Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2002) is an engaging story about a young boy (Crispin) in medieval England. The book starts with the death of the boy’s mother, which sets a series of political complications in motion, dislodging Crispin from the village he has known his entire life and sending him out across the countryside. His path cuts across the various layers of society, exposing them from a peasant’s view and showing readers just how frightening life in a world defined by plagues, illiteracy, and the feudal system could be.
At the same time, though, Crispin: The Cross of Lead is a book of innocence and wonder. Not long after Crispin is forced to leave his village, he gains a new friend in Bear, a traveling juggler, political agitator, and spy. Bear protects Crispin, helps him understand the society in which they live, and trains him to be a man, as his absent father never did. Crispin’s world had been so limited that every new encounter is a roller coaster; some are terrible, but some are wonderful. Through a series of adventures, Bear and Crispin become essentially foster father and son. As they do, they forge a new destiny and identity for Crispin, making him brave where he was frightened, inquisitive where he was passive, and free where he was essentially chained.