A String in the Harp
by Nancy Bond, published 1976
“Something was coming, Peter knew it, and he was pretty sure he was going to be involved in it. Against his skin the Key felt hot. There was no vibration as yet but… Peter was afraid and yet he couldn’t take it off.. he was drawn to it.”
It’s not often that I go back to a children’s book a second time. Usually, if I read it and don’t think it meets my standards, I move on. However, at least a year after reading this children’s book, I was drawn to try it again. The first read had been difficult. I found the Welsh words difficult to read and pronounce, and I found the story hard to follow. On the second read, I couldn’t put the book down.
All of which goes to say, this is not an easy book to read, but it is worth putting the effort in. The book has two strands of story in it. One is a family who is living in Wales for a year, with their own domestic drama unfolding. The other strand is that the eldest boy Peter is pulled into time travel to Wales 1000 years earlier, to watch the life of the bard Taliesin unfold. Certainly the Taliesin story is harder to follow, as it is filled with historical events that the average reader would know nothing about. Yet there is something compelling about the way the story unfolds.
When I finished the second read of this children’s book, I felt victorious. It had a wonderful suspenseful climax, and a very, satisfying ending. The reader will need good reading skills to sort through some of the Welsh references, and to keep track of the two threads. But for a good reader, this is an excellent children’s book, ages 9 and up.