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A String in the Harp

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,289 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
In an ideal blend of absorbing fantasy and realistic fiction, A String in the Harp tells the story of 12-year-old Pete Morgan who, on a visit to Wales, finds a harp key that shows him scenes from the life of the ancient bard Taliesin. Set in both present-day and ancient Wales, this Newbery Honor title has become a contemporary classic.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Aladdin Paperbacks (first published 1976)
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Newbery Medal Honor Books
94th out of 318 books — 343 voters
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Hidden Gems: YA-Fantasy Novels
368th out of 1,578 books — 3,542 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,508)
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Caroline
A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond is one of those novels I love so much it almost hurts. It concerns the Morgan family – Jen, Peter and Becky - who, after their mother is killed in car crash, move from Massachusetts to Wales. Still reeling from the blow, the family is falling apart. Peter, in particular, is homesick, bitter, overwhelmed with anger and misery. The portrait of his alienation and isolation is very well done.

Peter finds a mysterious artifact washed up on the beach, a harp key, and
...more
Kevin Xu
This book is about the aftermath of 3 siblings when their mom dies, and 2 of them has to stay with their dad in Ireland, while the oldest stays back to live with their aunt and uncle in New England, but then reunite for the holidays at their dad's house. During the holidays, one of the siblings find a mysterious object that allows myth and history to be seen.

This book is not so great because I felt there was no conflict within the book, and what was there was made up in order to fill the void o
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Trina
Feb 12, 2009 Trina rated it it was ok
Shelves: youth-literature
I picked this one up in my meanderings through past Newbery Award and Newbery Honor winners. I'm beginning to think that the main criteria for Newbery's is that they include children dealing with some difficult emotional trauma. This one has three children who have recently lost their mother in a car accident. It is very well-written. I was impressed with the writing to begin with and thought it had hope as a story. I feel that the story fell flat and the struggles of the children in the family ...more
Debbie Gascoyne
This is one of my all-time favourite books, and I'm thrilled that the "Harry Potter Effect," as I call it, has resulted in this being reissued and available to new readers. For years, I wanted to study at University of Wales, Aberystwyth, inspired by the landscape of this story (and Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence, the Welsh episodes of which take place in the same area), and it's kind of fitting that I'm currently researching and writing a PhD dissertation at Cardiff!

This novel is notabl
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Becky
Jun 06, 2015 Becky rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that made me smile to finish it... and then sigh, because I'd made several friends within these pages, and now they're leaving to return to the magical, homey lands of the public library.

I was impressed with how well Nancy Bond fit her writing style to the place and time of her story - the briny, antique freshness of Wales lent a poetic lilt to an engaging, somewhat fantastical story. It's stories like these that leave me with a curious sense of wistful satisfaction
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Patti
Jul 07, 2013 Patti rated it it was amazing
While searching the bookshelves of my librarian daughter for a book to read I came across the 1976 Newberry Honor Award Winner, "A String in the Harp." In this book, we find a family torn apart emotionally and physically after the death of the mother. Hoping a change of scenery will help the family heal David, the father, accepts a position as a professor at a University in Wales moving his young family across the ocean. Peter, the middle child who is having the most difficult time adapting to W ...more
Greg Fishbone
Mar 22, 2008 Greg Fishbone rated it really liked it
I read this 1977 Newbery Honor Book shortly after Enchantress from the Stars and found myself wondering why the Newbery Committees hate mothers so much. Surely anybody's who's looked into the "dead mother book" phenomenon can attest to the fact that the mothers of Newbery book protagonists have an amazingly short life expectancy and a high tendency to die even before the first chapter starts. Likewise the stars of most Disney animated films and every fairytale character with an evil stepmother. ...more
Melody
Oct 02, 2008 Melody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and found myself bitterly regretting not having read it when I was 12. It is the perfect book for the 12-year-old me, but it was also pretty great for the 44-year-old me. Bond weaves her version of Taliesin the Bard's story with the story of 3 modern kids trying to come to grips with their mother's death and their move to Wales from the US. One of the kids finds the key to Taliesin's harp and is granted the ability to see the story of the bard's life. Juxtaposed with these othe ...more
Caro
Sep 22, 2013 Caro rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wales, children-s-ya
As a new children's librarian, I read this when it first came out and loved it. This time around, I found it very slow. I was also taken aback that the 15-year-old daughter becomes the family housekeeper when she decides to stay in Wales after the holidays - this felt very dated. But the fantasy worked for me. I loved Peter's glimpses of the sixth century world. And I especially loved the descriptions of the Welsh countryside and the natural world - though it might not have been so enthralling i ...more
Vivian
Feb 11, 2015 Vivian rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya
Clueless as to how this earned a Newbery Honor back in 1977. It had so much potential to flesh out into a good story. Sigh.

What I liked: set in Wales, referenced Taliesen-- a 6th century bard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliesin)

what I didn't like: the flaky father who was clueless about parenting and his kids called him David (not Dad), that it straddled reality and fantasy but as with oil and water the two would not blend, the belligerent son who sullenly punished his father the first half o
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Bish Denham
Nov 25, 2014 Bish Denham rated it liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
This book was written nearly 40 years ago and I have taken that into consideration. Still the omniscient POV kept me from truly connecting with any of the characters. I desperately wanted the story to be told from Peter's and the bard, Taliesin's, point of view. I wanted to learn more about Taliesin and to get more of a feel for his life and times. As it was I felt a bit cheated.

Of the characters, I liked Becky the best. She was given very little POV time, yet her personality came through loud a
...more
Austen to Zafón
Although this book as a fantasy/time travel element, the real story is about how we make a new place home and how we adjust to change and loss. Three siblings and their father move from the US to Wales after the death of the mother. None of them are too happy about having left their friends and familiar surroundings behind, especially as Wales is cold, windy, and desolate. The son has a particularly hard time and there is some conflict between him and his father. The story chronicles a family co ...more
Brian
Sep 18, 2016 Brian rated it liked it
A slow...very suuhlow....start, but incredibly atmospheric merging of fantasy and reality. Characterization is well-handled as the children struggle to adjust to Wales and the mythic realities of that land.
BowbytheBay
Feb 27, 2013 BowbytheBay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was re-reading this book as I read it before in my tweens. Still a wonderful book. The dad still comes across as a bit of a jerk. Even as a parent now I think he had more of an obligation to keep in better touch with his kids and to be a bit more sympathetic after their mother died. Also, the idea that a 15 yr is going to take over the running of a house is a bit far-fetched.

Still, enjoyable. It is the book that made me want to visit Wales and then England in general--which I did with my mom
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Jann Lavalley
Mar 15, 2016 Jann Lavalley rated it really liked it
This is a Youth Fantasy book but the title appealed to me and the fact that the name Taliesin was on the book's cover was the real hook. The main story line is that 3 young American siblings are in Wales because their father has taken a University teaching post there. The youngest, Becky, settles in quite well and the oldest is only there during the Christmas holidays before she goes back to finish high school in Massachusetts. The middle sib. Peter is the one who has a problem - he doesn't fit ...more
Nancy Bandusky
Nov 14, 2014 Nancy Bandusky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jane Healy
A 1977 Newbery Honor Book, the story involves a motherless American family living temporarily in Wales and the legend of the Welsh bard Taliesen. Peter, the American boy, finds an ancient harp key on the shore. It allows him to see the chronological story of Taliesen's life. His older sister, Jen, disregards this as nonsense, while his younger sister, Becky believes him. Evenutally, they and their Welsh friends see some of what Peter sees. Through the book, the family draws closer together and P ...more
Cindy
Jan 05, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it
I found this book on the shelves at a used book shop. It's a YA novel that I didn't find very absorbing, but it might be just the speed for 12-year-olds. Good descriptive writing about the Welsh people and countryside/seaside. It's rare to find a book about a father's struggles to connect with his children, and for all the members to rebuild their sense of family after the wife/mother dies, but this was depicted very honestly.

I have an interest in early harp, and the book focuses partly on the W
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Susan Phelan
I couldn't get into it at all. Omniscient viewpoint. I didn't care about the characters or what was happening to them.
Leah
Dec 16, 2015 Leah rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book.
Jennifer Hughes
May 12, 2016 Jennifer Hughes rated it it was ok
At first glance, this book had everything going for it: cool setting in Wales, mythology, magic, mystery...but I just couldn't get into it. Sometimes I have a problem with YA books since I don't relate with them as an adult reader, but I really don't think that was it this time. For one thing, it was sooooooo long. I know you'll all cry "J.K. Rowling!" when I say this, but I think a good children's book shouldn't be over 300 pages. It's just too much for most kids' attention spans. You want spar ...more
Thomas Bell
Well, it's hard to say why I gave it a full three stars. I guess it was because I did find the story interesting, though it sure dragged on through the middle 200 pages of it.

And yes, it dragged on. The book was full of fluff, but I think it was purposeful. Lots of over-the-top descriptions of everything. I believe the author had two goals in the story, and the first was to try to give off an aura of what she feels Wales is like. She was VERY descriptive, and whether or not it was Wales I was fe
...more
Bethany
Rated PG-13 for some language (about five consecutive instances of d*** in one page).

Page 74: I GIVE UP. I can no longer take the comma splices. Goodbye, ye yarn of Wales and English professors, magic harp keys and dysfunctional families. (But seriously--if the protagonists' father is a college professor whose life is practically grading papers, Nancy Bond should know about comma splices. And her editor. And everyone in the publishing business. It should be a requirement to be able to spot comm
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Josiah
Jan 03, 2012 Josiah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Is A String in the Harp... historical fiction? fantasy? family drama? I suppose that it could be labeled a work of all three of those genres, plus multicultural lit, mystery and possibly even suspense. For a debut author, Nancy Bond does well in morphing the varied story elements into a cohesive narrative that should keep one's attention, while at the same time providing an excellent introductory education on the subject of ancient and contemporary life in Wales.

After the death of their mothe
...more
Shanna Gonzalez
Jun 09, 2009 Shanna Gonzalez rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-08-12
In this modern-to-medievel time-travel fantasy, a family of three children and their father go to live in Wales for the winter, grieving the loss of their wife and mother. Twelve-year-old Peter finds a key that opens a portal into ancient Wales, and he and his sisters must resist a rising threat when knowledge of the key spreads to those who wish to misuse it.

The book is recommended by several good sources and is well written, with good character development and a sustained sense of magic lurkin
...more
Melanie
Oct 26, 2011 Melanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery-books
Don't know how many stars to give this one. The first time I read it, I had never been to Wales, never studied Welsh, no exposure to any Welsh legends. And I loved it. It was fantastic. Then I read it after living in Wales to study Welsh for a summer, and I hated it. I think it may have been partially that I was terribly jealous of this family who got to live not far from Aberystwyth (which is my favourite place) and they didn't appreciate it. They all hated living there. But I also felt like Wa ...more
Alex
Feb 04, 2013 Alex rated it it was amazing
Ahh, I had SO much fun reading this book! It was like a long vacation in Susan Cooper's Wales.

So, I got this one at a garage sale because it was a Newberry Honor book. It's high Welsh fantasy in the vein of Susan Cooper's The Grey King and Silver on the Tree (two of my favorite favorites) and deals with a lot of the same mythology. I relished every word of the book like a long refreshing vacation in a favorite place.

The magical element in this book is much more understated than in a Susan Cooper
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Jill
Oct 07, 2013 Jill rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery-honor
Would have been three stars if not for the fact that it was long and repetitive. The plot and idea behind the story were interesting but the story became predictable in the first hundred pages.

"Looking back on that Christmas, Jen discovered little of it was clear. It had become a disordered muddle of isolated moments, the sight of the family car hideously flattened, the heavy, waxen lilies in the chapel, shaking hands endlessly and listening to people say "I'm so sorry..." Bewilderment, hurt. B
...more
Stephanie Middleton
Sep 25, 2011 Stephanie Middleton rated it it was ok
Shelves: kid-lit
Oh my, what to say about this book? I think perhaps the members of the Newbery committee were smoking crack the year they awarded this a notable "Honor." It's not that it was awful - from a middle aged woman's perspective at least. It's just that it's one of those dry, slow, and very, very dull stories that teachers assign to kids in school, ensuring that they grow up to hate reading and groan the next time they're forced to pick up a book.

That being said, I happened to almost enjoy the long ran
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EJ Johnson
Apr 01, 2009 EJ Johnson rated it liked it
This book found in the juvenile section of my library is about a family of four who are struggling with the sudden death of their mother. The father decides to take a one-year job in Wales. The two youngest children Becky, 10 years old, and Peter, 12 years old, have to go with him. The book starts when 15 year old Jen arrives for a Christmas visit.
She finds her father spending most his time at work or locked in his study and Peter unhappy and only wishing to be home. Shortly before Jen arrived P
...more
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Children's writer Nancy (Barbara) Bond was born in Maryland and was raised in the United Kingdom and Massachusetts. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Mount Holyoke College in 1966 and a graduate degree from the College of Librarianship in Wales in 1972. She taught at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979 to 2001.

In 1977 Bond received the Newbery
...more
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