This is the third book I’ve read and enjoyed by the author known only as Avi. (You can read more about him in that link to his website.) Avi seems to have the ability to put himself in other times and places and write about them convincingly. This book takes place in rural England during Mediaeval times, and focuses on a teenage peasant boy whose life is brutal and harsh. The times were brutal and harsh, and the boy is on the very bottom of the social scale, essentially a slave to his landowner, and a fatherless child, making him an outcast even among his fellow villagers. His life is miserable, an endless cycle of hard work, cruel treatment and little food. His mother, the only bright spot in his world, has recently died, and as the book opens, his life is going to get much worse! Wrongly accused of thievery, he is forced to flee from his village as a person marked for death. Only the chance meeting with a wandering jester/juggler named Bear keeps him alive, but the boy, Crispin, and Bear soon find themselves in even more trouble.
Well told, great characters, very authentic feel to the setting and times written about. Winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal, and well deserved. I see from his website, Avi has written a sequel about Crispin. I’ll be looking for it. Highly recommended.