The Royal Rabbits of London
By Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 1 4711 5788 2
There’s an awful lot of writing heft and weight behind this new adventure story for younger readers. Santa Montefiore has written 17 novels for adults clocking up sales of over a million in the UK alone. Her husband, Simon Sebag, is a historian and novelist with a string of awards whose latest book about the tsars of Russia is currently a bestseller.
The Royal Rabbits of London is the Montefiores’ first novel for young readers and their first ever collaboration. But writing an effective story for children is a very different ball game to penning adult novels and historical biographies. Have the Montefiores got a success on their hands with this tale of bunny adventures in a secret warren under Buckingham Palace in London?
Tourists taking selfies outside the home of the British Queen have no idea about the labyrinthine warren deep under their feet. This is the home and headquarters of The Royal Rabbits of London who have a long and proud history of protecting Her Majesty and the Royal Family.
The security guards and Royal Guardsmen in their splendid regalia standing to attention outside the Palace think they are the ones who keep the queen safe. But not so! It’s the Royal Rabbits behind the scenes under the command of the Generalissimo who do that job. They’ve been doing it for centuries, and are very successful at it as UK Royal History shows.
Meanwhile, as the Royal Rabbits are going about their daily business of looking after the Queen, in the English countryside a shy but curious young rabbit called Shylo Tawny-Tail is struggling to find a meaning to his life. He’s the runt of the litter, and has to put up with teasing and bullying by his many brothers and sisters. Being a young and undersized rabbit is not easy!
Shylo’s mother knows her youngest son is not the happiest of bunnies, but she has enough to worry about because of the dogs that roam the farm near where they live. She has to protect all her children from becoming a dog’s dinner, and warn them about all the other dangers in the world beyond their warren. She spends what time she can with Shylo, but she can’t watch over his every move. He has to learn to fend for himself and not be so scared all the time.
But despite his timidity, Shylo has an adventurous personality just waiting to be set free, and he has started to visit old Horatio who lives alone in the wood and has a wealth of stories to tell any young rabbit who wants to listen. Shylo is entranced by Horatio’s tales about the Royal Rabbits in faraway London. Do they exist or are they just part of old Horatio’s vivid imagination? Shylo is about to find out.
Quite by accident, Shylo hears a conversation between a group of nasty woodland rats. They are plotting to go to London and take pictures of the Queen in a very embarrassing situation. These photos will make a fortune for these evil paparazzi rats. Shylo has to move quickly and do something to foil their plans. But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo seek out the fabled Royal Rabbits and convince them that the Queen is in danger?
The Royal Rabbits of London is a totally delightful story for younger readers. Twentieth Century Fox Animation has recently snapped up the book to develop as a feature film.
But canny kids will move quickly and enjoy the novel before Shylo hits the silver screen and goes mainstream. Who knows what will happen to him now that Hollywood has grabbed him by his tawny tail? Best to read the book, and leave that worry until later.
John Millen can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org