Subbie and His Mate

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.

When Subzero won the Melbourne Cup in 1992, it was just the beginning for him and his best mate Graham Salisbury.

Never has there been a greater bond between man and horse.

What they did together will touch your heart.

Kid’s Book Review

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.

Barbara Braxton – Teacher Librarian

When an ebony-black foal was born on s spring morning in 1988, no one knew that he would grow to be one of the most famous horses in Australia, right up there with Phar Lap. That, despite becoming a household name after winning the 1992 Melbourne Cup, his greatest contribution would come in the years and years following as he and his constant companion raised millions of dollars for charity and brought comfort to children and the aged alike as they visited those in hospitals.

The story of the bond between Subzero and Graham Salisbury is written into Australian horse history in this moving story for young readers, and while they, and probably their parents, are too young to remember the horse, the power of the connection between an animal – horse, dog, cat, donkey… – will be recognisable in Fenton’s narrative and Wilson’s illustrations that reflect some of the classic images of this horse that remain in the memories of older folk.

As the 30th anniversary of his Melbourne Cup win approaches, teachers’ notes will help expand the themes of this book and help the reader understand ‘what this horse and this man did – know of the joy and happiness, the smiles they brought to the faces of the young and not so young, those sick kids they gifted special moments to carry with them forever. ”


Dannielle Viera

Subbie and His Mate celebrates the bond that can form between humans and animals when love and trust lead the way. Children will cherish the friendship between Subzero and Graham, and no doubt wish they had a neighing mate of their own.

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Pat Pledger

This would be an exceptional book to use in a classroom if the Melbourne Cup was being discussed, and an ideal one when talking about human-animal interaction.

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