Review Blog

Jan 23 2017

Royal rabbits of London by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

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Ill. by Kate Hindley. Simon and Schuster, 2016. ISBN 9781471157868
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. The Royal Rabbits of London is a richly rewarding adventure story for newly confident chapter book readers to enjoy. Shylo Tawny-Tail lives with his family in a deep burrow in the countryside. As the runt of the litter he suffers teasing and bullying from his three older brothers and sisters; they constantly make fun of his eye-patch and play tricks on him. Shylo's only escape is the secret meetings with his friend, Horatio an old grizzled rabbit who lives at the edge of the forest. He shares stories of the Royal Rabbits of London; a secret society of agent rabbits living under Buckingham Palace, whose job is to protect the Royal Family. Horatio is a true friend, who encourages his young friend praising his fearlessness and courage for traversing the dangerous forest and visiting the scarred old rabbit, banished from his former home and family.
One morning, when Shylo hides in a fallen oak tree to escape from his bully brother Maximilian, he overhears three evil rats plotting to embarrass the Queen. The Ratzi's purpose in life is to hunt the Royal Family down, take, and publish embarrassing photos of them. Suddenly Shylo has a mission, a purpose for his life, and old Horatio instructs him to travel to London and warn the protectors of the queen, the mysterious and hidden Royal Rabbits. Their skills are needed to foil the Ratzi's plan and make them aware of the impending plot.
Horatio sends young Shylo off to London with clear instructions and this encouragement. 'Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible - by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!' The pace picks up when Shylo encounters the frenetic pace of life in London, with growling dogs and busy traffic; he leaves the safety of the farmer's cart loaded with spring cabbages and sets out to find the Weeping Willow entrance to a secret tunnel. The London Royal Rabbits are elegant and their personalities unique, their world is rich in structure and tradition, their warrens stylish and their lives quite a contrast to Shylo's world.
The difficult journey under Buckingham Palace, the dramatic scenes fighting with the Ratzis, and the escape from the Pack of the Queen's dogs, is fraught with danger and some scenes are graphically told. Shylo is a hero; he overcomes his fears, grows in self-confidence with his physical limitations and is even instrumental in a family reunion.
From the gold embossed jacket to the beautifully meticulous illustrations and the rabbit paw prints that hop across the page corners, this is a quality children's story. Kate Hindley's detailed line drawings are intricate and emotive, they show Shylo's vulnerability, Horatio's kindness, Belle de Paw's elegant style and the frenetic action in the Royal Kennel.
Santa and Simon Montefiore's descriptive story is perfect for a class novel for years 2-4, as an English text to discuss character depiction and development and the well-paced narrative arc. In Health and Wellbeing, this is an excellent forum to discuss the implications of bullying and to encourage building healthy self-esteem with an 'I can do it' attitude.
Rhyllis Bignell

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