Reflection, by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Robin Cowcher

Left! Left! Left! Right! Left!
We make our way in the dark.

Early in the morning – before dawn – a family makes its way to a memorial service, standing together to remember the fallen. With the other people who gather they remember, through words, through silence, and through the last post, men and women who have died in combat.

Reflection , a picture book, was released in time for this year’s ANZAC Day, equally serves to explore other such ceremonies, including Remembrance Day. The text , just a sentence per spread, observes simply what happens at such a ceremony. However, the illustrations add an extra dimension – with one page in each spread showing what is happening in the contemporary ceremony, and the other page showing scenes of war. So, for example, in the first spread, as the modern family males their way through the dark, so do the soldiers of old. The modern illustrations use gentle colours, while the scenes of war use khakis and sepia tones. Background washes of grey skies span both scenes, linking them. In the final spread there are a mix of coloured and grey figures walking together, suggesting that the departed are marching with the living. Back of books notes highlight the conflicts Australian and New Zealand forces have served in, from the Boer War to Afghanistan in the present.

A beautiful, haunting book suitable both for classroom use and private reading.

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War, by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Robin Cowcher
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781922179050


Teacher’s notes are available here.

Reflection by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg ill Robin Cowcher

Left! Left! Right! Left!

We make our way in the dark.

Left! Left! Right! Left!

We make our way in the dark.

A family are up early to attend the Anzac Day March. They leave the house in the predawn in windy wet weather. One side of each opening shows the family and the other shows an image of soldiers at war. ‘Reflection’ begins with World War I and ends with the ongoing Afghanistan conflict and the Iraq War. The text on each opening applies equally to the family and to the soldiers/conflicts portrayed. Illustrations are watercolour and ink set on biscuit-pale pages.

Most picture books on remembering war focus on a single conflict, but Reflection offers a broader view of the conflicts that Australians have been part of. Soldiers, uniforms, weapons, mourners and geography change but devastation, death and suffering links them all. Reflection offers an opportunity to remember all those affected by war, but also portrays the changing face of Australia, of the world.

Reflection allows parents, carers, teachers and others to introduce the unfathomability of war through the eyes of a family. The iconic Flanders poppy red is used throughout, providing a visual link between the wars but also connecting it to the young family. ‘Reflection’ is a succinctly worded, beautifully illustrated collection of memories and remembrances. Ideal for primary-aged readers.

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War, Rebecka Sharp Shelberg ill Robin Cowcher

Walker Books 2016

ISBN: 9781922179050

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller