REVIEW: One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen & Illustrated by Michael Camilleri

Published: 1st November 2014

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 48

Format: Hardcover Picture Book (Library)

RRP: $29.99

5/5 Stars 

A moving and powerful story about the meaning of Remembrance Day, drawing on the Australian and Turkish battle at Gallipoli

On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, David Metzenthen asks, “What is the true meaning of remembering?” This is a powerful and moving picture book for older readers about the “one minute’s silence” observed in Australia on Remembrance Day, and what Gallipoli means to Australians in this context. By showing both sides of the conflict—Aussie and Turk—he encourages readers to think about all those who have fallen, and by using this iconic battle—one of the few to have brought two nations closer together—he suggests another perspective on Gallipoli. Michael Camilleri’s extraordinary illustrations enhance the reader’s experience.

One Minute’s Silence is not your typical ANZAC picture book. Strictly speaking it’s not just about the ANZAC’s at Gallipoli, although Gallipoli does occupy more than 90% of the story. This book isn’t aimed at young children either; in fact there’s not a single child (younger than a teenager) represented in the book at all.  Which poses the question of who is it aimed at? The answer is simple. Anyone who has been taught about Australia’s involvement in the wars, and anyone who hasn’t too. This is a book for everyone to explain and remind readers about why the one minute of silence is so important, and how it came about. It’s a book that gives a voice to the other side of the war, that as a nation who are so fundamentally defined by the ANZAC legend, we often forget or don’t even think about.

One Minute’s Silence is a stark reminder of the reason why we have the minute silence on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day each year. It’s a complex books that uses simple language and statements, but packs an entirely knock-out worthy emotional punch. It’s beautifully illustrated and unforgettably and brutally honest in it’s unique take and stark reminder on what exactly we are remembering.

The very first thing I noticed about One Minute’s Silence, was the very complex etched drawings that feature heavily throughout the book. Michael Camilleri’s deliberate use only varying shades of sepia and black and white creates a realistic and fading memory of the war that only reinforces the book’s overall message of how important it is to remember both sides of the war effort. Likewise the way the book opens with a double page spread of bored high school students reluctantly taking part in the minute’s silence is a really stark and powerful image. Especially when one considers the bi-annual debate each ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day over the lasting relevance and importance of these celebrations and living  memory.  I also love the way that Camilleri has chosen to end the book with the classroom revisited as the students have been awaken to the very essence and meaning of the minute’s silence and what its reality was and still is today.

One Minute’s Silence is a unique picture book. Although the language used is simple, it’s used deliberately to evoke one’s emotions and empathy. Each double page spread poses the possibility of remembering the usual, amid stereotypical, concepts of what ANZAC Day and Remembrance day encompass – i.e. The Australian war effort, the hardships faced and the trench conditions, the ideas of mateship etc – while every second double page spread asks the reader to take these concepts one step further and to think about the broader and often neglected experiences in Australian history books from this time i.e. What did the Turks feel when we the ANZAC’s invaded their land? How did the soldiers cope with the aftermath of that Christmas ceasefire where both sides played sports together one day only to go back to shooting at each other then next? This one in particular is not a concept I’ve ever really thought about and I seriously don’t know how those poor soldiers survived that. Both the text and illustrations combine to deliver a poignant and timely reminder of almost every aspect of that fateful campagin. Both narrative and illustration rely on some previous knowledge of the war, but both push the reader to not only feel the events, but to question and acknowledge more

What I love about this book is just how unbiased it is. The over glorification of war and the ANZAC myth/legend has been a major point of contention in the lead up to the centenary celebrations of the ANZAC’s landing at Gallipoli. While it’s true that One Minute’s Silence uses all the usual ANZAC points – the landing at Gallipoli, the conditions, mateship and sheer number of men lost etc – it also includes so much more about the Turkish experience of this ill-fated campaign and more astoundingly, does so in a non-judgemental way. Metzenthen is simply presenting the facts and another  possible way to look at what happened that includes every party and perspective to gather the whole image and meaning of the minute’s silence. He is also reminding us, that it wasn’t just our soldiers who were brave and courageous. For me, this really cemented the book’s worth and separated it from so many other’s on the market.

I think in some ways, One Minute’s Silence does for picture books what the Russell Crowe movie The Water Diviner (and the book by Andrew Anastasisos and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios) did for popular war movies, to reveal that Gallipoli wasn’t just about us. That we were fighting people who were so like us in many ways.  I know when I watched the film at the cinema’s, what really stood out for me the fact that the Turkish people saw the Australians as the bad guys, we were the enemy. It goes against everything I’d ever been taught at school, and yet it made sense. We fought them for their land and so many people on both sides died. Not just ours. It’s something a lot of us think we know (because it is so obvious), but to see it presented before us is something totally different, something that you can’t help but feel on an entirely other level.

One Minute’s Silence is simple in design, but powerful beyond belief in what it is able to deliver in 48 short pages. It’s a book that will confront everything you think you know about war and make you re-evaluate it, while delivering a shockingly brutal emotional punch that will leave you devastated for the past, and bewildered by the present. it’s a book for all ages, and one I think everyone should read at least one in their lifetime.

I love it and I highly recommend it.

 

To learn more about David Metzenthen, visit the following social media sites: Goodreads

To learn more about Michael Camilleri, visit the following social media sites: Illustrator’s website | Goodreads |

To purchase a copy, visit the following online retailers:

Allen & Unwin | Booktopia | Book Depository | Fishpond | Wordery  | QBD | The Nile | ABC Shop

 

 

 

 

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