Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg is a self confessed book nerd, a debut author, a mother of two and a librarian. I sat down with Rebecka to discuss her first book, Reflection. Check out the comprehensive teacher notes and activities at classroom.walkerbooks.com.au/reflection.
Reflection is a moving tribute to soldiers past and present, it grounds the reader with a family paying their respects at a dawn service, while also opening the reader’s eyes to the small moments experienced in wars. What inspired you to tell the story in Reflection?
A conversation with my brother while we were walking an Anzac day ceremony planted the seed for this story. He was wondering how to approach the subject with his young daughter, how to explain why we attend the ceremony and answer the questions that might be raised.
This stayed with me throughout the ceremony and allowed me to take it all in from a new perspective, however the original story I wrote sat untouched for a number of years after its original draft, before the final idea of the dual interpretation came to me.
There are many books about Anzacs around at the moment. What makes Reflection special?
Generally I’ve found that most Anzac books focus either on the experience of war or on the experience of Anzac day. I think Reflection brings both of these experiences to focus in equal measure. The dual interpretation of each line of text draws parallels between the Anzac day ceremony and the events that the ceremony commemorates, hopefully enabling readers to link the rituals and emotions experienced at an Anzac day ceremony to the experiences of those who have been to war.
Often Anzac stories focus on the first World War, and particularly on Gallipoli. Reflection spans over 100 years, depicting situations of conflict as well as peace keeping efforts, demonstrating Australia and New Zealand’s participation in conflicts that have occurred all around the world and allowing for a more thorough understanding of Australia and New Zealand’s military history.
How important do you think it is for young children to be exposed to the idea of war?
Our grandparents and great grandparents waved family members off to war, experienced fear of invasion, loss of loved ones and rations of basic necessities. With each new generation of children born in Australia and New Zealand, we become further and further removed from those first hand experiences, however there are still too many children born all around the world who are not so fortunate. I think that, as citizens of the world, it is important for our children to have empathy for the suffering caused by war, to know that wars are still occurring around the world today and to understand that the casualties of war should never be forgotten or abandoned.
Where did the idea of having the illustrations reflect two meanings of the text come from?
I had a marching chant from my childhood in my head (“left, left, left, right, left!”) and it brought to mind a group of kids, all pretending to marching along the pavement to an Anzac day ceremony, sort of imitating the actions of the soldiers they were going to commemorate. This was a bit of a light bulb moment, as I realised that many of the different elements of an Anzac day ceremony originated from military traditions, and I went from there to incorporate the rituals of the Anzac day ceremony in a way that could also relate to a soldier at war.
How did you decide which theatres of war to include in the book?
When I originally wrote the text, I imagined illustrations across the last 100 years or so, and from all different military perspectives. When it was accepted for publication, it was proposed to show the history of Australia’s and New Zealand’s military experience, as this related directly to the Anzac day ceremony. From there, the theatres of war were consecutively selected, based on Australia and/or New Zealand involvement.
What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?
I guess I hope that young readers will be able to empathise with those who have experienced war (both historically and in the present), mourn with the wider community at the losses that war causes and perhaps even inspire them to contribute positively towards a world where war stays in the history books and not in their futures.