Review Blog

Sep 03 2014

One minute's silence by David Metzenthen

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Ill. by Michael Camilleri. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743316245.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Picture book, World War One, Gallipoli, Remembrance. Sitting in a classroom where a desultory group of young adults must observe one minute's silence to remember those who fought, the illustrator shows them slouched and unhappy, but the author uses the refrain, 'in one minute's silence' to show what may have happened to people their own age at Gallipoli in that one minute.
Metzenthen's story tracks back and forth across the cliffs, to the Turks uneasily waiting for the army below to climb the hills, to the women left behind, to the Anzacs landing on the beach, the machine gun and its impact, the burying of the dead, the packing up and retreating. Each encounter only takes a minute, a minute in which young men's lives are lost.
Camilleri transposes the images of the children in the class with those of the soldiers waiting for the ships, or climbing those hills, or waiting to be buried, making it clear to that reader that they could easily have been there, that the one minute's silence is a small thing to do to say thank you.
The procession of books, particularly picture books, about Australia's involvement in wars, has been intense, some offering a new perspective, but all reminding students and readers of the sacrifice made by those who volunteered to fight.
Metzenthen's story offers a truly original perspective, forcing readers to view war from a more personal perspective. With the illustrations offering a closely detailed image of things like the machine gun and the bullets fired at the troops, the small vignettes of leaving the front to evacuate along with the repetition of the image of a clock, no reader can help but be glued to the pages.
Fran Knight

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