Reflection by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg

cover image

Ill. by Robin Cowcher. Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781922179050
(Age: 7+) Recommended. War, Australia's involvement with war, Memorials, Anzac Day, Remembrance. This picture book presents a different way of looking at war in the classroom. It offers an introduction to the many wars in which Australia has been represented form the Boer War in 1899 through to the Second Gulf War. It reminds students that we have been in many conflicts around the world, and are still involved in an advisory capacity.
Each double page shows a family on Anzac Day. One page shows them remembering what has happened, honouring those who did not return from war, while the other side includes a picture of the war in which Australians were involved.
The family marching to the war memorial is reflected in the marching boots of the soldiers in the Boer War, and horses' hooves can be seen interspersed with those of the men. The cold of the early morning rise for the family is paralleled with the cold and wet conditions of the soldiers hunkered down in the trenches during World War One, while the service at the war memorial is reflected with the soldiers burying their dead during a lull in hostilities during World War Two. And on it goes, one page shiws the modern family at the memorial the other page reflecting one of the wars Australia has been part of through the years; Boer War, two World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War, Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. It is salutary to realise that war continues, that these wars have not ended war, that people still resort to war to solve problems between territories. In reflecting upon war, children will come to see that war affects us all, that it is not only Australians who are affected by war.
This book adds to the range of books available to remind students about war and its cost, of the many wars Australia has been involved in and the way we remember. And the beautiful water colour wash illustrations reflect this theme to perfection. Cowcher has used pen and ink outlines to render the family and those at war. Children will be intrigued to find clues in the illustrations to work out where the soldiers are fighting, and be aware of the number of red poppies accumulating as they read. Haunting red splotches fill the endpapers making a poignant reminder of this symbol of death in war.
And the last pages gives them an outline of those wars.
Fran Knight