Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi

This Newbery Award winning work of historical fiction is set in 14th century England. It is also a wonderful mystery that takes the reader through a series of twists and turns that end with a surprise.  It provides students a relatively accurate depiction of peasant life during this time, while documenting real historical events such as the Peasant Revolt of 1381.

Asta's son(as he is known) and his mother are poor peasants living in the small town of Stromford.  The mother dies and the boy flees Stromford after being falsely accused of a crime.  During his escape, Asta's son meets a strange and fascinating character, Bear, who introduces him to a very different world and point of view than his quiet life in Stromford.  He also discovers who he is and why he is accused of a crime he did not commit.