This book is on the summer reading list for the incoming seventh graders at my school. The teacher picked it out because the students will be studying medieval England during seventh grade.
Genre: historical fiction
Age group: middle grade
Synopsis: The year is 1377. A thirteen-year-old boy, known only as Asta’s son to everyone in his village, loses his mother. After the priest helps him bury her, Asta runs over to the woods. In the middle of the night, he overhears the village steward John Aycliffe talking with another man. Aycliffe spots Asta’s son and chases after him. Asta’s son manages to escape, but he is soon wrongly charged with stealing and declared “a wolf’s head,” giving anyone the right to kill him. Asta’s son seeks help from the priest, but the priest is killed before Asta’s son can reach him. Asta’s son flees the village and meets a man called Bear, who tells him that the cross of lead his mother left him has writing on the back that says his name is really Crispin. As Bear and Crispin try to outrun Aycliffe and his men, Crispin wonders why his mom never told him his real name.
I thought the beginning of the book was a little slow for middle school students. Based on the reaction of the two students in my summer reading class, they weren’t overly excited by the opening pages. The one boy has finished the book. When I asked him how it was, he shrugged his shoulders. The other student is a girl, and she’s still working on it.
As an adult, I enjoyed learning about life in medieval England through this story. It gives you a good sense of what it was like for the common person. It demonstrated how difficult basic survival could be for them and what a major role their faith played in their lives.