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I Had Seen Castles

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  631 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
John Dante is seventeen when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and he wants to fight for his country. But then he falls head over heels for Ginny Burton, who is against all war, and his beliefs are suddenly questioned. Rather than be judged a traitor or a coward, though, John enlists--a decision that changes his life forever.

Includes a reader's guide and an inverview with t
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published October 1st 1993)
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Jul 17, 2010 Sandy rated it it was amazing
It's a tough little book.

It's a lyrical little book.

It's a book full of heart.

It's honest.

It leaves you humble.

Cynthia Rylant's 97-page novel I Had Seen Castles is the fictional memoir of a man who came of age at the dawn of America's involvement in World War II. John Dante was a young man "pissed" about Pearl Harbor and ready to lay his life on the line in the name of his country.

As he prepares to do just that, he meets a girl named Ginny who challenges his notion of what is right. She is a pa
Not Jorden
May 19, 2011 Not Jorden rated it it was amazing
I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant. This is about a 17 year old boy named John Dante who was to make the choice to either go out to fight for the US in the Second World War. He must choose to leave his friends and family to go and fight, or stay and be known as a coward.

The most humorous part of the book was when Ginny and John had sexual intercourse and he said later on that while doing that he had a craving for a Spaghetti Dinner at Luigi's Restaurant. It was quite funny because it was a p
Stephanne Stacey
Jul 19, 2016 Stephanne Stacey rated it it was amazing
My heart has been profoundly touched by this simple book. I'm not sure if it is because so many of my family have served our country in war and in peace time, or if it is a story that will touch anyone's heart. Either way this has made my must read list for anyone middle school and older.

Rylant has done such a wonderful job with the emotional development of the protagonist that by the end you felt this soldier's loneliness and regret. There are times when a single sentence spoke years of wisdom,
Nov 09, 2008 Mara rated it it was amazing
This is not meant to be a book of suspense. From the very beginning we know that the narrator is telling us the story of his experiences during World War II from many years since that time. We need not even have any suspense about the fate of his relationship with the girl he left behind, as it's reasonably clear that he's alone when he tells us the story.

Rather, this is a story of what happened to one boy when the U.S. entered WWII. Told with incredible detail, Rylant puts us inside the head of
Apr 26, 2010 Ashley rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This is a short, quick book, but it is that very sparseness that makes the story so gripping, honest and memorable. This book does nothing to glorify war. It deals with the brutalities of war with harshness interspersed with honesty and it forces you to focus on the desolate nature of war. So many war stories deal with the bad by focusing on the heroic nature of their actions, never looking too closely at what those actions did to those soldiers. After Hiroshima, what did the scientists who crea ...more
Kristins Nusbaum
May 22, 2015 Kristins Nusbaum rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
I enjoyed this book very much. This is a story narrated by John Dante in the first person. This book takes place in the 1940's in Pittsburgh.The themes of this book would be love and war. This is a novel and its also fiction.
John Dante get mad when hearing that the Japanese had set off a bomb in Hawaii. So his friends and he are all determinnd to go into the military. They all think they are capable of ending this war. He has to wait until his 18th birthday to enlist into the military. One day
Int'l librarian
Rylant has written 97 pages of Cliff Notes for World War Two fiction. The narrator is in his 60s, looking back upon his enlistment and combat duty in Italy. The home front war factories, blind patriotism, desperate romance, the bomb: it’s all crammed in. As for emotional themes: “I could not articulate then, in any way that she would have understood, why I would rather have died than been judged a coward.” “Only this did I fear: only death.” “We were all clean shaven, our uniforms unsoiled: a ha ...more
Joshua Blum
May 15, 2016 Joshua Blum rated it it was amazing
From the title and cover (my copy showed a picture of an American GI holding a rifle and looking at a medieval desert castle far in the distance), one might guess that this is a novel not so much about war but the effects of war, particularly its aftermath on the psyches of both the main character, a young GI, and the nations involved in WWII. But it's also about growing up, experiencing too much too soon, and trying to reconcile a return to civility after one has, at best, seen castles, and at ...more
Jun 16, 2009 Melody rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it
I liked this book because it was from the unique point of view of an old man looking back at his teen years. This book shows what its like for young men who are in love with someone to go into war and having to leave everything behind. This aspect of war is often left out of many stories. It was interesting to learn about, not just the blood and gore that goes along with war, but the emotional side of it. I can imagine many young people felt the same way this 17 year old felt. I would recommend ...more
Linda Lipko
May 06, 2010 Linda Lipko rated it liked it
Young, hopefull, energetic and idealistic John Dante is 17 when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Swept away with patriotism, John eagerly awaits his 18th birthday when he can enlist in WWII.

Years later, now retired, John tells the reader his story of how his war experiences shaped and changed him.

Rylant writes with compassion, insight and poetic sparseness of beauty. This is a small book that packs a big wallop.

Sadly, because it is labeled Young Adult, many may never read this incredible gem!

Jul 12, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
Thin Young Adult book with a big subject. Well-written account of what it was like to be a young man during the World War II era & the loss of innocence & internal change that war brings. Haunting but very positive in the end.
Aug 16, 2012 Judith rated it it was amazing
A great book, sometimes I am in awe of an author's ability to get such a complete point across in such a short book. Made me think of my grandfather and his time in the war. Also made me very thankful he knew my grandmother was waiting for him to come home.
Dec 10, 2008 Nicholle rated it liked it
Shelves: yal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2007 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: military hopefuls
Shelves: favoritestuff
How could I forget Cynthia Rylant? Such good stuff. This is about a kid who feels pressure to join the military during WWII because all his friends are, but the girl he loves is telling him not to.
Chrissa Kuntz
Jan 27, 2016 Chrissa Kuntz rated it really liked it
For such a short book, it packs a big punch. Good for teens!
Dec 11, 2008 Jenny added it
I re-read this one last week, after years of it sitting on the shelf. I dearly love it.
Esther May
Dec 12, 2016 Esther May rated it liked it
I liked this book. Just a warning, it is not a kids book. Cynthia Rylant writes tons of books for kids and this book is not one of them.
Apr 07, 2016 Rich rated it liked it
I Had Seen Castles reads like a list of major World War II events loosely strung together by the narrative of an old man reflecting on his experiences before, during, and after the war. That's not to say that this little novella isn't insightful, poignant, or particularly enjoyable to read (which it certainly is at times), but just that the writing style is so sparse that it makes Hemingway look like he embellishes too much.

The narrator, John Dante, characterizes his seventeen-year-old self as a
Aug 09, 2011 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-books-read
i pick this book because it was short and i had a lot of big book before it
it turns out that it was a story based around World War 2 times, which made its feel, (i don't know why for me) more alive, moving in its ways of characters, feeling as though i was there in the characters mind

its strange to me that i feel this same way when ever i read a book based during this time or during the Berlin wall time, a feeling that life needs meaning in order to understand what its meant for for an individua
Mrs Pearl
Sep 16, 2013 Mrs Pearl rated it liked it
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8

If I had to pick a genre to be my "stretch" it would be historical fiction. I've never been drawn to the history element in books and that is probably because a.)I haven't read many and b.)it feels like I'm being forced through a history class, which is not something that I would like to do, thank you very much.

I guess I should give the genre more credit. This book was a quick, easy, entertaining read that took you alongside a soldier, John
Shelley Daugherty
Jul 16, 2013 Shelley Daugherty rated it it was amazing
Rylant shines in this fiction work about World War II. This book shows the brutal honesty of what life was like in America during the months leading up to the war and the years that followed. The most poignant part of the book were the raw emotions of what life was like on the front lines and what the soliders, few more than boys, endured during their time overseas.

Unlike most stories told about World War II, this book does not focus on just one event (the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the bombing of P
Dayna 8f-1
May 23, 2011 Dayna 8f-1 rated it really liked it
I Had Seen Castles, by Cynthia Rylant is about a man named John who is telling his story. John wants to go to war but at the time he is too young. While he was waiting till he was eligible to go to war he meets a girl named Ginny. The two of them get very close. John eventually goes to war when he comes back he feels different and he moves away.

The best thing about this book is not the story it’s the way it was written. It was written as someone’s journal so it was easy to follow because there’s
Jesse Beynon
Mar 31, 2012 Jesse Beynon rated it liked it
This book is about a young man in his senior year of high school. John Dante is 17. As many of his friends leave for war, he can't because he is not quite 18. Everyone is so upset with the Japanese. There are banners and posters, etc. that slander them and all they stand for. They are all enjoying the idea of war until reports of their loved ones start coming back as dead. This is when war becomes a reality to many of them. John meets a girl, Ginny, that inspires him. They fall in love and begin ...more
Mar 09, 2007 J rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
".. Ginny, I want you to know that I am really alive. And I still love you."

This is a tale of the loss of innocence. The story is set in World War II but the sheer emotion it conveys is timeless. More than just a love story, this book is about a boy forced to mature quickly in a time of war. The journey he undertakes is told with heartbreaking honesty as he reexamines his own humanity.

Cynthia Rylant fits all this in a book not even a hundred pages long. I was struck by the author's careful use o
A boy, a girl, a steel town, a war. This slim YA novella contains more ponderables than you'd expect from the page count. The writing is exquisite - descriptions of pre-World War II Pittsburg make you feel the grit in your throat as the steel mills pump out pollution.

John Dante is 17 when Pearl Harbor is bombed. Of course he will enlist in the military as soon as he can. Nobody would ever consider anything else - only cowards, right? Or so he believes until he meets Ginny, who shows offers him
Apr 22, 2008 Hank rated it really liked it
I don't usually search out historical fiction although I often end up liking what I read in it. I have the impression, wrong headed as it is, that all historical fiction takes place either on a farm somewhere, or during WWII. This book does happen to be set during the War, but it takes place almost entirely in Pittsburgh PA, my hometown. This book is great because Cynthia Rylant is so robust with the emotional life of her characters. This time period in particular is fraught with fear, or anger, ...more
Mackenzie Cline
I had just finished the book I Had Seen Castles By Cynthia Rylant. The book was about a seventeen year old who drops out of school when he turns eighteen so he can join the army.

I think that the best part of the book is when he decided to drop out to join the army.I think it was the best part in the book because I had no idea what was going to happen next.There were so many different things that could of happened so the book was hard to guess what was going to happen next.I liked that part of th
Roger DeBlanck
Nov 11, 2016 Roger DeBlanck rated it it was amazing
Rylant’s book is extremely successful at bringing the totality of World War II into perspective. She provides a glimpse of the country mobilizing for war after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She explains how this infamous event unleashed terror, which spilled over into rage. Pearl Harbor acted as a “shock wave” that propelled the nation’s thinking into a primitive desire to kill. But only weeks earlier, Rylant explains, these same boys wanted no part of war. Then she smoothly takes the mood of the ...more
Mar 26, 2010 Jackie rated it really liked it
This is a quiet little book, but one with a powerful message. Cynthia Rylant's book begins in 1942 and John Dante and his buddies are 17. On the day after Pearl Harbor, they all want to enlist including John, but his girlfriend Ginny wants him to sign on as a CO (conscientious objector). She is against any war. John doesn't listen to her and ships out to North Africa and participates in the invasion of Sicily. He witnesses horror and fear and fatigue and he realizes that war is not the glorious ...more
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An author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and young adults as well as an author and author/illustrator of picture books for children, Cynthia Rylant is recognized as a gifted writer who has contributed memorably to several genres of juvenile literature. A prolific author who often bases her works on her own background, especially on her childhood in the West Virginia mountains, she ...more
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“The war was just a mile or so away, and I wondered at my simply walking to it, as I might walk to the market or to school. Today I will walk to the war.” 5 likes
“It is almost impossible for a parent to hold a secret from a child. Children, without the skills of language, spend years developing instead an intuition. By the time they are fifteen, as I was, they are masters of a kind of clairvoyance that tells them, He is depressed, He is frightened, He is pleased.” 1 likes
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