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Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave And Other Tales by David Petersen… and a song!

This entry is part 20 of 56 in the series 2022 Reads

As with other posts in this series, these #booksread2022 posts go anywhere from a few weeks to a month after I’ve read them. I read this particular book back in April, though! I’ve just been busy!

I’ve recently mentioned how I introduced my son to the Mouse Guard comics via the short tales in the Legends of the Guard series. After we finished those, I noted that there were two other Mouse Guard volumes available that we didn’t already have, as well as a single issue comic from this year titled The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales and the Mouse Guard Alphabet book. Since our son is learning to read now, I went ahead and ordered copies of all of them. 

We read Baldwin the Brave in two sittings, which wasn’t hard: it’s a collection of Free Comic Book Day micro-stories, none of them more than about eight or ten pages long. Many introduce some bit of backstory related to a major character (or artifact) from the main Mouse Guard series: some of the tales are presented as stories and songs sung to the heroes of the original Mouse Guard series during their childhoods, while another tells of a short but interesting episode in the history of the Black Axe, and one is a song that is sung to the child of one of the mice from the Mouse Guard books. 

All the art below is from other reviews of the book, stuff that’s already out there in the world, but I can’t talk about these books without sharing some of the art:

Normally, I am not so cagey about details that might be considered spoilers—especially not for a book that is almost a decade old (and which collects material that was published more than a decade ago in some cases, and often was freely available online for a time)—but the thing is, part of the joy of the book is the little surprises seeded throughout it, as intense and pleasureable as fresh-picked raspberries sampled on the way home from picking. We get these brief, tiny glimpses into the childhood of various characters from the main Mouse Guard narratives, and especially, those glimpses are into the stories told to them as children that shaped the individuals they would eventually become.  

Each of these stories is quite short, but masterfully drawn and paced, and absolutely appealing to a child as well as to an adult. My son loved them so much that when I finished work today, he insisted that we read the book right away. “We can eat after,” he said when I pointed out that it was dinnertime. “I want to read this first! This is the page where we stopped… come on, papa!”

I ended up singing the last piece in the book, a song, to him. I took a few moments to sketch out something close to what I sang, since it was a fun moment, though I ended up having to take some tiny liberties with the lyrics to make it work from one verse to the next. Feel free to click the link to download a PDF of the sheet music below. I don’t have a recording, and trust me, you don’t want a recording of me singing it, but if you can read music, you can try it out for yourself, below.

I’m also working on a multi-voice arrangement, in part as a fun exercise to see how much of traditional music arranging and oldtimey European four-part harmony rules I remember. (Mostly it’s just Palestrina-ish counterrpoint but the rhythms do get a bit gnarly here and here, and I envision performed more like how early music forms like motets and madrigals were performed: with each voice sung by only one singer.)

I’m pretty happy with how this arrangement sounds so far, but it’s not quite done, and I have decided to go ahead and post this rather than endlessly put off publishing this post so I can include it. I’m not sure whether—even if I could sort out a rights agreement with David Petersen—the piece would be good enough to bother publishing, but I am happy enough with it that I think it’d be fun to try get some singers to record it. (If only I knew some here… but I may be able to ask around among some old music contacts.)

Ah, if only I’d written this during the lockdowns, when there were singers galore stuck at home and bored out of their minds, huh? But we’ll see what I can swing. In any case, I’m happy to share the basic sheet music for the melody. (I didn’t put chords but I think just about any musician could harmonize it easily.)

Series Navigation<< <em>Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time</em> by James Gurney<em>Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales</em> by David Petersen >>
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