I Had Seen Castles
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

I Had Seen Castles

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  451 ratings  ·  81 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...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published October 1st 1993)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 718)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
Stephannestacey Stacey
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,...more
Shelley Daugherty
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...more
Not Jorden
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...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Lipko
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!

This is a novella about a 17 year old boy living in Pittsburgh during WW2 . At the beginning of the story, he tells of the normal life a teen of that time lives ,things ,he enjoys, and just a life in general .
Then Pearl Harbor happens . This event changes his life, along with everyone else's . His home life was turned upside down. Each person in his family was deeply affected in their own ways,and it changed all their lives forever .
It portrays a normal family that transforms into a completely d...more
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.
Jesse Beynon
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
Dayna 8f-1
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...more
Apr 26, 2010 Ashley rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Mrs Pearl
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...more
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...more
Mar 09, 2007 J rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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
Roger DeBlanck
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 to rage. Pearl Harbor acted as a “shock wave” that switched the nation’s thinking to 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 count...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...more
Denise Krebs
Just one thought about word choice...Only Cynthia Rylant could make every word in 97 pages count. Early in the book, I remember reading the word sturdy to describe the knights John decorated for his model castle as a boy. I actually wondered why she used the word sturdy twice to describe the knights.

Then later when he sees a real castle, as he is nearing the front lines of war, I realized why she emphasized sturdy. This time he describes the knights in his castle as little. Just as he felt.

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. Whi...moreI 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 old enough to go to war he meets a girl named Ginny. ginny and John get very close. John eventually goes to war when he comes back he doesn't feel the same so he m...more
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
Johnathan Dante is a teenager during WW2 and doesn't know wether or not he wants to go to war, to be a hero, or stay home with his family and loved ones. I like this book becuase it tells you that war is not exactly something heroic, and it can scar you for life. When you come out of war, you are a completely changed person, and it is that essence of truth that was the most enjoyable part of the book. Most stories of war are greatly exaggurated, which isn't the case in this book. It is a pretty...more
Seth Sharpe
I read I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant this week. I wasn't quite sure what age or grade level this book was aimed towards when I first checked it out, and I'm still not quite sure after reading it. The book is about a young man who goes off to war and is ready to fight for freedom and all that is right but ends up being drastically changed by the experiences of war. The book is written from John's (the young man) perspective. It is a great book but is vivid and can be disturbing so I would...more
In fewer than 100 pages, Cynthia Rylant captures us and imparts what it meant to be a young man during World War ll.
The romanticized ideal of an 18 year old heading off to fight for country, liberty and democracy comes to a blood curdling halt when the horror of war is faced on the front. Powerful, moving and very thoughtful, Rylant makes the point that the young soldiers soon realized they were just like their German and Japanese foes, and the dead bodies looked remarkably alike. The book also...more
The act of war, in the moment, is not beautiful; however beauty emerges through the personalities of humans that grow amidst the experiences. This short book is a nugget of beauty. Every character handles their time during war differently. We realize that Americans, while fenced off from eachother during peacetime, break out of their walls to band together during war time. We realize that the enemy may be our enemy, friend, or even ourselves depending on the situation. I would recommend this boo...more
This ia a great fiction book about a boy going off to war and coming home a lost man. I was very touched by such a humble book.
Unchan Ki
I had seen castles is kind of a depressing story which I liked. This is interesting because if relates to friendship and war. The relationship between friendship and war was the best combination of sadness.(love and war) Every action and content was easy to understand that made me understood the book. It always feels the best when you read a book that you understand. I recommend this book to people who like friendship, war, who like to understand the book easily, or who want to relax reading wit...more
Bridget R. Wilson
As an old man, John reminisces about coming of age in the midst of World War II. The things he saw, the things he did as a young soldier changed who he was.

What I thought: For a small book (97 pages), this certainly packs a punch. Through John's narration, I experienced all the things he did. I felt his heartbreak as he lost his idenity to the war, as he saw the sacrifices his family made. I felt his terror as he waited in a hole on the front lines for death to claim someone. Looking back on the...more
I read this book several times while I was in high school and loved it. I couldn't remember what it was called, though, and had had no luck in my search for the book. Being a very visually/spatially oriented person, my previous method of finding the book (remembering where it was shelved in the library and what the spine looked like) didn't help me after my local library was remodelled. And today while reading a book about teaching reading, I found it. It felt like a miracle.

I will have to re-re...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 23 24 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Heroes Don't Run: A Novel of the Pacific War
  • One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II
  • The Ramsay Scallop
  • So Far from the Sea
  • George Vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides
  • Soldier X
  • Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers
  • A Summer of Kings
  • Your Sad Eyes And Unforgettable Mouth
  • January's Sparrow
  • Erika's Story
  • 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen
  • Year of Impossible Goodbyes
  • How I Found the Strong
  • Hiroshima
  • Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation
  • Bull Run
  • Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse (Cherry Ames, #2)
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
More about Cynthia Rylant...
The Relatives Came Missing May When I Was Young in the Mountains Henry and Mudge: The First Book (Henry and Mudge, #1) Old Town in the Green Groves: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years

Share This Book

“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.” 4 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.” 0 likes
More quotes…