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A String in the Harp
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A String in the Harp

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  971 ratings  ·  98 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
79th out of 306 books — 260 voters
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Hidden Gems: YA-Fantasy Novels
308th out of 1,151 books — 2,883 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,791)
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Trina
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
Patti
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
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
Greg Fishbone
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
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
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
Caro
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
BowbytheBay
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
...more
Nancy Bandusky
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bish Denham
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
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
...more
Josiah
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
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
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
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
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
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
...more
EJ Johnson
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
Logan
Logan enjoys stories of time travel, the middle ages, and boys having adventures. I thought this would be a sure-fire hit. Unfortunately, the story focused more on the main character's family grieving the death of his mother than on the time travel story of Taliesin the Bard in 6th century Wales. The family has moved from the US to Wales for a year because the father has a gig at a Welsh university. Between the move, the culture shock, and the death of his mother, Peter has a hard time adjusting ...more
jessiethought
I tried to read A String in the Harp a few years ago and couldn't make it past the first few pages. This could be a boring book if you're not used to reading long, mostly non-action books. However, I came back and read this book recently. The writing is very good, and I enjoyed the story. Now that I'm a bit older, I appreciated the book more. The story was very interesting but not outstanding. This book doesn't have a bang! to it. But the reason I rate this book a five is because I love stories ...more
Makenna
When first starting to read this book, I definitely agreed with Peter, and hated Jen for being so mean. But as the book continued, while I still stayed by Peter's side, I started to see Jen trying to understand and help Peter. So in the end it was all very satisfying, if a little dull.
Shannon Cooley
I probably would have given this book 5 stars, but it took 100 pages for me to get into it. Only my own pre-existing interest in the bard Taliesin kept me reading for those first 100 pages.

That being said, the rest of the book was engaging and enjoyable. I loved learning about Wales, and I liked the way the family came together in the end. The stories about Taliesin were fun and believable, and the whole book made me want to go to Wales more. I also never realized just how small Wales is, but th
...more
Jms Media
This Newbery Honor book is full of adventure and fantasy. It is the story of three American kids who spend a summer in Wales. Their mom has recently died and their father is burying his grief in his work. With some time on their hands, these siblings find an adventure through an ancient magical harp key.
Chelsey
This is a Newberry Honor book and I have to say that I was extremely disappointed (note the two star rating). I was given this book by the same person that gave me Walk Two Moons so perhaps I was hoping for the same type of writing. Nope. A String in the Harp has beautiful and amazing picturesque descriptions of a dreary place in Wales. The story is missing so many pieces. I wasn't carried through this book, I had to do that for the author. That is just too much work for me and not enjoyable to ...more
Holly
Painfully boring. Thin on actual narrative and WAY too heavy on trivial details about how weird Wales is to three transplanted Americans. A family of Americans finally trying fish & chips for the first time after months of living in Wales is NOT a compelling plot point. It's like Ms. Bond, an American who spent a year in Wales, took all her "Oh, isn't it charming and strange to live in a foreign country!" moments and tried to turn them into a novel, and the strategy just doesn't offer enough ...more
Tuckova
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Tombelli
Still makes my toes cold, and my heart happy.
Scott Williams
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Margaret
I really liked it as a 10-year-old. I reread it this week and it held up okay - not as solid as the Dark Is Rising series, which it resembles quite a bit, but still readable and engaging. The Welsh characters, and the exploration of the tension between spiritual and rational understanding, are a bit shallowly drawn, even for a kid's book. But her atmospheric, evocative descriptions of the Welsh landscape and history keep things interesting, and she does a good job characterizing the grieving fam ...more
Aiyaruk
Nov 07, 2007 Aiyaruk rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of children's literature
Shelves: read-fiction
This novel was recommended to me by my best friend, who happens to have an excellent taste in literature. What struck me the most about this novel and has stuck with me since are the descriptions of Wales. While I've always thought of it as such a foreign, far-off place, this novel made me realize how real it is. The fantasy aspects were written so well that I hardly realized that they were fantasy at all instead of something plausible and entirely possible. Though it's a bit of a slow read, it' ...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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