Fabish: The horse that braved a bushfire by Neridah McMullin

cover image

Ill. by Andrew McLean. Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781925266863
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Bravery. Horses. Bushfires. Farm life. Fabish, once a fine racehorse known for his bravery, is put out to pasture. Here he is in charge of the yearlings, helping them understand what is expected of them, training them to obey instructions. But one day they smell smoke. It has been an extremely unpleasant summer, everything is hot, the old iron roof crackles and the hot wind blowing from the hills smells of smoke. The yearlings smell it first and become unsettled. The owner has no choice but to let them out of their yard, while he spends the night trying to save his stables, keeping the other animals calm and safe. Fabish and the yearlings are on their own.
The illustrations reflect the overwhelming nature of bushfire, with its flames licking the roof of the stable, the roaring of the fire, the constant embers falling to the ground, the smoke and heat all around them as the man fights the fire all through the night. Emerging in the morning, he finds everything is burnt and scorched, little left of his buildings, tack house, fences and trees. The earth is baked hard, embers still fill the sky, the smoke tears at his throat. He drives off in anticipation of seeing worse but in nearing his house, sees Fabish leading the seven yearlings towards him. He has done his job of protecting the young horses and somehow they have all survived.
Based on a true story, the trainer, Alan Evett had to let the horses loose, presuming he would never see them again on that terrible Black Saturday in 2009 when a firestorm rivaling the devastation of an atomic bomb, hit Victoria.
This book not only gives readers an overwhelming feeling of being in the bushfire but alerts them to the bravery of some animals in dire circumstances. As with several other books about bushfire, this will encourage discussion in the classroom of the incidence of fire in Australia, how it happens and how people can minimise its effects.
Fran Knight