This book came to me with a very high recommendation from Haley. She informed me that it was Newberry Award winner (2003), is one of the most historically accurate portrayals of peasant life in the Middle Ages, and thoroughly engrossing; she's spot-on with everything!
Crispin is a young peasant in the 1300s when his mother dies. After spying his steward at a secret meeting in the woods, a "wolf's head" is put on him, meaning any man can shoot him on sight (as they would a wolf...get it?). Although Crispin doesn't know why he's being targeted, he goes on the lam and meets Bear, a huge man who takes Crispin under his wing. Bear is a jester, and teaches Crispin both how to think independently and how to play the recorder. As they approach the city of Great Wexly, Bear confesses to Crispin that he has to conduct business of an illegal nature there, and Crispin may be in danger. Who is Crispin, really? How can this peasant boy hold the fate of his steward in his hands? And will he and Bear make it out of Great Wexly alive?
This is a juvenile fiction book, so it's a quick read, but also includes great character development and pacing. Avi's a great novelist, and this is his 50th (!!) book.