Review Blog

Nov 03 2014

One Minute's Silence by David Metzenthen

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Ill. by Michael Camilleri. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743316245
(Age: Yr 5+) One minute's silence is the traditional way of honouring the memory of those who have died, particularly military personnel. And during that one minute's silence, we are urged to think about those who have fallen and the sacrifice they have made for their country. But what do you really think about? Are you like the bored, disinterested Year 12 students who open this story? Do you think about the feats and fears of our soldiers and what they did? Do you ever think about what it was like for those on the other side of our bullets and bayonets? For, in this powerful picture book, we are encouraged to do just that, to consider what it was like both for those who made that fateful landing on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915 and those whom they were fighting against.
'In one minute's silence you can imagine the grinding in your guts as the ironbark bows of the Australian boats bumped the stony shore of Gallipoli on the twenty-fifth of April 1915, when twelve thousand wild colonial boys dashed across the shivering Turkish sand in the pale light of a dairy farmer's dawn lashed with flying lead. But can you imagine, in one minute's silence, lines of young Turkish soldiers from distant villages, hearts hammering, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in trenches cut like wounds.firing on strangers wading through the shallows intent on streaming into the homeland of the Turkish people.'
This remarkable retelling of the events that will form the focus of the centennial commemorations in 1915 starts with a picture of that group of senior students who have been asked to observe one minute's silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - Remembrance Day in Australia. Their expressions of here-we-go-again-we've-been-doing-this-for years have been captured perfectly in the pencil strokes of Michael Camilleri and one might wonder what this book has to offer that has not been done before. But then the narration begins and as the events unfold the students are drawn into them, gradually realising the youth and ordinariness of those who were embroiled in this conflict 100 years ago. These were kids just like them. They can put themselves in the picture, as Camilleri has. However, not only do they see themselves in the Australian uniform, but their attention is also drawn to the youth and the ordinariness of those on the other side and their perspective. They are no longer just a faceless enemy responsible for the deaths and maiming of these students' bygone family members. The futility of war is apparent.
Barbara Braxton

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