Review: Subbie And His Mate

This is one of those stories that lifts you in a puff of air, carries you along on a wondrous breeze, places you down gently to catch your breath and then stays around long after you’ve closed the book.

The words and illustrations come together seamlessly, and sometimes unexpectedly, to create an immersive and absolutely beautiful picture-book.

Subbie and His Mate is the true story of racehorse Subzero who won the Melbourne Cup, retired from racing at just four years of age and spent the next several decades doing amazing things such as working the racetracks, visiting hospitals and helping children along with his dedicated mate (and owner), Graham. The two were inseparable and both died not long ago, just months apart.

Every morning Subbie would wait at the gate for Graham, and every morning they would talk. Subbie’s eyes watched Graham wherever he went and, whenever he could, he followed.

Corinne Fenton is a widely loved, acclaimed and very special author who creates incredible picture books from legendary real-life animal stories. Fenton spent precious hours with Subbie (feeding him carrots) and also with his mate (chatting and gathering stories), as research for this exquisite picture book. Apparently she still has an early manuscript with carrot juice on it!

Mark Wilson brings an incredible life force and whir of energy to the artworks, which sometimes lift the words right off the page. Black and white scribbly line drawings sit alongside smudged pastel portraits and sensitively rendered artworks to generate movement, noise, tenderness and joy in an immersive sensory experience.

Although the story of Subzero is well known and can be googled at a moment’s notice, there is nothing predictable about the text or illustrations in this book. It is a fitting, beautiful and unique tribute to the horse and his man – yes, deliberately listed in that order for it seems that this is the way both liked it.

Not to be missed.

Title: Subbie And His Mate
Author: Corinne Fenton
Illustrator: Mark Wilson
Publisher: Ford St, $24.95
Publication Date: March 1, 2022
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781925804973
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

July 29, 2022 at 12:31AM DimbutNice