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"Sir, you're hurting me."
"The Devil take your hurts.
Why did you run away?"
"I had to."
"Had to?" he said, his grasp
so hard I thought my arm would snap.
"I ... was proclaimed a wolf's
A wolf's head!
In fourteenth-century medieval England, this means you can be killed on
sight by anyone. Thirteen-year-old Asta's son, Crispin, doesn't know
why he's being falsely accused of stealing, why the extreme step of declaring
him a "wolf's head" has been taken or why his enemies are pursuing him
so relentlessly. Now he's on the run in a world that is entirely
strange to someone who has never left the tiny village in which he was
born. His only ally is the enormous man who call himself Bear.
Crispin is not entirely sure if Bear is a friend or an enemy. His
only clue to the mystery of his situation is the leaden cross that was
his mother's only possession. But he lacks the ability to read the
words that are inscribed on it. Join Crispin on a race across England
to discover who he is and why someone wishes him dead! (New
Hampshire Great Stone Face Committee, 2003-2004)
Imagine being thirteen-years-old
and knowing that if anyone, ANYONE!, killed you they would be rewarded.
To be an orphan in the twelfth century was hard enough, but now this boy
must find out who he is and why wealthy powerful people feel the need to
kill him. There is so much to learn. Will "Asta's son" be able to find
all the answers he needs to survive? (Jean B. Bellavance for
Young Reader's Choice Awards, 2003-2004)
Life in 1377 England is not
easy for 13-year-old Asta's son. His mother has died and he is alone.
He is a serf bound to Lord Furnival and has no standing in society.
But something is not right. He overhears a conversation that he does
not understand and the next thing he knows, he is framed for murder and
declared a wolf's head. Now, he is fair game for anyone who wants
to kills him for the reward money. But why? He is of no consequence
-- he doesn't even have a name. People all call him Asta's son.
Now he learns he has a real name -- Crispin. But what does that have
to do with being framed for murder? As Crispin runs from the soldiers,
he comes across Bear, a giant of a man who makes his living juggling and
entertaining people. What will become of this unlikely pair?
Will Crispin ever learn about his background and why he is in danger?
Only the priest and I were
there to bury my mother. The village shunned her in death as they had in
life. No sooner was my mother in the ground than John Aycliffe, the steward
of the manor, appeared. "Asta's son", he called to me. I approached the
unkind man, my head bowed. Aycliffe informed me I was to deliver our ox
to the manor house as payment for the death tax. I protested that this
would leave me with no way to make my living. I was, after all, only thirteen.
He responded, "Then starve." And he rode away.
Greatly upset, I raced off
into the forest, headless of my path. I tripped, hit my head on a stone,
and let the darkness come. When I regained my bearings, my head throbbing,
I tried to find my way in the dark of night. I saw a flickering light.
Drawn in that direction, I saw two men. One was the hated Aycliffe, the
other man I'd never seen before. They discussed in hushed tones. I could
make no sense of their words, though they spoke of "great dangers." Aycliffe
then turned. Our eyes met, he cried "Asta's son" and began, with sword
drawn, to run for me. I crashed forward, tumbled over a cliff, and was
saved by the extreme darkness and my own fall out of sight.
Next morning, I determined
how to find my way back to the village. While distressed by my encounter
the night before, I hoped that Aycliffe would not concern himself further
with me. He had treated me badly before. I was about to emerge from the
woods when I caught sight of the authorities heading for the cottage I
had recently shared with my mother. Alarmed, I watched from the woods as
they destroyed our cottage, first with axes, then by fire. Why should they
have done such a thing? I dare not show myself until I had more knowledge
of my situation.
That evening I heard the church
bells toll. It called the villagers from all around. Once they had gathered
they were beckoned into the church. I was longing to know what had been
discussed. From my vantage point I saw the bailiff and the steward emerge
from the manor house with other men from the village. All were armed and
making ready for a search. My worst fears had come true: the village had
been sent out to find me.
I determined to hide myself
until such time as I could make my way back to the village to talk to the
one person I could trust: Father Quinel. I hid in the branches of an enormous
tree. Two villagers passed beneath and remarked that "Asta's son must have
been driven mad by his mother's death to have broken into the manor house
to steal money." I nearly fell from the tree. I was being accused of a
theft I'd never committed.
When I finally found my way
in the dead of night into the village and roused Father Quinel, I asked
him what would happen if I were caught. He said I'd been declared a wolf's
head. This meant I was considered not human and should be killed on sight.
It seemed Father Quinel had much to tell me but was reluctant to do so.
He did tell me, however, that when I was born, I'd been baptized with the
name "Crispin." "I was?" I cried. He said it was done in secret and that
my mother begged him to tell no one. Then he asked me what I knew of my
father. I replied only that he had died before I was born. He would not
tell me more, but begged me to leave and find my way to a town where I
could live as a free person. I knew nothing of other places. Father Quinel
said I was to come back the next night. He would give me provisions for
my journey and tell me more about my father. And he gave me the cross of
lead that had been around my mother's neck when she died.
So I hid in the forest another
night. The next night I made my way to the meeting place but was told that
Father Quinel could not meet me. In reality, he himself was killed. Now
there is nothing for me to do but run. I've never been beyond my own village,
but now I must run for my life.
Susan Bartel for The
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
Here are but a few of the things
that happened in the days following my mother's death. I was chased by
the hated steward of our village, an unkind man named Aycliffe. He chased
me after I saw him talking and "great dangers" in the middle of the forest.
The cottage I'd shared with my mother was destroyed: first by axes, then
by fire. Aycliffe claimed I'd stolen from the manor house. I'd never even
been near that house. I was declared a wolf's head. This meant my life
was worth that of an animal's. It meant I was to be killed on sight. The
one person in the village I could trust, Father Quinel, told me my mother
had christened me "Crispin." I'd not heard this name before. I had always
been known only as "Asta's son." He gave me the lead cross my mother wore
around her neck. He claimed my mother herself wrote the inscription on
the cross. I always thought my mother unable to read or write. He was to
tell me of my father, whom I'd always thought to be dead, but before he
could tell me my own story, he himself was killed. Now there is nothing
for me to do but run. I've never been beyond my own village, but now I
must run for my life.
You'll be wanting to hear about
my encounter with the juggler named Bear who takes me in and teaches me
about music, making a living by one's wits, and . revolution. We make our
way to Great Wexley where there will be a great feast and many people gathering.
There we will entertain, clandestinely meet with others within the revolution,
and see if we are able to avoid the trap that Aycliffe is laying for me.
Susan Bartel for The
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award