Domestic animals > January 18, 2020


January 18, 2020
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Fabish is a picture book about courage and hope. It’s a heartwarming story set during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires and may help readers find resilience in these current dark days.

Fabish is a retired racehorse who watches over the yearlings. One scorching hot day, a bushfire threatens the property. Flames creep closer. In desperation the trainer throws opens the gates. ‘Take care of the boys. Go, now!’ he tells Fabish. Fleeing is the horses’ only chance.

All night the trainer battles the fire. In the morning he surveys the devastation. Fences, cattle and birds are all gone. The yearlings didn’t stand a chance, he thinks.

Then he hears a rhythmic thudding. As he stares into the smoky haze, the trainer sees Fabish leading the horses home. Somehow the wise old racehorse has kept the yearlings safe, and there’s not a cut or burn on any of them.

Neridah McMullins’ award-winning story is based on a true anecdote, making the book even more poignant and Andrew McLean‘s evocative illustrations add layers of beauty and texture.

As the 2019/20 fires continue to rage we cry for the people who’ve lost their homes, but it’s the images of the animals; burnt koalas and wombats that are seared into our minds. Fleeing kangaroos, birds dropping from the sky, these are the pictures that have sparked an outpouring of donations. Knitters send mittens from around the world, photographs of a man’s car full of marsupials goes viral. People repeat the inconceivable numbers; a billion creatures dead, possible lost species … And we, the greedy ones who have allowed new coal mines and land clearing, despite the science, hang our heads in shame.

Birds and animals are the victims of our greed and lack of action in preventing the tinder dry conditions which has led to annual bushfires becoming infernos. In this story, animal characters embody this innocence. Fussy human traits are pared back, allowing the uncomplicated ability of the horses’ survival to take centre stage and rekindle human hope.

Picture books work on many levels. For me, this apparently simple tale shows how animal characters can evoke deep empathy and compassion. It reinforces the importance of protecting those who rely on us, particularly the animals. Thank you, Neridah and Andrew for this beautiful book, still a timely story after so many years.


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