I am looking for a book I read around 1995 about a school girl who moved to Wales and found a way to travel back in time and then return to the present.

From what I can remember, there may have been something about a box, and possibly a reference to a dragon. The girl may have gone back in time to aid a king. At one point girls at school initially pick on her and are upset when she swears at them in Welsh when she doesn't know the local language. There may have been something to do with a hillside or cave or similar.

  • Children, Wales, kings and time travel make me think of The Dark Is Rising sequence, specifically the last two books, but there was only one girl and she was not the main character in either of those books. Nov 30, 2018 at 12:28
  • If it were Ireland, I know a handful of ones that mostly match up to this.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 30, 2018 at 12:28
  • @FuzzyBoots Definitely in Wales, certainly that the protagonist did not know Welsh when she moved there and the local girls were upset when she used their language.
    – Underverse
    Dec 1, 2018 at 7:27
  • @DanielRoseman I found that series when originally looking for this book. No, it's not that series.
    – Underverse
    Dec 1, 2018 at 7:30

3 Answers 3


Merryll of the Stones by Brian Caswell

Book Cover - *Merryll of the Stones*

Her parents die in a plane crash and she moves to Wales to live with her uncle. She is a Welsh royalty sent through time to be protected. Her friend is also a reincarnation of someone from the past. Her cousin dislikes her and isolates her at school. The boys and girls have separate playgrounds.

  • That's the one. Thanks for finding it!
    – Underverse
    Jan 3, 2019 at 22:33

This sounds like A String in The Harp by Nancy Bond.

Here is the cover of the first edition:

Cover of first edition

You say you read it around 1995. From Wikipedia:

A String in the Harp is a children's fantasy novel by Nancy Bond first published in 1976.

It is thus certainly possible that you could have read it in 1995.

You say it is about a girl who moved to Wales. From Wikipedia:

It tells of the American Morgan family who temporarily move to Wales,

And (my emphasis):

Mr. Morgan has taken a temporary teaching position at the University of Aberystwyth and with the two younger children is living in a nearby seaside village. Jen is dismayed to find their home cold and uncomfortable, her brother and sister unhappy, and their father ignoring them. She eventually convinces her father to let her remain with the family in Wales instead of finishing high school in America.

You say it involves traveling back in time. From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

This well-received novel is an unusual time travel story, with its focus on the emotional pain and separation the Morgans experience after the death of their mother and the gradual healing they find through their experiences.

You mention aiding a king. The character list contains two kings, but the time traveling didn't really aide them in any way. From Wikipedia:

  • Gwyddno Garanhir, king of Ceredigion, Taliesin's patron and friend

  • Maelgwn Gwynedd, king of Gwynedd

This is because the time travel in this story is not really complete time travel. It's more like the characters just get to view scenes from the past. From Wikipedia (my emphasis):

As a time travel fantasy, Deborah O'Keefe in Readers in Wonderland considered A String in the Harp an unusual form of the "Junior-Year-Abroad type of fantasy" because the children observe Taliesin and his world but never fully enter it.

And a quote from Chapter Nine (my emphasis):

He could only watch: he, Peter could do nothing to prevent any of it. And it was happening again, The pattern was set by the past and could not be altered. He was only a spectator, not of that time, and therefore powerless.

You mention getting picked on and swearing and not knowing the local language. While I don't think that specifically happens in the book, it is mentioned in the beginning of the book that Peter doesn't like school, does not make friends there, and hates the fact that classes are taught in Welsh which he doesn't understand. And shortly thereafter it is mentioned that he swore, which his father would not approve of.

You mention that there may have been a hillside or a cave or something similar. There is definitely a hillside, as seen in this sentence from Chapter Seven:

They were all relieved to reach the bare, windy hillside beyond.

There was probably also at least one cave mentioned in the book.

You mention that there may have been a reference to a dragon. Here is a quote from Chapter Nine.

Not without cause had the monk Gildas called Maelgwyn "The Dragon".

And later in the same chapter:

The Dragon's attack at night had been unexpected.

There are a few discrepancies between this book and the details you mention. While there is a girl, Jen, in the book, it is mostly her brother Peter that fits the other descriptions. He was the one in school and he was the one who discovered the harp key (which is how they went back in time). Additionally, it is not the standard form of time travel (more like simply viewing the past), and I don't think there was anything significant about a box.

  • Hi Alex, thanks for answering. The protagonist was definitely a girl, and she actually visited the past. So, no, not this book. I went through the list of books on time travel in Wikipedia, Welsh books involving Time Travel, and Welsh + time travel + references to king or dragons. This may be an obscure book.
    – Underverse
    Dec 1, 2018 at 7:51

As soon as I saw this I thought “The Owl Service” by Alan Garner. It's a tenuous likeness I'll admit, but here goes anyway.

One of the protagonists is a girl called Alison She is visiting a holiday home in Wales. An element of Welsh mythology is drawn into the lives of the children, so no time travel. There is something hidden under the plaster of a wall, but I don’t think it is a dragon. Box in attic which contains a magical set of plates. Rock with hole in it, not a cave, but very important, “The Stone of Gronw”. Hillside of importance.

If not then sorry, but read it anyway, it's a cracker. It was also made into a short TV series.

  • It isn't this book, but thanks for trying.
    – Underverse
    Dec 31, 2018 at 3:51

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