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I Had Seen Castles
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I Had Seen Castles

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  760 ratings  ·  145 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 wi/>
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 1st 2004 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published October 1st 1993)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  760 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Jul 17, 2010 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 G
Jul 15, 2013 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
Catherine  Mustread
The horror of 1939 when a family learns about the capabilities of the nuclear bomb. Pittsburg boy, 16-year-old John, is anxious to join the fighting in World War 2 until he meets Ginny, a pacifist who challenges his thinking and changes the course of his life.
Not Jorden
May 17, 2011 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 becaus
Stephanne Stacey
May 03, 2014 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 year
Chrissa Kuntz
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
For such a short book, it packs a big punch. Good for teens!
Katelyn Kirchgasser
this book was very interesting and emotional. it shows the life of a young man living in the time of WW2. It starts off with the main character, John, living in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This is during the time that Pearl Harbor was recently bombed. All men in his area are infuriated and all wish to join the army. John is only 17, a senior in high school, so he has to wait to apply. Though many of his friends already left, like his best friend, who dies in battle. During the time he was home, Joh ...more
Nov 09, 2008 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
Kristins Nusbaum
May 22, 2015 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
Apr 20, 2010 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
Joshua Blum
May 15, 2016 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
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
Jan 12, 2016 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
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Lipko
May 06, 2010 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
Dec 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: yal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2012 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.
Jul 12, 2008 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.
Dec 11, 2008 added it
I re-read this one last week, after years of it sitting on the shelf. I dearly love it.
Aug 01, 2007 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.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I Had Seen Castles book review
I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant is a realistic fiction story that mostly takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but pieces of the story are in Toronto, Canada. The story is about a guy named John who deals with the complications of World War II. He is determined to enlist in the war and fight for his country. Before John goes off to war, he falls in love with a girl named Ginny. Although John wants to go to the war and fight for his country, Ginny is no
Haley VanBuskirk
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Book Review - I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant
By: Haley VanBuskirk

Throughout the novel I Had Seen Castles, Cynthia Rylant expresses John Dante’s life. A young soldier that was enlisted into World War II. From when he was a youngly until his last days. His first love and the story of being in love. She shows him and his family’s experiences through historical events, such as his mom becoming a Rosie, the war fighting/bombing and his enlistment at the age of eighteen. John's
Dylan Marko
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Goodreads Book Review
I Had Seen Castles, by Cynthia Rylant, was overall an OK book. The book starts out with John Dante and his family in the smoggy city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All is normal and dull, until one afternoon John’s Dad comes home with the horrible news that the Axis had discovered the method of splitting the uranium atom. And sure enough, two years later, the Japanese dropped bombs on Hawaii. WWII had started, and the bombing sent a ripple throughout the entire country.
David Lynn
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had seen castles by Cynthia Rylant took place in Pittsburg in 1942, during war world II. A young man named John wanted to join the army so bad, but he was not 18 yet. His friend Tony joined the army and a couple days after joining he died. As he waited for his 18th birthday to go sign up for the army he meet a young girl named Ginny. John and Ginny both had disagreements about the war, but John had his mindset up on joining. John and Ginny got really close before his birthday. They spent all t ...more
Riley Kisser
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked the book. It was very interesting and it never got boring to read. It taught me a lot about history and was historically accurate, yet it was still a very engaging story. The characters were great and the story was super cute! I actually found myself wanting to read the book, not dreading it. It was a very good book that summed up a ton of information in only 100 pages! If you want a really good, short book, I would definitely recommend “I Had Seen Castles” by Cynthia Rylant.

Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm always amazed when a short novella can have such an emotional impact. The author does such a wonderful job of making you care about the main character John and what he, his family, friends and girlfriend are going through during this time of war (WWII). In the end the story speaks so strongly about many different themes - duty to country, the real impact of war, coming of age and so much more. I really enjoyed this book and appreciated the authors melancholy tone throughout. Finishing this b ...more
Lakin Sheeley
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The genre of this book is Historical Fiction, it was very different than all the other books i've read. Normally I don't like historical fiction but I really enjoyed this book. This book is about a guy named John Dante and his obsession with WW2. And his father and sister and all the drama that comes up within his family. For example his sister is engaged to two different soldiers and pregnant with another soldiers baby.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I was so afraid to read this book again. All I remembered was that I loved it and wished it were a true story. I finally sat down and dug in and as I finished I found myself with the same feelings I had the first time I read this in high school. This fictional story is so lovely, so raw, that I can't help but wish it were true.
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This historical fiction book is a heartbreaker. It is a true love story that took place back in the WW2 era. This book really hit home for me, the hardships that John, the main character faced seemed so genuine and hard felt and in a way I could almost feel what he was feeling. You'll want to keep reading until the last page, and trust me if you do so it will definitely be worth it.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
This historical fiction book is a heart breaker. It is a true love story that took place back in the WW2 era. This book really hit it for me, the troubles that John, the main character faced seemed so genuine and hard felt and in a way I could almost feel what he was feeling. You'll want to keep reading until the last page, and trust me if you do so it will definitely be worth it.
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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
“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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