Did you ever read the Redwall books? Or the Guardians of Gahoole? Secret of NIMH? You know, those stories of animal civilizations where the animals are a kind of people, but not human. I think Watership Down is one of those sorts of tales, too.
I read the Redwall books like crazy. They’re pretty big books for kids books. I quite because I got older and my tastes a bit more complex. The Redwall books were trope-y as all get out and you could tell Jacques was running out of steam after a certain point. They were fascinating, though, and there was always a sense of a larger world. The Salamandastron books were the best. Badger Lords and Ladies FTW!
What stands out about Redwall and the rest is that they are PG-13 to R. I am not kidding. There are deaths that put the flashy cynical stuff you find on streaming services to shame. The big bad of the first Redwall book is crushed by a bell! Redwall is violent. Very, very violent. Slavery and barbarism are everywhere to be found. There is a lot of joy and happiness in the lives of the animals of Redwall, but a lot of sorrow and death, too. The snake in the first book is something out of a horror movie!
It’s funny how these “Kingdoms of the Beasts” books work. They’re epic fantasy, but the worlds have a lived-in feel where the rules of magic- if there is any- are defined as you go along. They’re violent but not cynical.
You can get away with a lot of violence if it’s animals doing it to each other instead of any human involvement, it seems. I wonder if parents saw the cute animal covers and assumed they were G-rated? My parents wouldn’t have cared- I saw Jurassic Park when I was four- but I think some might have.
Foolishly, by the way. Better the violence wrought by Cregga Rose Eyes upon vermin who prey on the innocent than the crass, cynical melodrama that is found in a lot of Young Adult fiction these days. Young readers will learn of violence in fiction books; there’s no guarantee they’ll learn of honor, or the value of civilization, or find heroes truly worth emulating.