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This book is also available in a Finnish Hardcover edition entitled Jaska Jänön vapaapäivä, translated by Sinikka Sajama and published by Mäkelä ISBN: 9518825580

Rabbit's Day Off

Illustrated by Thomas Taylor

Rabbit loves driving the steam train – but today is special and Rabbit is supposed to have the day off.
So when Badger insists that Rabbit bring the train to Sycamore Station, Rabbit is reluctant to do it.  Then, as the train steams along, Rabbit encounters one obstacle after another blocking the track.  It’s just as well that his friends keep coming to the rescue – otherwise Rabbit would never find out about the big surprise that Badger has waiting for him.

"full of movement and humour ... with a surprise at the turn of each page. Much to be enjoyed time and time again.."

Louise Stothard, CAROUSEL


UK Hardcover • ISBN: 1862334196
UK Paperback • ISBN: 1862335907



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Illustrations © 2006 Thomas Taylor. Reproduced by permission of Gullane Children's Books.

I wrote the first version of this story when my son, Max, was still a toddler.  Like many small boys* he had a fascination with steam trains, which led inevitably to the Thomas the Tank Engine books.  The Thomas books have been so successful that they dominate the market in train stories and there are surprisingly few alternatives.  Rabbit’s Day Off is an attempt to help remedy that.

The first draft of the story was very similar to the published version, except that the main character was a hedgehog rather than a rabbit.  I’d originally envisaged the story as one of a series, all set on the Great Woodland Railway.  With this in mind, I spent a lot of time coming up with appropriate names for the various trains (The Acorn Express, The Flying Filbert, The Redwood Rocket), stations and other locations (Sycamore Station, Tangleroot Tunnel and Juniper Junction to name but a few) and even went so far as drawing up crew lists for each engine and each station.  In the end, the only name that survived to the final edit was Sycamore Station**.

The first few publishers that I showed the story to turned it down, so I reworked it extensively in response to their comments and suggestions.  One of the suggestions was that I should drop the birthday party ending, which was considered too predictable.

The reworked version of the story was called Shrew Sorts it Out.  It had a slightly different plot and was centred on a different character, Shrew, a train-mad amateur who was desperate to get a job on the railway.  This reworked version ended with Shrew being appointed as the railway’s chief engineer after saving the day by fixing a broken-down engine.

When I showed this version to the UK publisher Gullane, they were interested but felt that there was still something missing.  In particular, they felt that the ending was not sufficiently satisfying and suggested that “a birthday party” would make a stronger ending.  So I showed them the original draft, which they accepted.

Since this was intended as a “train book”, I felt that the way the train was illustrated was as important (if not more important) as the appearance of the characters.  And this was one of the reasons that Thomas Taylor was eventually chosen as the illustrator.  Thomas’s picture books, such as The Loudest Roar and The Chocolate Biscuit Tree, demonstrate his flair for animals characters while his famous cover art for the first Harry Potter novel (featuring the Hogwarts Express) hinted at his ability to draw steam engines.

* And many big boys too!

** There’s a lesson there for aspiring writers about not getting bogged down at an early stage with too much detail.

This book is for

Train driver Rabbit is most surprised to be disturbed by an early phone call from Badger on his day off, especially when he is asked to drive the train to Sycamore Station. He doesn't mind but the journey is full of delays caused by a broken bridge and then, a tree on the line. Luckily just the right friend is there each time to come to his aid and Squirrel, Badger and Mole help him to get to the station. Once they arrive Rabbit realised that everyone knew it was his birthday and they had planned this wonderful party.
The bold illustrations are full of movement and humour and the simple text uses repetition and alliteration to portray the rhythm of the train with a surprise at the turn of each page. Much to be enjoyed time and time again.

Louise Stothard, CAROUSEL