Neridah McMullin (text), Andrew McLean (illus.), Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire, Allen & Unwin, August 2016, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781925266863
This is a true story from the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 with which I instantly felt a connection. I remember this day well; I remember being at work and watching the sky turn an eerie black despite it only being the middle of the day, I remember the ash that was raining from the sky and the cars driving by; black with soot, I remember the panic that was evident on everyone’s faces. While my family, home and area were not directly affected; I knew people and places that were.
In early childhood I believe it’s important for children to be involved in discussion and reflection of current and relative events around the world; near and far. Facts and truth shouldn’t be kept from children, especially when it comes to life changing tragedies such as this. Neridah McMullin explores the story of the devastating bushfires through the powerful and heroic efforts of retired racehorse Fabish. The words she chooses are comforting despite the disheartening story being shared. The story feels honest and true without stimulating a sense of fear.
Andrew McLean’s paintings transport me back ‘home’ to the sun rising over the mountains, the animals grazing in the paddocks, the drought like conditions, the heat and hysteria of those fateful days, and the uneasy feeling of seeing a bright red haze on the horizon.
Fabish’s story is respectful of children and their natural curiosity about their world. Black Saturday will always be remembered; for loss and heartache but also for courage, determination and the sense of community – all of which are reflected in this uplifting story of Fabish and his trainers fight for survival.
Reviewed by Raquel Mayman