The Forces is a brief introduction to the U.K.'s armed forces. This includes sections on the navy, the army, the RAF and even a brief section on the SAS. There are also a few pages on the military tattoo in Edinburgh and UN peace keeping forces. In addition to basic facts and descriptions, the authors have tried to make this a bit more personal with a diary entry, a letter home and a brief play or exchange between a recruiting officer and a potential recruit. This book only covers modern forces.
Like all the books in this series, this was written for the education market by Rising Stars. It is a high interest - low reading age book, that can easily be read by the average child of 7, but still has a mature enough subject level to interest much older children. It is heavily illustrated with high quality photographic images and has short easy to read text. Most pages have only a single paragraph. The text is always in a large black print with good spacing on a white or neutral background, using text boxes in most cases. I really do like this as many books print over photos which can be quite confusing for new readers or those with reading difficulties. One single text box does show the photo underneath, but it is very faded and the only part that would interfere with the text is in an upper right corner with no printing over it.
This book seems aimed at that old enough to consider a career in the military, and gives the reader a basic idea of what each branch of the armed forces do. It is also an excellent resource for younger children - just to know what each branch of the service does. It makes it clear there is more to being in the military than combat. Other jobs include a cook in the navy or an engineer in the RAF. It also shows the military in peace time activities, like helping people in major disasters . My sons were very interested in this part, and this did make the military look more appealing to my oldest - knowing they help people as well.
My family has a long military tradition, and my husband is an ex serviceman as well. I have no objections to material that could be taken as a possible recruiting tool. I do recognise though, that some parents might object, especially here in Northern Ireland, and I can't imagine a school here touching this book with a ten foot pole. It does include recruiting posters and makes the military appear exciting and glamorous. If my children do take an interest when they are older, I will make sure they have a more realistic image of the military. It has its benefits - but it isn't all like life on a luxury liner. There are no gruesome combat photos here, and I would not want them. This book is intended for children from ages 7- 14 and I would extend this to ages 6 -16. My four year did enjoy this as well, but he is bit more interested in the military than your average child of his age. Because this is intended for such a wide age range, the publisher did need to consider those at the lower end of this spectrum as well as the older ones and I believe the lack of frightening photos was a very good choice.
My only objection to this book is the fact that the Royal Marines have gone missing. There is a single reference to the Royal Marine Commandos under the requirements to join the Navy ( which says you have to male) but no other mention. I realise some may feel they are technically part of the navy - but I feel a single page would have been reasonable.
Overall I am very pleased with this book. It is a very easy to read book for my child, meaning he can read without working at it all. Of course children need to stretch their reading ability at times, but I believe having some very easy books builds confidence and keeps reading fun. I especially appreciate how useful this could be for a boy who is reading well below age level, as it is a text a teenager wouldn't feel embarrassed to read, and could help them build their confidence. The pictures are excellent and the book was enjoyable to read. I did buy this for home education, but I believe it would fit in well on a family bookshelf, as long as you have at least one child with an interest in the military.
My sons enjoyed this as well. Both especially liked the part with the SAS, even though there was no material which was new to either of them - it is quite brief. They also liked the soldiers helping people, and for some reason my oldest was very interested on a gym aboard an aircraft carrier. They both were interested in the aircraft engineers as well, and a picture showing some of the things they checked on board and they really liked a dare devil like photo of an RAF jet practicing very low altitude manoeuvres.
I did consider knocking a star off the rating on this one for leaving the Royal Marines out. I really wanted a book that showed all of the British armed forces, and I strongly believe this omission leaves this book lacking something. But I am giving this a low 5 stars for several reasons. First off, books on the British military are few and far between. I recognise this is not an area publishers can make huge money and appreciate the effort that went into this. I also feel that there really are not enough books for a child with a lower reading age to enjoy without feeling awkward. I have talked to many people with reading difficulties and most felt very embarrassed being asked to read juvenile texts. I feel there is real need for more books like this. Finally I do recognise that this only 48 pages and mostly illustration. they do have a limited amount of space.
New copies of this book start at £3.81 from Amazon marketplace. Used copies are roughly the same at the moment, but cheaper ones do appear fairly often. I believe I paid £2.81 for mine.