'Crispin' Honored

* A book set in medieval England about a poor, 13-year-old outcast has won the Newbery Medal for Literature.

"Crispin: The Cross of Lead," by Avi, was one of the children's book award winners announced by the American Library Association on Monday.

This year's Newbery "honor books," runners-up for the top prize: "The House of the Scorpion," by Nancy Farmer; "Pictures of Hollis Woods," by Patricia Reilly Giff; "Hoot," by Carl Hiaasen; "A Corner of the Universe," by Ann M. Martin; and "Surviving the Applewhites," by Stephanie M. Tolan.

Avi, born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, twice had honor books. "The True Confession of Charlotte Doyle," a 19th-century seafaring adventure, was cited in 1991. "Nothing but the Truth: A Documentary Novel," set in an American high school, was honored in 1992.

A Different War

* The United Nations Children's Fund yesterday asked for more than half a billion dollars to fight poverty and disease around the world.

So much attention has been focused on war with Iraq that countries crippled by other wars and by famine are in danger of being forgotten, leaders of the organization said.

"We are seeking . . . $534 million to reach kids in 33 countries," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told reporters.

Under the plan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo would receive the most aid.

Other countries UNICEF wants to help include Liberia, Congo Republic, Eritrea and North Korea.

UNICEF is speeding up its campaign to help people in Iraq get better access to clean water and measles vaccines. But the $9 million set aside for Iraq, Bellamy said, does not include the extra cash that would be needed if there is a U.S.-led invasion and war.

-- From staff and wire reports

"Crispin: The Cross of Lead" is the 2003 Newbery winner.