Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi, 2003

Recently I read Avi’s Newbery winning young adult novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. My initial opinion was that it was extremely well-written. I was especially enamored of Avi's descriptions of life in and around a tiny medieval English village. The death and burial of Crispin’s mother, Asta, set the scene for traumatizing upheavals in young Crispin’s life. Before long he was an outcast, his home burnt, his name dishonored. A false accusation sent him running into the woods for safety.

Crispin’s sole possession, a cross of lead, was a common one at that time. His mother wrote something on it but since he had no education, he couldn’t read it. At the age of thirteen, a rather young age for the main character in a young adult novel, Crispin set out as a fugitive to make a life of his own.

Though thirteen is young for the main character in a young adult novel, Crispin: The Cross of Lead should not be classified as middle grade, in my opinion, because of the subject matter, which includes violence. My library has it labeled 'young adult'. Perhaps Avi chose this young age for Crispin because this is intended to be the start of a trilogy, and during subsequent novels he will be growing older.

Toward the end of the novel there were a few events that I couldn’t believe Crispin could be capable of. My suspension of disbelief wavered. I was also distressed by his tendency to disobey -- something that normally would get a child in a lot of trouble! Instead Crispin managed to be a hero each time his disobedience surfaced. This annoyed me, yet I was happy that he wasn’t destroyed by the enemy and that he lived to disobey again.

Compared to other medieval age historical novels on the Newbery list, I thought this one to be one the best. Others I’ve read include The Door in the Wall, which bored me, and Adam of the Road, which is sweet but simplistic compared to today's standards.

Avi’s story-writing talents are well-developed and current. As I’m also a writer of middle grade and young adult novels I cannot help but spot anything that’s not on the current PC list for writers. Older Newbery Medal winners sometimes make me shake my head thinking, “If that book was written now it would never get published,” because it breaks the rules that I, as a modern writer, must live with. Avi’s books, of course are cream of the crop... a good source of novels we more modern writers can learn from.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead kept my interest and did not disappoint. I loved reading it! I also liked Avi's novel, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1991.

My book review blog: Linda Jo Martin.
My children's literature blog: Literature For Kids.

1 comment:

Eeleen Lee said...

Rosemary Sutcliffe's 'The Lantern Bearers' is similar in tone and theme, but set in pre Roman Britain.