I Had Seen Castles

Written by Cynthia Rylant
Review by Nancy Castaldo

Newbery medalist Cynthia Rylant has crafted a book that speaks as easily to this generation as any generation that experiences war. I Had Seen Castles, originally published in 1995, tells the story of John Dante, who grew up playing with toy soldiers and faced difficult decisions as America entered into World War II. Now as an adult, Dante looks back at his time with his girlfriend, Ginny: the days before he was shipped out, and before he actually knew what war was. We are drawn to Dante’s idealism and innocence as a seventeen-year-old. We see him enlist to avoid being categorized as a traitor, which goes against Ginny’s anti-war beliefs. Rylant eloquently portrays the patriotic fever that permeates Dante’s Pittsburgh community. Although brief, this novel is rich in imagery and emotion. We are forever moved when we learn that Dante’s experiences in the War lead him to live a life outside of America and alone. Dante’s words, “I could not stay in America because America had not suffered,” linger long after the book is read. The paperback includes a reader discussion page and an author interview, which makes this book ideal for book club or classroom discussion. (Ages 12+)