book review

A String in the Harp

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Today's post is lovingly dedicated to Emily and her boys of Mousy Brown, because they live in Wales. I don't know what we expected when we picked up A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond….maybe something musical.  What we didn't expect was to be thrown into the landscape and mythology of Wales.  The writing and plot are brilliant and the imagery of Wales left us wanting to get on the next plane.

14 year old Jen left her home in Western Massachusetts to visit her father, brother, and sister in Wales for winter break.

After the death of her mother, Jen stayed in Massachusetts with her aunt, but her father,and siblings moved to Wales so that their father could take a university position.

Jen, expecting a normal winter break arrives in Wales to find her brother Peter very moody.  He misses his "real" home, his family, and friends, his mom and anything else which is bound to "home". He doesn't hesitate a moment to constantly complain to his father about the circumstances. Sister Becky just missed her sister Jen.It is an emotionally desperate situation when Peter finds an old harp tuning key which just happened to belong to the bard and national welsh hero Taliesin. 

The key sings to Peter and shows him the images and stories of the past. The story intertwines the life of Taliesin with that of Peter, Jen, and Becky.  Peter sees the stories. Jen and Becky do not, which leads to some dumbfounding moments. 

Throughout the weaving of past and present there are always the charming people of Wales in both the city and countryside. This book didn't win a Newbury Award for nothing. A truly great read.

To find out more about Taliesin have a look here. 

Something to Do:

In the story they see and use a coracle. To be honest, I've always wanted one of these. For my birthday last year I found this knitted one by Debbie New and some great how to's over here.

Debbie new

For us, however, I thought it would be so fun to make a little coracle using a macrame ring,pipe cleaners, and duct tape. Who doesn't love duct tape? This fun and easy project had us playing in water for hours and creating other fun things like canoes, and sailboats. Buoyancy was an issue but we think we got the kinks worked out.

You will need:

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  • small to medium size macrame ring
  • 4 to 6 pipe cleaners
  • 1 bread tie
  • duct tape, color of your own choosing

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Twist one side of a pipe cleaner to one side of the macrame ring.

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Now fasten it to the other side.

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Add another pipe cleaner across the ring in the other direction.

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Do this two more times placing pipe cleaners on the diagonally. 

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Tear long strips of duct tape.

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And start placing it from one side of the ring to the other. Each new strip will overlap with the one you have just placed.

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Next tear smaller strips of duct tape for the inside of the coracle. Place on these small strips on the inside of the coracle and smooth it down. Now take small strips of duct tape and place it all around the outside of the coracle and smooth it out firmly.
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 It's time for a little floating in the kitchen sink. The coracle might tip and let in a whole bunch of water. The solution for this is to put a little baggy of dried beans or lentils until the coracle floats upright. Put in your sailor action figure and have a fun day in the sink.

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Bon Voyage !!!!!!!

2 thoughts on “A String in the Harp

  1. Oh Thank you Valarie – how wonderful to have a story dedicated to us! I have never read it but we will get straight down to the library and order a copy! Love the coracle too – There is a little boat house on the river near here where a man makes traditional wooden coracles in the summer – I’ll try and take some photos for you next time he is there! Big hugs from Wales Emily x

  2. That is too cool. Who knew that they still really make coracles. One day I will have to come and see them for myself. Yes please send photos and I’ll post them here so everyone can see.
    I thought of all of you when I was reading this book. You are the only people I know via the blogs from Wales.
    big hugs from our little coracle.

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