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

ISBN: 0440228387
ISBN 13: 9780440228387
By: Gary Paulsen

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Civil War Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Historical Fiction History To Read War Young Adult

About this book

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."

Reader's Thoughts

Colin Hughes

"Soldier's Heart," is the story of a young 15 year old boy who hears rumors about a war brewing against the seceding "Rebels," and wants to fight for the Union. After months of training, Charlie is finally thrown into his first battle, the Battle of Bull Run, where he is forever changed. Once the plot got going, it never slowed down, and it had me hooked right until the very end. The Civil War setting seemed very authentic, and the battlefield scenes were horrifyingly realistic; I felt like I was seeing it right through the eyes of this young boy. Charlie is nicely described and well-developed, although other characters seemed a little half-baked, and Paulsen could've done a better job building them up. This book relates to the American Dream because it shows that people are willing to fight for freedom and equality, even if it isn't there own. It describes the pivotal point in American history where blacks finally gained freedom from slavery. People interested in the Civil War time period, or simply anyone looking for a quick, exhilarating read should give this book a try.


Charley is a young man who wants to get into the army even though he is too young. In order to fool people about his age he goes to another town where they don't know him and he can lie about it. At first he is super excited to go to war and thinks it will be a great experience. After he enters his first fight he finds out it is not something to take be excited about. The rest of the war leads to many tragedies and horrors for him to face.I thought the book wasn't a very good read. It seemed to just kind of be there. There wasn't anything about the story that pulled me in and made feel like I was there and I wasn't able to relate to the character. The amount of tragedy this one boy sees and survives is also very unlikely the way it is described. There is some strong violence in this book to be aware of.

Megan Franks

Fifteen-year-old Charley lies about his age and enlists in the army during the Civil War. The story follows his journey through the terrors of war--not just battles, but also battling fatigue, starvation, and harsh weather. Let's be clear: this book is not for the faint-of-heart. People die...brutally. People suffer...horribly. I would classify this book as being for 6th grade and up, though I have known some 5th graders who have read it. Some would argue that, given the descriptive violence (heads blown off, a solider commits suicide after being shot in the belly and left to die, etc.) that elementary-aged students shouldn't read it at all. The brutality of it is exactly what makes it a good read; it's realistic! When most of our boys are now playing video games where the "sport" is murdering, this book shows them the human side of suffering and how it changes people completely.While this is not my favorite Paulsen book, I still think it was a valuable read and a great addition to any young adult collection. For the record, my favorite part was the author's note that explained more about the life of the real Charley whom Paulsen researched and based the story upon.

Jackson Reese

Book Review: Soldier’s Heart Soldier’s Heart is a first person war story. This is one of my favorite all-time books. One of the main reasons I liked it so much is that there were many moments in the book where your heart stopped beating for a second which made the book exciting. It is about a young Minnesota guy who had to lie to get into the army because he was so young. He was very poor which is why he wanted to join the army so he could get money to feed his poor family. This is the story of each tremendously hard day for him to survive. The story has some very sad parts in it and may be hard to read for some people. It was a good book to learn some good war historical stuff. The book had some very interesting facts in it, but reading this book will convince you to not join the US Military. It has some blood so just beware but it is still a great book. Soldier’s Heart is a very good war story that you should consider reading! Jackson Reese 4/3/13

Adrienne Morgan

Soldier's Heart is a blunt depiction of Civil War combat. Based on the real-life experiences of Charley Goddard, the novel is an account of Charley's experiences from the time he enlists in the Union army at age fifteen to a couple of years after the Civil War when he is twenty-one and his life is a shambles. The title of the book is a phrase used by Americans to label Civil War veterans who seemed mentally lost because of the war. The atmosphere at the town meetings discussing the possibility is festive, with flags and drums and patriotic speeches. I read this book in grade school and felt a little overwhelmed with the story line and language. My older brother convinced me to read it and I am happy I did. This is a well written book by Gary Paulsen. It shows a 15 year old who thinks he knows it all and has all of the confidence in the world and quickly realizes life is not as easy as it seems. His fears and insecurities are exposed as he is quickly thrown into the realities of war.This book could definitely be used in the classroom when reviewing world history or how we got our independence. There are so many references to real life soldiers and their stories it almost seems like you are there.


Terrific book. My students were riveted to Charley's story. A must read for US History (part 1) classes everywhere, and BONUS.... the story is only 102 pages, so kids won't get tired or bored with it. My hat is off to Gary Paulsen with this absolute WINNER of a book!

Brittney Johnson

In 1861 Charley is a fifteen-years-old, living on a farm in Minnesota with his mother and little brother. Everyone has heard the rumor that there is to be a war, with those in the North fighting to stop the Southern rebels from doing damage to the country. No one is quite sure if the war is really going to happen, but Charley is determined to be a part of it if it is. This decision leads to a boy having to quickly become a man when faced with harrowing death and destruction that only a war can bring. Really the only fault I found with this novel was that I personally did not find it interesting or engaging enough, and that the writing seemed a bit lacking. But I know that it was written for a younger audience so this would be perfect for middle schoolers, especially boys. Paulsen does do a good job though of creating the civil war world, and makes prominent points about the affects of war and how brutal they can be. It was well done, considering, for what Paulsen was trying to accomplish. Warnings: War violence.


What I thought of this book:This book has a great insight into war, and the contrast between what was thought of war and what it was actually like. It shows the mindset of a soldier, and the damage that was done to soldiers if they escaped war. There are very graphic battle scenes describing injuries, violence, Charley has thoughts of suicide, and some mild language.What this book is about:This story follows the life of Charley Goddard, and his encounters in the First Minnesota Volunteers during the Civil War. This young man lied about his age to get into the war, because he was often told that it was too exciting to miss. He experienced more than he ever imagined that he would, and saw traumatizing images that no boy should ever see.


Charlie lies about his age to enlist in the American Civil War. He wants to prove to his family that he can provide for them. However, he gets much more than he bargained for. Charlie experiences the harshness and cruelties of war, sees friends die, and he himself gets injured. At the end of the book, he is suffering from PTSD, another name for it is Soldier's Heart.I liked the book. It was short, sweet, and full of action. The descriptions in this book were also well written, and as this is a Paulsen novel, it is mostly the protagonist's inner monologue.As for warnings, there is death and violence. This is a war novel after all.

Jac Sevasta

ONLY giving this a 5 because I have FINALLY found an accessible war story that delivers what all my students who want to read "war stories" are actually interested in: graphic details about wounds and dead people. And from Gary Paulson no less. I'm shocked.


In spare, almost biblical prose, Gary Paulsen writes of the horrors of combat in a Civil War novella that puts a powerful, more contemporary spin on Stephen Crane's classic The Red Badge of Courage. Based on the life of a real boy, it tells the story of Charley Goddard, who lies his way into the Union Army at the age of 15. Charley has never been anyplace beyond Winona, Minnesota, and thinks war would be a great adventure. And it is--at first--as his regiment marches off through cheering crowds and pretty, flag-waving girls. But then comes the battle. Charley screams, "Make it stop now!" disbelieving that anything so horrible could be real. Paulsen is unsparing in the details of what actually happens on the battlefield: the living men suddenly blown into pieces, the agony and fear, the noise and terror, the stinking corpses. After many battles, Charley is wounded and sent home an old man before he is 20, his will to live destroyed by combat fatigue--leaving him with a "soldier's heart." Paulsen has received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the ALAN Award, and several Newbery Honor awards for previous work, but this superb, small masterpiece transcends any of his earlier titles in its remarkable, memorable intensity and power. (Ages 12 to 15) --Patty Campbell


This book is about a boy named Charley who quickly learns to become a man. Charley lived in the civil war era and decides to join the Union forces. The only problem is that Charley is underage and can't join in his town. So Charley goes to a diffrent town where no one will reconize him. He is able to join up but dosen't go into action very fast. He has to go through training and just prepare for what he was about to do. The day finally comes where his platoon is sent out on a train to fight the South. His first fire-fight comes and a lot of the men were slaughtered. This fight scares him but he continues to fight. After this first fight, Charley's squad doesn't fight in another conflict for a very long while. But he was finally sent to the front lines. The next fight was a victory for Charley and his friends. Charley felt on top of the world all the way until his next fight. He was shooting and stabbing when the fate of all too many soldiers came to meet Charley, a bullet. I liked this book because it has been the only one I have read about the Civil War. Also the author, Gary Paulsen, keeps you turning the pages.

Brittany Permann

Soldiers Heart by Gary Paulsen was an easy read because it was short but at the same time it was hard for me to read because I haven't ever gotten in to those types of books. It is about Charley, a young boy who lies about his age and joins a group of volunteers to fight in the war. It was the first "shooting" war so everyone was very excited about it. He was shocked to see what the war brought and had many terrifying things happen. He had to grow up faster than he planned. His whole life changed just by joining the war and it was something he could never forget. There are a few scenes where it is graphic about the war and all the dead bodies.


Charley Goddard is just fifteen years old when he enlists to fight in the Civil War, obviously lying about his age. Throughout the book, the author describes how Charley's eyes are opened as he witnesses the hardship and devastation that results from war. This is a coming of age story about a boy becoming a man. I have a really hard time with Paulsen's books, I often find them extremely boring. This one was only one hundred pages, and so there were pros and cons to this story being so short. The pros are that the subject matter of this book is not really my thing and so it was good that this wasn't a rigorous read I had to work through. It also helped give the book a nice, fast pacing, not dwelling too long on detail, so I was rarely bored. The cons are that there was hardly any character development. I feel like I barely scratched the surface of understanding Charley's character. This may or may not have been intentional, but regardless it was hard for me become fully engaged in this book because I couldn't forma an attachment with the characters. Content:Sexuality/nudity: NoneViolence/gore: There are some graphic and disturbing images in this book, some even that caused me to make loud and horrified exclamations. Some scenes caused me to feel physically sick. But like I said, this is not my thing. I have a weak stomach, and so some of the stuff that disturbed me would probably be no big deal to someone else. Language: This is a war novel, so of course there is some language, though nothing too graphic. Alcohol/drugs: NoneFrightening/intense scenes: There are several intense battle scenes.

Carson Ball

Soldiers heart is an interesting and emotional historical fiction novel. Its based of the real life of Charlie Goddard, who you first meet as a 15 year old boy from Minnesota. Who is determined to lie about his age and enlist in the first Minnesota regiment. This book will keep you interested throughout by making you feel so emotionally close to the characters. The only down side of this book was its lack of details in some areas. Even considering those factors I would suggest this book to history lovers and people who want a good read.

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