Sitting down to read a book by Avi is like visiting a wise and trusted friend; you know that whatever he wants to talk about, you'll come away informed, entertained and looking forward to your next meeting. Avi's imagination roams far and wide, and his award-winning books have earned him millions of young fans. His last effort, The Good Dog, dealt with the world of dogs and men in a Colorado town. Crispin: The Cross of Lead, his new book for young readers, has a radically different milieu that of an orphaned boy in medieval England.

When a poor peasant woman named Asta dies, her nameless son, numb with grief and reeling from the death tax that promises to make his life even more miserable, runs away to the forest. There he discovers he is marked for death because of a crime he did not commit. Fleeing the only home he has ever known, with his neighbors and the steward of the manor in hot pursuit, he is given his mother's cross and told his name Crispin by the village priest.

It is in his fearful and baffled flight that Crispin meets a giant of a man named Bear. A juggler, singer and musician by trade, the irascible entertainer forces Crispin to become his servant, and later (and less reluctantly) his apprentice. Yet the shadow of the past stalks the boy as he struggles to understand why anyone would want him dead, and he wonders if he can trust his huge companion, who apparently has secrets of his own.

It's easy to see why Avi is such a popular writer. He has the storyteller's gift, the ability to make you ask, What happens next? His prose is direct and elementary, without being simple. His characters are understandable to young readers, but at the same time wonderfully original. He introduces historical elements to the story elegantly and naturally. Overall, Crispin will entertain readers with a compelling story, while at the same time giving them an intimate peek into life in 14th century England. And when your child is through with the book, you can enjoy it too!

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