Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volu
Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volu

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Annotation: Eager to enlist, fifteen-year-old Charley has a change of heart after experiencing both the physical horrors and mental anguish of Civil War combat.
Catalog Number: #276594
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Publisher: Dell
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition Date: 2000
Pages: 106 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-440-22838-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-60725-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-440-22838-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-60725-5
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 98010038
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
The level of realism conveyed in this brief but powerful novel is rarely seen in children's books about the Civil War. The book is based on the life of Charley Goddard, who lies about his age and joins the Union army at the age of fifteen. Paulsen's extensive research is evident in the richness of the details he provides, but what makes this novel so effective is the unremitting focus on the trauma caused by war.
Kirkus Reviews
The nightmare of the Civil War comes to the page in this novel from Paulsen (The Transall Saga, p. 741, etc.), based on the real-life experiences of a young enlistee. Charley Goddard, a hard-working, sweet-tempered Minnesota farm boy, can't wait to sign up when the call comes for men to defend the Union. But the devoted son and brother who looks forward to sending home the $11 a month he earns for his soldiering is not prepared for the inedible food, ill-fitting uniform, or the dysentery he experiences just while training. The passages on the battles of Bull Run and Gettysburg are—as they should be—disconcerting, even upsetting, in the unflinching portrayal of the bloodshed and savagery of war. What is truly remarkable is Paulsen's portrayal of Charley, who is transformed from an innocent boy into a seasoned—but not hardened or embittered—soldier. Most haunting of all, more than the fiery skirmishes themselves, is the final picture of Charley, so shaken and drained from the experience that the only peace he can envision lies within suicide. An author's note tells of Charley's true fate—dead at 23 from the psychological and physical ravages of war. (maps, not seen, bibliography) (Fiction. 10-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Charley Goddard, 15, leaves his Minnesota farm to enlist in the Union army in 1861. An almost festive train ride to the South soon gives way to the harrowing realities of war. Paulsen pulls no punches, rendering the young man's experiences in matter-of-fact prose that accentuates the horror. The third-person narrative sticks to Charley's point of view, relating his immediate sensations and the simple ways he tries to come to terms with the bloodshed. The boy soon faces the inevitability of his awful situation but never loses his fear and confusion. After four major battles, he is badly wounded at Gettysburg. A final chapter shows him at 21, joyless, hopeless, and contemplating suicide. Paulsen's introduction explains that having a "soldier's heart" is the Civil War equivalent of shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. Charley's experiences show the devastating effect of war in a touchingly personal way. There are unsensationalized descriptions of violence and chaotic battle scenes, but the most powerful images come from particular details. After one conflict, Charley tearfully positions a dying boy's rifle so that he can kill himself. On another occasion, Charley helps a doctor keep the wounded warm by building a windbreak out of dead bodies. The young man's quiet despair at the end of the book makes it clear that nothing good has come out of Charley's war. The grim violence and bleak resolution may put off some readers, but the novel succeeds as a fiery indictment of war and as a memorable depiction of an individual.-Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly
Addressing the most fundamental themes of life and death, the versatile Paulsen produces a searing antiwar story. He bases his protagonist, Charley Goddard, on an actual Civil War soldier, a 15-year-old from Minnesota who lied about his age and ended up participating in most of the war's major battles. At first Paulsen's Charley is fired up by patriotic slogans and his own naive excitement; in a rare intrusion into the narrative, the author makes it clear that ending slavery was not the impetus: """"Never did they speak of slavery. Just about the wrongheadedness of the Southern `crackers' and how they had to teach Johnny Reb a lesson."""" But Charley's first battle--Bull Run--immediately disabuses him of his notions about honor and glory. A few sparely written passages describe the terror of the gunfire and the smoke from the cannons. Interwoven with these descriptions, a brilliant, fast-moving evocation of Charley's thoughts shows the boy's shocked realization of the price of war, his absolute certainty that he will die and his sudden understanding of the complex forces that prevent him from fleeing. Details from the historical record scorch the reader's memory: congressmen bring their families to picnic and watch the fighting that first day at Bull Run; soldiers pile the bodies of the dead into a five-foot-high wall to protect themselves from a winter wind. By the time Charley is finally struck down, at Gettysburg, he has seen it all: """"At last he was right, at last he was done, at last he was dead."""" He is not in fact dead, but a victim of """"soldier's heart,"""" defined in an eloquent foreword as a contemporaneous term for what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. Paulsen wages his own campaign for the audience's hearts and minds strategically and with great success. Elsewhere, as in The Rifle, he has told stories in service to a message; here the message follows from the story ineluctably. Charley comes across fully human, both his vulnerabilities and strengths becoming more pronounced as the novel progresses. Warfare, too, emerges complexly-while a lesser writer might attempt to teach readers to shun war by dint of the protagonist's profound disgust, Paulsen compounds the horrors of the battlefield by demonstrating how they trigger Charley's own bloodlust. Charley cannot recover from his years of war; in a smaller but more hopeful way, neither may the audience. Paulsen's storytelling is so psychologically true that readers will feel they have lived through Charley's experiences. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Paulsen neither glorifies war nor sentimentalizes the soldier's experience in this fictional narrative based on the story of a real Union soldier fighting during the Civil War. Although Charley was just 15 years old when the war began, he listened when folks said it would all be over in a month or two and "if a man didn't step right along he'd miss the whole thing." This plainspoken novel follows Charley and the Minnesota Volunteers through training, camp life, and four battles, beginning with First Manassas and ending with Gettysburg. Wounded, Charley is finally sent home. His body begins to mend, but he still suffers from "soldier's heart," which Paulsen explains was the term used in the 1860s for the condition later known during World War I as shell shock, during World War II as battle fatigue, and today as post-traumatic stress disorder. The novel's spare, simple language makes the book accessible; the vivid visual images of brutality and death on the battlefield make it compelling. Compressing six years of Charley's life into just over 100 pages seems to speed up the time frame too much, however many individual scenes are memorable, and Charlie's evolution from eager enlistee to war-weary trooper will give readers something to ponder. Middle-school teachers will certainly want to consider this novel for their Civil War units.
Word Count: 15,206
Reading Level: 5.7
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.7 / points: 2.0 / quiz: 20135 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.9 / points:5.0 / quiz:Q19054
Lexile: 1000L
Guided Reading Level: V
Fountas & Pinnell: V
            He heard it all, Charley did; heard the drums and songs and slogans
            and knew what everybody and his rooster was crowing.

            There was going to be a shooting war. They were having town meetings
            and nailing up posters all over Minnesota and the excitement was so
            high Charley had seen girls faint at the meetings, just faint from
            the noise and hullabaloo. It was better than a circus. Or what he
            thought a circus must be like. He'd never seen one. He'd never seen
            anything but Winona, Minnesota, and the river five miles each way
            from town.

            There would be a shooting war. There were rebels who had violated
            the law and fired on Fort Sumter and the only thing they'd respect
            was steel, it was said, and he knew they were right, and the Union
            was right, and one other thing they said as well--if a man didn't
            hurry he'd miss it. The only shooting war to come in a man's life
            and if a man didn't step right along he'd miss the whole thing.

            Charley didn't figure to miss it. The only problem was that Charley
            wasn't rightly a man yet, at least not to the army. He was fifteen
            and while he worked as a man worked, in the fields all of a day and
            into night, and looked like a man standing tall and just a bit thin
            with hands so big they covered a stove lid, he didn't make a beard
            yet and his voice had only just dropped enough so he could talk with
            If they knew, he thought, if they knew he was but fifteen they wouldn't
            take him at all.

            But Charley watched and Charley listened and Charley learned.



Excerpted from Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

In June 1861, when the Civil War began, Charley Goddard enlisted in the First Minnesota Volunteers. He was 15. He didn't know what a "shooting war" meant or what he was fighting for. But he didn't want to miss out on a great adventure.

The "shooting war" turned out to be the horror of combat and the wild luck of survival; how it feels to cross a field toward the enemy, waiting for fire. When he entered the service he was a boy. When he came back he was different; he was only 19, but he was a man with "soldier's heart," later known as "battle fatigue."

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