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A String in the Harp (Puffin Newberry Library) Paperback – 1 Nov 1987

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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Childrens Books; Reprint edition (1 Nov. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140323767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140323764
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,874,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A most impressive first novel...deftly blends fantasy and realism."

-- "Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, " starred review

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First Sentence
AN HOUR AND A QUARTER from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth on the train. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I found this book while living in the United States, where I believe it is quite widely read. It is the story of three American children who have to move to Wales when their professor father takes a post there. When they find an ancient tuning key for a harp, past and present begin to merge and they are drawn into the history and folklore of the Mabinogion.

The book is very well written, and Wales and its mythology are vivdly depicted. Although author and protagonists are American, the prose does not have a strong US flavour, which I appreciated. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence; the themes, use of folklore and sense of place overcome the slightly flat characters (who nevertheless have a bit more to distinguish them than the Drews in Cooper's work).

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A gripping read.
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By S. Barth on 22 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
I received this novel when I was ten, and read it at least once a year up through high school. It fostered a love of Wales in me so much that I have planned a trip to see the beautiful countryside. I recommend it highly, remembering that there were a few light cursewords - so make sure your child is mature enough for that.
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By A Customer on 24 Jan. 1999
Format: Paperback
I just read this in school, and thought it was really good. It made me want to learn more about Welsh bards, and Wales in general. It was a very complete story and didn't let you down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 39 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
"String" satisfies 1 Aug. 2002
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"A String in the Harp" is one of the worthy fantasy books that is often overlooked, as it was published first in the 1970s and dips into complicated mythology that casual readers won't be able to absorb. However, it's an exceptional book for people who have read the Prydain Chronicles and The Dark is Rising sequence, and who are craving more.
Since the death of their mother, the three Morgan children have become increasingly divided from their father David. Peter and Becky live with him in an isolated town in Wales, while Jen lives in the United States with her aunt. When Jen arrives on a vacation, she finds David distant and uncommunicative, and Peter sullen and angry. Despite the isolation of the town, Jen tries her hardest to enjoy it, and to keep her family from fragmenting further.
Then Peter finds a harp tuning key, and begins getting glimpses of the past -- and of the legendary bard Taliesin. He becomes increasingly drawn to his visions of the past, and even vanishes in an attempt to uncover more about Taliesin. Jen tries to deny that the key is magical, but as Peter falls more and more under the key's spell, the three children must find out what they need to do for it.
Bond weaves Welsh mythology and modern-day dilemmas together in a way that very few authors can. On one hand, we have the Morgan kids with their present-day actions -- hanging out with some Welsh friends, seeking a sheep-killer (who turns out to be connected to the key), and Jen trying to learn how to cook. She also does a good job of giving the readers a view of a fast-dying way of life in Wales, though these sections stretch on a little too long. But Bond outdoes herself in the glimpses of the past, in which the language becomes dreamy and evocative. In some areas it becomes reminiscent of Susan Cooper at her finest moments.
People who want their fantasy generic, cute and mindless will not like "String." Nothing in the Welsh mythos is dumbed down for the audience, and younger kids will probably have difficulty keeping some of the legends straight. However, if readers handled other mythologically-oriented books, they will have no trouble with this one.
Peter's desperate attachment to the key is excellently-written, as is his resentment towards his father for stranding him in a tiny Welsh town. Jen and Becky are a little less prominent, as they are not seeing the past, but Jen's unswerving assertions that Peter is lying will annoy readers. David also will initially annoy readers, because of his unwillingness to consider his children's emotions, but becomes more sympathetic toward the end of the book. The Welsh characters, with the exception of the revolting Dr. Owen, don't elicit as much reaction as the American ones, but the character of Taliesin manages to fascinate without even appearing much. He's a pervasive presence throughout the book.
Fans of "The Dark is Rising" and Lloyd Alexander will thoroughly enjoy "String in the Harp," a dreamy tale of magic, myth and history.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A Pleasing Twist of Modern Fantasy and a Wandering Bard 11 Jun. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When fourteen-year-old Jen leaves her home in Massachusetts to visit her father, brother, and sister in Wales, she never expects anything but a normal winter break from school. As it turns out, her brother Peter has become unusually moody--he misses Massachusetts, his friends, his dead mother, his "real" house, and just about anything he can think of to complain to his father about. Finally, Peter comes to Jen with some ridiculous story about an old harp's tuning key that used to belong to the bard Taliesin. He tells her that it "sings" to him (it shows him stories with harp songs about its former owner)--a story only their ten-year-old sister Becky will believe. The book goes on to tell of Taliesin's life intertwined with Peter's and Jen's own and how he comes to terms with the key itself. Besides having a terrific plot, this book relates to the reader some fantastic imagery of a tiny village in Wales. This story is, I think, a masterpiece, and one of the best books I've read is such a long time. Once in a while you find an old book on your shelf, read it, and realize that some books don't win awards for no reason. This is one of those times.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A really terrific book! 8 Feb. 2001
By olivia norman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I recently read the book, "A String In The Harp," By Nancy Bond. I thought that it was a great book all round. The book tells the story of a family whos life has been torn apart by their Mother's death. 15 year old Jen Morgan has been left in Amherst, to continue with her high school education while her family travles to a small Welsh villege for a year while her father teaches at a univercity. Jen visets her family over Christmas vacation, and ends up staying the rest of the year, because she finds out that their is a lot going on in her family, and that it is important for them all to be together. The story folcuses on her younger brother Peter, who has found a harp key which he claims belongs to a sixth century Welsh bard. At first Jen doesn't want to believe Peter's wild stories about the key, and the power that it exerts over him, but eventually she has no choice, but to accept it's existence. On top of all this, Jen decides to learn how to keep house, and try to act as a Mother to her two younger siblings. In this book Nancy Bond does a great job of weaving the life of a school boy from Amherst, and that of a Welsh bard together, to tell an extremely suspensful, gripping story. I would reccomend this book to any one who likes a good read!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Very Good 1 July 2000
By Bridget - Published on Amazon.com
Format: School & Library Binding
A String In The Harp is a really good read. I am not exactly your book-worm type of gal, but I could barely take my eyes off this book. Its very creative and imaginative. A short summary of the book: The Morgan family's mom dies. They move to a foreign country leaving the oldest sister behind with relatives. The family just falls apart. When word comes that the sister (Jen) will be coming to visit, everyone hopes things will change. Jen comes and things only get worse. When Peter (the brother) finds a harp key, life changes from there. I don't want to give the ending away so you will just have to read it yourself. The book is way better than I expected, I hope you'll give it a try.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Patience rewarded 30 Mar. 2006
By S. Silverman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A Newbery Honor book from the late 70s, I picked it up at a library sale because of that Newbery silver seal on the front. It's a book that develops slowly, and is worth the patience to sustain reading it. The Morgan family is facing two enormous changes, the loss of the mother in an auto accident, and the adjustment to Wales after the grieving father moves them there from Amherst. The unhurried development paves the way for very well-constructed characters, even the ones outside the focal Morgan family. The Morgans are clear, three dimensional characters living in a novel setting, the coast of Wales, the descriptions of which also benefit from the author's patient, clear depictions. The fantasy aspect involves the discovery of a harp key by the middle child of the Morgans, the son Peter. The key has a profound effect, providing Peter with access to events in Welsh history. He doesn't time travel, but Bond cleverly gives him access in a kind of time flow, where, not only can he see the past, but there are times when it exchanges itself with the present enough to be evident to others, too. As much fun as all this time and legend interaction is, the real heart of the book involves the adapting to the two big changes, how the family begins in Wales in full-fledged grieving which takes different forms in different family members, and slowly blends the growing out of it and the growing into this new place in warm, believable, caring ways.
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