As kids, my sisters and I were obsessed with any film, TV show or book about animals. Anything that personified animals was perfect. It’s something that hasn’t really left me as I got older, which is why I was so excited to see this in the charity shop. Personified rabbits who are tasked with looking after the Queen? I’m not exactly pro-Royal but that sounded like a lot of fun. I had to buy it and I couldn’t wait to read it. But would it really be as good as it sounded?
For me, it’s often the simplest ideas that make the most effective children’s books. Take a basic premise and match it to various scenarios. The Royal Rabbits of London has a pretty simple but original idea at its heart. What if a group of rabbits lived under Buckingham Palace and were charged with protecting the Queen of England? It’s such a brilliant and engaging idea that you can do so much with. Add in a scrawny rabbit with something to prove and you’ve got everything you need for a great adventure.
This book is essentially The Three Musketeers but set in the rabbit world. Shylo is the weakest rabbit in his family and is always overlooked. He is small, has an eyepatch and is bullied by his siblings. The only person who really sees greatness in him is Horatio. Unfortunately, Shylo has been warned to stay away from the mysterious old rabbit. Everyone else thinks Horatio is mad but Shylo loves hearing stories about the Royal Rabbits of London who have been protecting the Royal Family for centuries. When Shylo overhears a plot to harm the Queen, Horatio convinces the young bunny to head to London and seek the help of this underground order. Can Shylo get to them in time?
This story is utterly charming and sweet. Shylo is a fantastic hero and he is surrounded by a great bunch of rabbits. They all have such fun characters and add so much to the story. I admit that, as the first in the series, there is a lot of worldbuilding to contend with. It’s kind of exposition-heavy but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. The world we are introduced to has so many interesting layers to it. There are the country bunkins and the Hopsters from the big city. We also meet plenty of adversaries. The bunnies have to watch out for the Ratzis who are out to ruin the Queen’s reputation. They also have to be wary of the Queen’s corgis because they are jealous of the rabbits.
As well as being a lot of fun, The Royal Rabbits of London has a great central message about not judging people based on their appearance. Shylo is the smallest of the rabbits but he is the one brave enough to visit Horatio. It is Shylo who uncovers the plot and who travels to London. The story proves that no matter how small you are, you can still make a big difference. This would be a great read for children and the short chapters would make it perfect for bedtime reading. I’ll definitely look out for copies of the other books in the series.