Book Review: Count on Us

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Also on This Subject

• World War II

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Hitting bookstores in early May is a new book on American women in the miliary, Count on Us, by Amy Nathan, who also delighted young readers with Yankee Doodle Gals, a story of women pilots in World War II. This book takes a more general approach and covers women serving in the armed forces in the present day, all the way back to before the country was born.

Some of the material is familiar, as it should be, with examinations of the famous Revolutionary War fighters Deborah Samson and Molly Pitcher, Civil War spy Rose Greenhow, WACs and WAVEs and MASH Units. Much of the book, however, will be instructive and new to readers, such as the African-American nurses in 1917 and the B-17 pilots of World War II.

Chapters on the Korean War and the Vietnam War are included, with an emphasis on how women's roles changed in the armed forces in just the one-two decades between those two conflicts. In Vietnam, of course, women were no longer just nurses but were also doctors, as well as serving in the main armed forces.

Making the book totally up-to-date, Nathan includes discussions of the Persian Gulf War, military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and peacekeeping missions such as Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. In each discussion, the focus is on the roles that women had and how their responsibilities and allowances had evolved over time.

Women commands are highlighted, with good reason, historic as they were and are. The book also doesn't avoid tackling the "Mom Goes to War" element of women fighting in the armed forces, with the 21st-century update being that husbands take care of children while wives fight overseas. The author does not descend, however, into lamenting the absence of responsibility that women endured for a great many years; rather, the focus here is on positive contributions and history-making accomplishments.

This is a National Geographic book, and so the illustrations are top-notch, including some rare photos from the early years of American wars. Overall, this is a wonderful book, sure to educate even the most knowledgeable reader.

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David White