Crispin: The Cross of Lead

By: 

Avi

Number of Pages: 

262

Minimum grade level: 

5th

It's 14th-century England. Read p. 1-2 til "His will be done."

Asta was a village outcast whose past is shrouded in mystery and whose adolescent son is known only as "Asta's son." Mired in grief for his mother, the boy learns his given name, Crispin, from the village priest, although his presumably dead father's identity remains obscure. The words etched on his mother's treasured lead cross may provide some clue, but the priest is murdered before he can tell the illiterate lad what they say. Worse, Crispin is fingered for the murder by the manor steward, who declares him a "wolf's head" wanted dead or alive, preferably dead. Crispin flees the village and begins the journey to discover who he really is.

Asta was a village outcast whose past is shrouded in mystery and whose adolescent son is known only as "Asta's son." Mired in grief for his mother, the boy learns his given name, Crispin, from the village priest, although his presumably dead father's identity remains obscure. The words etched on his mother's treasured lead cross may provide some clue, but the priest is murdered before he can tell the illiterate lad what they say. Worse, Crispin is fingered for the murder by the manor steward, who declares him a "wolf's head" wanted dead or alive, preferably dead. Crispin flees the village and begins the journey to discover who he really is.

Discussion questions

  1. What is a "wolf's head?" Why is Crispin declared to be one?
  2. What kind of a person is Crispin? What kind of a person is Bear?
  3. Did you guess the identity of Crispin's father before it was revealed?
  4. Both Crispin's mother and Bear do not tell him about his father's identity. Why? Do you think this was a wise decision?
  5. When the Widow Daventry tells Crispin about his true identity, she says, "Your connection gives no honor. No position. What someone fears is not you, but that you will be used. Can't you see it? Your noble blood is the warrant for your death. It will remain so till it flows no more." What does she mean? What does Crispin's new identity mean for him?
  6. Crispin is unable to read. How does this make his life more difficult? Why do you think his mother never told him that she could read?
  7. Bear tells Crispin, "A wise man--he was a jester by trade--once told me that living by answers is a form of death. It's only questions that keep you living." What does Bear mean? Do you agree with him?
  8. This book is set in medieval England. Were there words or phrases you did not understand? What were they?
  9. Crispin says, "Bear and Ball were talking about the very word Father Quinel had used, freedom. Something I had never had. Nor did anyone in my village, or the other villages through which we had passed. We lived in bondage." How is freedom important to you? although many years have passed since this book takes place, can you think of modern-day places that meet Crispin's description?
  10. How does Crispin's view of God change as the book progresses?
  11. What do you think happens to Crispin and Bear next?

If you like this book, try

  • Parsifal's Page by Gerald Morris
  • Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett
  • Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
  • The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

Snacks

Pies, like Crispin eats at Widow Daventry's

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.