The Mouse and the Motorcycle


Beverly Cleary




Date Reviewed:

April 28, 2021

his is the second time that I have read The Mouse and the Motorcycle. The first reading was probably 50 years ago, when I was about ten. I read in the newspaper that the author, Beverly Cleary, had just died at the amazing age of 104. I immediately remembered with fondness the story she wrote about Ralph, the intrepid mouse, who loved to ride his motorcycle. I decided to check out the story for a rereading - does it still hold its charm? The answer is yes. The Mouse and the Motorcycle is still a fun read, though it is a good deal shorter than I recalled (158 pages). I remembered Ralph having many dangerous and amazing adventures, but this time around, everything seemed much tamer. Like all great children's books, it is nicely illustrated; the artist for the first edition was Louis Darling, and his artwork still graces the book I checked out of the library. (Are the best illustrations of any children's book the ones drawn by John Tenniel for Alice in Wonderland? I love those drawings. E.H. Shephard's artwork for Winnie the Pooh is also classic.)

Ralph is a young mouse living a the run-down resort hotel called Mountain View Inn. His mouse hole opens into room 215. The Gridley family, on vacation in California, checks into the run down hotel. Keith, the boy in the family, is a assigned to room 215. Keith has some toy vehicles - an ambulance, a sports car, a sedan, and, most gloriously, a shiny red motorcycle. When Keith makes motor noises, and pushes the cars, they move! Ralph watches from the mouse hole, entranced by the motorcycle. When Keith leaves with his family for an activity, he leaves the cars standing in a line on the table. Ralph ventures forth, climbing up onto the wonderous motorcycle, but he can't figure out how to start it. Ralph has to learn that the motorcycle will only go only when the rider makes the engine noises: Pb-pb-b-b-b - this is such a great idea by Cleary - the thought that a car or bike would really move if you just made the motor sounds. Later in the adventure, Ralph will drive the toy ambulance - he only has to make the siren noise: Wh-e-e! Wh-e-e! Wh-e-e!

Also enjoyable is the fact that Keith and Ralph can talk to each other - what child doesn't love the idea of talking to animals? Keith makes a helmet for Ralph out of half of a ping-pong ball, and soon Ralph is zooming about the inn, traveling further and faster than he has ever ventured before. Of course, riding the motorcycle leads to trouble. Ralph finds himself having unexpected challenges and desperate situations. But he proves himself to be an honest and trustworthy mouse, resourceful and enthusiastic. At the end of the story, when Keith and his family leave the inn, Keith gives Ralph the treasured motorcycle. What a delightful gift.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle was published in 1965, and it still retains its charm. It is still a book that young readers would still enjoy today. I see that there is a sequel called Runaway Ralph, which I don't remember reading, so I will have check it out.