The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary

Posted: February 10, 2009 in Fantasy
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The Mouse and the MotorcycleSince reviewing Redwall I was reminded of one other story containing talking mice, “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”.

For me, this one goes back a long time. In the early 90s my mother used to take me with her to “Burlington Coat Factory” as she shopped for clothes. Yes, for a twelve-year-old boy this was not the most exciting experience, particularly since my mother was not the fastest person in the fitting room. Still, there was a small shelf towards the entrance of the shop filled with children’s books,  and among these were “Ralph S. Mouse”. If I was fortunate, my mother would buy me one of them.

Just recently, my wife, who is a “thrower”, encouraged me to thin down my book collection by donating a huge portion of it to her Godson’s (gymnastics) fund raiser. I reluctantly agreed, after all we will need more space now with a kid on the way and I am happy to help him out, but one of the books I kept was “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”. This was always one of my favorites of the bunch, particularly now that I drive a motorcycle myself, and one I hope to read to my daughter one day.

Since it has been close to twenty years, before doing a review, I decided to read through it again. I was amazed at how much I remembered, such as the “dust mice” under the bed, how the motorcycle was powered, and the kindness of the young boy, Keith.

Story overview:

One day, in an old fashioned and unfrequented hotel, a family shows up. The mother is not the most thrilled about the idea of staying at this place, and keeps on insisting that there are probably mice living there, but there were no other options (they had driven for many hours and everything else was full). Her and her husband stay in room 216, but their son, Keith, is allowed to have his own room next door in #215.

The boy pokes his finder in a hole only to find, to his disappointment, that there’s nothing in there. Little did he know that it was the entrance to the home of Ralph, a young and mischievous mouse who is always giving his mother reasons to worry; particularly on this day when he climbs up a phone cord to look for leftover crumbs.

Unfortunately for Ralf, the boy’s mother is overly clean and there were no leftovers, however what he saw was something he desired even more than food: a motorcycle.

Ralf sits on the motorcycle and accidently rolls off the table, falling into a waste basket, where he is discovered by the boy, Keith, and they become good friends. The two have a lot of fun together until one day–due to Ralf’s carelessness–the hotel finds evidence of mice and so Ralf and his family take refuge. Thankfully for the mice, Keith brings them enough food to eat, but one day the boy becomes ill and Ralf finds himself on a mission to help find him some medicine.

My thoughts:

Extremely charming, this book had me turning the pages. The fonts are big (at least in my edition), so it’s easier for children to read, and the illustrations (though sometimes not quite accurate) do a good job of painting a visual picture to the words. As an adult, I still really enjoyed reading this again, and will probably go back and read a few more “Ralph S. Mouse” books before too long. 

Things to consider:

Keep in mind that this book was written in 1965, and there are some really dated expressions and items, but being from the 60s, and for children, I think it safe to say that this can be read to just about any age. It seems to be targeted more towards boys at around five years old, but I can see girls easily enjoying it too. No cursing, no violence, no sexual situations. Just nice, clean and entertaining reading.

Opportunities for discussion:

Good things to discuss with your children are: the importance of keeping a promise; the consequence of jumping into a situation without first taking the time to learn it properly; how growing up means becoming more responsible; and, Ralf was a little conceited at first but he learned that doing kind and sacrificial acts are more important than his own enjoyment.

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