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Genre-jumping author Avi clocks in here with his 50th book, Crispin:The Cross of Lead, an action-packed historical narrative that follows thefrantic flight of a 13-year-old peasant boy across 14th-century England.After being declared a "wolf's head" by his manor's corrupt steward for a crimehe didn't commit (meaning that anyone can kill him like a commonanimal--and collect a reward), this timid boy has to flee a tiny villagethat's the only world he's ever known. But before our protagonist escapes, Avimakes sure that we're thoroughly briefed on the injustices of feudalism--thecountless taxes cottars must pay, the constant violence, the inability of aflawed church to protect its parishioners, etc. Avi then folds in the book'scentral mystery just as the boy is leaving: "Asta's son," as he's always beenknown, learns from the village priest that his Christian name is Crispin, andthat his parents' origins--and fates--might be more perplexing than he everimagined.Providing plenty of period detail (appropriately gratuitous for the age group)and plenty of chase-scene suspense, Avi tells a good story, develops a couple offairly compelling characters, and even manages to teach a little history lesson.(Fortunately, kids won't realize that they're learning about England's peasantrevolt of 1381 until it's far too late.) (Ages 10 to 14) --Paul Hughes