Charlie wants to fight -even though he is only 15 years old. But he figures he has what it takes to be in the war – if only he were a little older. So, he decides that he’ll go register to fight away from his home town, where no one knows how old – or young- he really is. And that is just what he does. Charlie leaves his home state of Minnesota and joins the thousands of others who believe in preserving the Union of the states, and joins the Union army off to fight the Confederates.
Charlie has ideas of what war is like, but the reality is something he could never have dreamed of – moments of shear terror followed by hours and days of unbelievable boredom. To see the horrors of the Battle of Gettysburg, and to see friends get mowed down by bullets – to kill others – all things that Charlie realizes he wasn’t prepared for at all. How does someone survive something like that? Or do they?
Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen is a short, incredibly powerful look at how war impacts not only the body but the soul of a person. The character of Charlie is based on a real person who did live and fight during the Civil War and how he came back home a very different person than he left. As really everyone who has been involved in a war does. Highly recommended read for anyone interested in the Civil War.
Recommended for grades 6 and up.