Review Blog

Oct 09 2014

One minute's silence by David Metzenthen

cover image

Illustrated by Michael Camilleri. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743316245.
Highly recommended for both Primary and Lower/Middle Secondary. As we approach the end of the year and Remembrance Day, as well as the ongoing centenary commemoration of World War 1 and the ANZACs' role, this powerful and deeply moving picture book will be a must-have for your collection.
We are all aware of David Metzenthen's skill as a writer and now combined with dramatic and poignant illustrations by Michael Camilleri, this is a book that begs to be shared across many year levels.
Beautifully told from both the Australian and Turkish perspectives, Camilleri chose to depict the combatants, using Year 12 students from the Sophia Mundi Steiner School as models, in contemporary dress and using both genders. This has the effect of visually demonstrating that ordinary young people were caught up in a bloody conflict of extraordinary proportions.
The traditional 'one minute's silence' is used as the recurring motif throughout the text as moments of huge impact are recounted solemnly and with elegant simplicity. The repetition of circular shapes and cogs connect to the passing of time in each minute's duration. Among the many visually stunning illustrations the double page spread showing the many small contorted bodies under the dark ground, as the ANZACs depart is heart-stopping. It reduced my normally boisterous Year 10s to complete stunned silence, such is its profundity.
Camilleri's illustrations are finely detailed, and by rendering them in monotones evoke the period of time - as does the choice of the sepia tones such as those on the cover. This also conveys the bleakness and despair of the Gallipoli campaign (or indeed any conflict) and the intense emotions. The reader can easily empathise with both sides in this desperate situation.
My boys were intrigued (naturally!) by the diagrammatic style illustrations of the shrapnel bomb and the rifle. Though clearly illustrated in the film/comic strip style action, the shooting of a young soldier is subdued, though obvious, and hence reduces the horror for younger readers.
In one minute of silence you can imagine sprinting up the beach in Gallipoli in 1915 with the fierce fighting Diggers, but can you imagine standing beside the brave battling Turks as they defended their homeland from the cliffs above...
Truly a reflective and evocative picture book, One minute's silence is, I predict, potentially an award-winning book for next year's lists.
Sue Warren

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