Monday, 1 September 2014

One Minute's Silence by David Metzenthen & Michael Camilleri

I wrote a post about the proliferation of Australian WW1 stories for children earlier in the year (here). I honestly didn't think I would be adding many more reviews to this ever-growing list.

It seemed that all the possible ways of commemorating and remembering the war had been covered - letters, diaries, seeds, clothing, photos, horses & donkeys. Gallipoli, Beersheba, the muddy trenches of France & camp hospitals. Wounds, capture, gassing, fear, amputation, death, grief & hope. Mateship, nurses, poppies, pines, medals, the last post, graves, memorials & coming home. The bravery & futility, the differences & similarities, the making of a nation, the ANZAC's, the home front, the propaganda & lest we forget.

Every angle explored, every emotion evoked.

Until, that is, One Minute's Silence by David Metzenthen crossed my path.

This is a picture book for older readers. Metzenthen's text has mature themes & concepts.

Camilleri's black & white cross-hatch drawings are stunning, confronting & full of symbolism.
They engage the reader from the start as we see a highschool classroom full of bored teenagers slouching on their desks. The teacher is poised to lead a minute's silence as we see the classroom clock tick over from 10:59:59 to 11am.

During the one minute's silence we are taken on a journey, back to the trenches of Gallipoli.

The faces of the classmates appear in the trenches. They feel the fear, they face the danger. The realities of war are confronted in some very powerful & challenging images.

We see the faces of the Turks in the trenches opposite. They feel the fear, they face the danger, just like the ANZAC' the faces of their highschool classmates appear in Turkish ranks too.

Metzenthen highlights the impossible, hopeless nature of the Gallipoli campaign. And Camilleri's drawings hit you where it hurts. One Minute's Silence is a book full of provocations, reflections & discussion topics.

Metzenthen leaves us with Ataturk's now famous speech from 1934 (although there is some dispute about whether or not the translation of this speech is accurate).
These words now also adorn the Gallipoli memorial at ANZAC Cove, providing comfort & hope to all who read them.

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