Review Blog

Oct 19 2016

Fabish: The horse that braved a bushfire by Neridah McMullin

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Ill. by Andrew McLean. Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781925266863
(Ages: 5-9) Recommended. Bushfire, horses. This uplifting story is based on events that occurred during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. Fabish, a retired racehorse, now takes care of the flighty young horses. When fire looms large on the horizon, the trainer knows he cannot save all the horses; he throws open the gates and orders Fabish to take the yearlings and go. The author, a horse enthusiast herself, does an amazing job of helping the reader experience the terror of bushfire for both people and horses and the desolation they leave behind. Rich, visual language makes it easy to hear, feel and see the story, particularly the situation after the fire (baked-hard soil, a pile of twisted iron and white ash, the sound of crackling embers, blistered hands, a stinging throat, melting boots). The story of the surviving horses seems secondary to that of the sheer power of the bushfire, but it turns the book into an uplifting one of against the odds survival and highlights the love between people and animals. The watercolour paintings are breathtaking and alongside the clear and concrete language, they transport the reader into the story. While the subject matter could be frightening for young children, it dwells more on the positive behaviours and emotions of the trainer and the horses (hope, leadership, determination) rather than on the negative. Particularly as it relates to a real event, this book is a fantastic way for teachers to stimulate discussion about the effects of bushfire on humans, animals, and the environment and of the incredible spirit of both humans and animals.
Nicole Nelson

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