor peas­ants in four­teenth-cen­tu­ry medieval Eng­land. But this thir­teen-year-old boy who thought he had lit­tle to lose soon finds him­self with even less—no home, fam­i­ly, or possessions.

Accused of a crime he did not com­mit, he has been declared a “wolf’s head.” That means he may be killed on sight, by any­one. If he wish­es to remain alive, he must flee his tiny vil­lage. All the boy takes with him is a new­ly revealed name—Crispin—and his mother’s cross of lead.

His jour­ney through the Eng­lish coun­try­side is amaz­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing. Espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult is his encounter with the jug­gler named Bear. A huge, and pos­si­bly even mad, man, Bear forces the boy to become his ser­vant. Bear, how­ev­er, is a strange mas­ter, for he encour­ages Crispin to think for him­self. Though Bear promis­es to pro­tect Crispin, the boy is being relent­less­ly pur­sued. Why are his ene­mies so deter­mined to kill him?

Crispin is grad­u­al­ly drawn right into his ene­mies’ fortress where—in a riv­et­ing climax—he must become a dif­fer­ent per­son if he is to save Bear’s life and his own. He dis­cov­ers that by los­ing every­thing, he has gained the most pre­cious gift of all: a true sense of self.

A mas­ter of breath­tak­ing plot twists and vivid char­ac­ters, Avi brings the full force of his sto­ry­telling pow­ers to the world of medieval England.


Teach­ing guide for all three Crispin novels

Lis­ten to Avi read from Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Story Behind the Story

The sto­ry of Crispin: the Cross of Lead is complex.

  1. My wife and I were dri­ving from Den­ver to the moun­tains, lis­ten­ing to a lec­ture by Dr. Teofi­lo Ruiz, chair of the His­to­ry Depart­ment at UCLA. It was all about the medieval peri­od. I was fas­ci­nat­ed, and told myself that sure­ly there was a sto­ry here, and I must do some reading.
  2. I did read a lot more—found won­der­ful stuff—and began to shape a sto­ry in my head.


Awards and Recognition

  • New­bery Award, 2003
  • ALA Notable, 2003
  • Starred Review: School Library Journal
  • Starred Review: Pub­lish­ers Weekly
  • Book­sense Top Ten
  • Best Chil­dren’s Books of the year, 2003 list, Bank Street Col­lege of Education
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, Kansas
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, Vermont
  • Chil­dren’s Choice nom­i­nee, Texas
  • Col­orado Book award


“The sus­pense stays taut until the very end of the book, when Crispin dis­cov­ers his iden­ti­ty and then must decide how to act on the infor­ma­tion… . Avi ren­ders the sights, sounds and smells of medieval Eng­land accu­rate­ly and com­pelling­ly. He shows the per­va­sive­ness of the church in medieval soci­ety and, in a sub­plot, weaves in details about John Ball and the Peas­an­t’s Rebel­lion.  Excit­ing and true to the past. This nov­el is his­tor­i­cal fic­tion as its finest.” (VOYA)

buy the book 
Don’t miss the sequels!
if you liked this book, try: