Author Beverly Cleary has a skill for creating wonderful characters that linger in the memory and imagination. The Mouse and the Motorcycle was first written in 1965 but has been re-printed and is still quite popular now in 2014.
A young boy named Keith and his family stop at the Mountain View Inn for a few days rest whilst travelling over mountains and across hills in their car. Keith takes out his toy cars and motorcycle and runs them up and down his blanket’s stripes making ‘pb-pb-bb-b’ noises for the motorbike. He does not realise that while doing this, he is being watched….a young mouse named Ralph quickly ventures out from his hole. Ralph is fascinated with the shiny motorcycle. His subsequent adventures and scrapes as he hops on for a wild ride make for an exciting story. Ralph’s main quest in the story is to escape dogs, cats and humans while retrieving a lost aspirin when the boy falls ill.
Sound imagery throughout the story is excellent – for example, the mouse’s scratching claws as it runs along the floor. His mother mouse is a worrier and throughout the story I liked it that Ralph is eager to show her that he is grown up and can take responsibility – this can foster qualities of responsibility and independence in children.
Ralph has an independent dignity which children so often desperately strive for themselves. Just like a child would want, Ralph Mouse speaks up for himself and is assertive even with his friend, the boy Keith– for example saying ‘No’ to the idea of being kept as a pet in a cage – “How would YOU like to be kept in a cage!”
But this is no moralising do-gooder tale, because Ralph continually gets into trouble and is sometimes deeply troubled. How he makes good and comes through all his turmoil makes for a great story! It works excellently as a read-aloud for children as young as five years. Also available by Beverly Cleary in Ralph’s adventures are Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.