The Mouse Guard Alphabet Book is exactly what it sounds like: an alphabet book grounded firmly in the fantasy world of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard cannon. For those who are entirely unfamiliar with the world of Mouse Guard, it is a fantasy space that centers on the trials and challenges of a mouse civilization whose collective survival depends on their adopting a united front in opposition to mouse-predators, such as ferrets, owls, and foxes. Mouse Guard, like many fantasy texts, has a bit of a medieval-inspired feel, and generally reminds this reader of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series.
The alphabet book itself is a charming, beautiful book with full-page illustrations and simple text. Mouse Guard maintains the A-B-A-B rhyming pattern that has been a mainstay of the alphabet book since its inception, and while most segments follow a rhythmic cadence that lends itself well to reading aloud, a handful of pages feature final lines that are just choppy enough to interrupt reading flow. For parents hoping to share this book with their children, I recommend taking a practice run to ensure that you’re able to achieve optimum fluidity while reading aloud.
Serena Malyon’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and her use of muted tones and pastels, including a rich palette of greys and browns, lend the book a gentle feel. Each letter is given a full two pages, with the left side depicting each letter in a style reminiscent of medieval drop-caps; the letters are drawn in a stylized fashion and decorated with simple line designs, with colour accents, and with small figures. Each right-hand page shares the same palette as its respective letter and depicts a full scene, complete with patterned borders that help to draw each scene together with the rest and to create a cohesive feel. Maylon’s lines are clean, and her shading is extremely subtle; in one case, three creamy shades of off-white give one little mouse (the one representing C, which stands for Carpenter) a coat that appears soft and fluffy.
Petersen and Maylon’s Mouse Guard Alphabet Book is artistically rendered and feels much more immersive and mature than the average alphabet book. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Mouse Guard world will be treated to an illustrated introduction to that world, though they may struggle with the text as many of the words themselves won’t make much sense without some prior knowledge (Darkheather, Insectrist), though about one half of the words presented are simply from English (Fox, Healer, Matriarch).