Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Crispin by Avi

Avi. 2002. Crispin: The Cross of Lead.

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this one. Not the most clever way to start out a review, but true nevertheless. The cover. I was not easily won over with the cover. It is ugly and unappealing. It doesn't shout out "read me, read me." But I'd heard good things about it, of course, and it did win the Newbery in 2003. So I knew that I had to get past my initial misgivings.

Here's how it begins:

England, A.D. 1377 "In the midst of life comes death." How often did our village priest preach those words. Yet I have also heard that "in the midst of death comes life." If this be a riddle, so was my life. The day after my mother died, the priest and I wrapped her body in a gray shroud and carried her to the village church. Our burden was not great. In life she had been a small woman with little strength. Death made her even less. Her name had been Asta.
Our narrator is a young boy. At first, we only know him as Asta's son. Later his real name is revealed, Crispin. Here is a young boy, a peasant, tied to the land for life. But the day after his mother's funeral everything changes. (Or maybe it's the day of his mother's funeral.)

Told by John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) that he must return the ox to the manor since his mother is died (and he's now an orphan) he is told that he can starve. His life, his welfare is of no concern for this substitute lord-of-the-manor. Upset, he runs into the woods. He's working out his emotions--anger, grief, confusion, etc., but a fall and a bump on the head changes his life. Or you could say saves his life. He wakes up at some point during the night. He sees two men. One is John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) and the other is unknown to him at that time. What he hears confuses him. He can't make sense of it. But when he is seen, he gets a sick feeling that his life is in danger.

He is able to get away and hide for the rest of that night and the day. But the next night, he makes his way to his trusted friend, the priest, Father Quinel. What the priest tells him doesn't erase his questions. If anything, it just adds to his confusion. He's told that his mother could read and write. He's told that he was baptized (albeit secretly) Crispin. He's told that he MUST flee for his life. That John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) has started spreading lies about him. Accused him of theft. Is offering an award for whoever kills him. The priest gives him a few things to do on his own, and makes arrangement to meet him again before the two part ways forever.

His errand? To go to Goodwife Peregrine's house and pick up a cross of lead. But on his way to meet the priest one last time, the time where all would be revealed, he is met by another man instead. A man who claims he comes in the priest's place. But something doesn't feel right.

Crispin doesn't know who he is or exactly why John Aycliffe (boo, hiss) is out to kill him. Why Aycliffe (boo, hiss) wants him dead so very badly. He doesn't know who he is or where he needs to go, he just knows that his life is in danger and he is being pursued relentlessly.

Crispin's journey could have been a lonely one. But he meets an unusual friend, a man called Bear, who takes him under his protection. Together they try to make sense of it all. But the journey won't be easy.

I loved this book. I can easily see now why it won the Newbery. I definitely recommend this one to lovers of historical fiction. Also for those that love coming-of-age novels.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Chris 1:28 PM  

Oooh, I'm disagreeing with you for the first time Becky :p I couldn't stand this one and swore of Avi after reading it last year, lol. But then realized that it was a bit harsh and would most certainly give him a second chance which I plan to do. This one just wasn't for me and I really couldn't get into it at all. It was one of my least favorites of the year last year. Oh well...we had to disagree sometime, huh? lol...

Becky 1:51 PM  

How funny :) Okay, I don't know that I'd say love-love in the ordinary sense. But I certainly found it enjoyable. I think it may be a background thing, maybe? I read Adam of the Road earlier in the year. It was somewhat (very) similar. Both had young boys on the road in England. Both were set in the Dark Ages. Both had this minstrel-type theme. Father-figures that performed (sang, danced, juggled, did tricks, etc.) and were teaching these boys how to do the same. And for some reason, this one just worked for me. And while the title escapes me, I think I've read another book (maybe two?) set roughly in that time period relatively recently.

I will say this. I'm not sure how kid-friendly Crispin or Adam of the Road are with actual kids. Though they are both Newbery winners. Award winners don't necessarily make "favorite" books among kids or adults.

My favorite Avi (so far) is The End of the Beginning. It is so charming and endearing.

Jill 1:59 PM  

I actually started reading this over the weekend and had to put it down after the first couple of chapters. I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I should give it another chance based on your review.

Chris 4:02 PM  

I don't think my main problem was with Avi's writing, I think I just don't get into books set in this time period...funny though, because I love Renaissance festivals! The literature just doesn't do it for me. I'll put the End of the Beginning on my list! Thanks for the recommendation!

Anonymous,  12:16 PM  

i have to disagree with you here. im in the eight grade and this crispin book is my summer reading book & all of my friends have said " oh you know once you start reading it you will be hooked" things like that but i just cant start its not catchy i can read 2 chapters then i start over, honestly i hate this book, i have no hope for finishing my summer reading lol. =)

Becky 12:29 PM  

It might surprise you Anonymous, but I *do* sympathize. I know that I wouldn't find Crispin an enjoyable book if I "had" to read it either. Required reading just isn't fun. And it's *hard* to enjoy a book if there's someone making you read it. But I do wish you luck! Maybe you can get some non-required reading in as well to make up for this one.

Anonymous,  10:25 AM  

Wow! I didn´t understand this book at first, but now I do! Thanks a million Becky! I thought Bear was the bad-guy in this story! But, is he?

Becky 11:14 AM  

Bear is a very good guy, Anonymous. He saved Crispins life on several occasions. And taught him how to survive on his own. Bear might have his issues--something in his past that haunts him--but he's 'redeeming' past wrongs these days by being the good guy.

Anonymous,  5:37 PM  

this book was rly weird

Anonymous,  9:54 PM  

I am a student teacher and my literature circle chose this book to read. I just couldn't put it down, and am now hooked on Avi! I have ordered the sequel to this book, and look forward to him completing this amaing trilogy.
What a winner!

Anonymous,  5:13 PM  

I really liked this story and i thought it was very clever and creative. While most stories set in this time period are written in the perspective of a prince or knight, Avi writes Crispin in the perspective of a peasant, and this I think truly portrayed what life was like back then.

Anonymous,  9:31 AM  

Dear Becky,

My daughter is reading this book for her sixth grade English class. She really likes it and thinks it is better than Animal Farm. I don't like the mother dying but I guess that is a problem that is tough to deal with at 11 years old.

Michelle,  3:41 PM  

This was a good book. I like avi he is a great author.

Anonymous,  9:15 AM  

this book is full of excitment reccommended that everyone read it!

Anonymous,  3:02 PM  

Yes, i agree that this book, crispin, is a very good novel. I highly recomemend it. I had never heard of it, until my seventh grade english teacher told us we were going to read it. I came onto this sight to look up more information for a report i'm doing on crispin, and found that many people,just like me, think this is a great novel. MUST READ!!!!!

Anonymous,  7:59 PM  

I am a 5 grader and read this as a literature book and in the beginning it was ok, but then as the book went on I thought it was the best book i had ever read!

Anonymous,  8:00 PM  

one comment said that he was 11 years old, but he was actually 13

Anonymous,  10:54 PM  

I understand that some of you couldn't really get into it in the begining. The beginging of this book didn't catch me either. Until I got about half way through with it, I didn't really like it. But when the action and adventure kicked in I was hooked! I couldn't put the book down! To really enjoy this book you have to stick with it and keep on reading until it gets exciting and interesting!

Anonymous,  7:10 PM  

I was put off by the beginning, but then again I am doing it for a school project, and as someone said it is hard to get into it while being forced to. I'll keep reading and hope that it gets interesting!

Emily,  7:54 PM  

I chose to read this book out of a group of 3 (izzy willy nilly and among the hidden were the other choices). I don't know what to think of it yet because we haven't started reading. I was told that it was similar to eragon which I thought was ok but sort of slow and boring. Would I like a different book better or should I stick with crispin?

Becky 9:05 PM  

Emily, I'll be honest...Among the Hidden is more 'exciting' than Crispin. Crispin can be a bit dry--and it's not really a page-turner. I found it satisfying in its own way. But I wouldn't ever classify it as the most thrilling of reads.

Anonymous,  3:07 PM  

I'm going to have to disagree with most people here, I thought this book was very interesting and easy to get into.

cole 5:27 PM  

wut is the whole book in a summury some one tell me please

baseballgurufrommaine,  3:24 PM  

Hi, I had to read crispin for my language arts class a month ago. im in 7th grade. The book didn't draw me into it right away. I am not the biggest fan of the Renaissance. anyway, the book was ok when it started the rising conflict. I felt very bad for crispin. I was very disapointed in the ending. I wish he had become the lord. And a suggestion to all who read this "black Hills" by nora Roberts is the best READ IT

Matt 4:38 PM  

Crispin to me wasn't exitng. It definenatly didnt keep me on the edge of my seat.

Matt 4:38 PM  

Crispin to me wasn't exitng. It definenatly didnt keep me on the edge of my seat.

Anonymous,  4:11 PM  

I am in sixth grade and I have to read this book and do 3 activities on it. I can't stand it and I am only on chapter 7. I have to finish in 4 days and I don't know what to do!!! I hate it!!

Anonymous,  9:53 PM  

I am in sixth grade and I really like this book. This is the book that I'm reading in class with all the kids and many of my friends go to acc. reading and they are reading Animal Farm and they are jealous that they don't get to read Crispin!

sydney 3:23 PM  

Hey Becky! My seventh grade class just finished reading this story, and now we have to do a project with 5 quotes from your fvprite character. I sort of have a poor school. So, we only have a classroom set of the story. I have no book. So, it would be helpful if you posted some life quotes that Crispin says in the story. Thanks, and keep posting!! (:

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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