The Mouse and the Motorcycle Read-Aloud Edition

ISBN: 0060588330
ISBN 13: 9780060588335
By: Beverly Cleary

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About this book

Ralph the mouse was terrified. All he had wanted to do was ride the little motorcycle someone had left on the table. Instead, both Ralph and the motorcycle had taken a terrible fall - right into the bottom of the wastepaper basket. He was trapped, left to wait for whatever fate was in store for him.But it turned out to be Ralph's lucky day. Along came Keith, the owner of the toy motorcycle, who was staying with his family in the hotel room where Ralph lived. Not only did Keith save Ralph's life, but he taught him how to ride the bike. And, when everyone was asleep, he turned Ralph loose in the hotel halls to enjoy the biking adventure of his life. But adventures can be both fun and Ralph and Keith soon found out!Alternate Cover Edition for ISBN #0380709244

Reader's Thoughts


Read this aloud to my son, who was obviously enchanted with this book from the title. I mean, a mouse riding a motorcycle? Kid bait. His main takeaway from the book seems to be an obsession with "drip drying" which, to be fair, is mentioned A LOT, and is not something he has a lot of experience with. The intricacies of Ralph moving his small motorcycle around the hotel sneakily get a little tedious, but then I start thinking that Beverly Cleary must have really been trying to get into the head of a mouse and working out the logistics of the situation, and I come out impressed.


Read this aloud to the kids and they loved it. Remember just loving this when I was a kid as well . . . but wasn't as interested as an adult as I thought I would be (hence only 4 stars). Do love the quaint nature of the story and characters and wish more current chapter books for kids were written like this instead of featuring street smart kids from dysfunctional families. Childhood should be a time to be immersed books like Charlotte's Web, Homer Price, and Mouse and the Motorcycle. Loved that my library copy was the 1965 edition and had the lovely library book smell. Maybe I should add that fifth star for the trip back to my childhood this book gave me . . .

Eric Orchard

Super fun, fast read.


Good lord, that was one of my most favoritest books as a lad, I actually remember my research to discover if a mouse really could drive a mini motorcycle. Okay, well maybe it went no further than me asking my mommy, but I was crushed nonetheless. My 7 year old self gives it 5 stars.

Jacquelyn Hoogendyk

I forgot about how much I love this book! As a child I was obsessed with Beverly Clearly books because of the adventurous manner that Clearly wrote them in! The Mouse and the Motorcycle is about Ralph, a mouse that has inhabited a hole in the room of a motel where Keith and his family have chosen to stay. Keith, a boy who is on a family vacation with his parents stays in the room that Ralph lives in. One day, when Keith is away, Ralph decides to ride the toy motorcycle that Keith has brought with him. Keith and Ralph discover each other and become friends. This Beverly Clearly book is about the adventures of Ralph on the motorcycle. I love Beverly Clearly books because as a future teacher I will love having these in my classroom. These books young children to learn to love the world of reading. I can encourage my students to read these and open their minds to the adventurous world of reading! Her books allow for many active lessons that I can do with my students. This book would be great with teaching my students about imagination and creativity. We could create a discussion circle and have them discuss the adventures they would want to go on if they were the mouse in this story. Open discussion and imagination are always two great things to bring into my classroom!

Crystal Lough

The Mouse and the Motorcycle is a fantasy book. It is written for intermediate children and even maybe some middle school children. The book is about a mouse, Ralph, who is not an ordinary mouse. He lives in a mousehole in room 215 of the Mountain View Inn. New people moved into the room with a little boy with a toy motorcycle. When the little boy left Ralph hurried out and got on the motorcycle. He goes through the book using the motorcycle for different things such as how he used the motorcycle to get food for his family and the time he lost the motorcycle in the trash can. I rated the book with 4 stars because I feel children will really enjoy the book. The character Ralph is really fun to read about and the setting of running around in a hotel is a fun thing to imagine for children. I think this book would definitely be appealing to children because of the story itself, the random pictures throughout the book and the character. I could use this book in the classroom for enjoyment or book reports if I were teaching higher grades.

Jen Russell

Perfect read for the boys! The loved it! A little bit of excitement/ adventure with short, somewhat "dangerous" events. A delightful read. Requesting the rest of the series from the library. An added bonus, because the mouse risks his life to find an asprin for friend, a human boy, when he has a fever, Nate now believes in the importance of taking medicine to help lower his fever:)

Robert Kent

The Mouse and the Motorcycle was published in 1965, was still a top librarian recommend when I read it as a child in 1987, and is still picked up by eager readers now in 2012. I loved this book and its sequels and kids still love them. Plenty of books have been published since 1965 and have since gone out of print, yet this story of Ralph S. Mouse remains as popular with readers as ever. Something about this book made it stand out from the pack. Part of that something has to be Beverly Cleary, who also gave us Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby (another post, Esteemed Reader) who, like Ralph S. Mouse, are gods in the pantheon of middle grade fiction. But that’s not all, because Cleary also wrote Ellen Tebbits, Muggie Maggie, and Sister of the Bride, which have failed to keep the same staying power. I don’t know how Clearly pulled off the magic imbued in The Mouse and the Motorcycle. If I did, I would reproduce it, and then the Book of the Week section of this blog would be filled with my books. But I can speculate and paw at her methods the way the confused monkey men pawed at the monolith at the beginning of 2001. So that we may discuss the techniques employed by Cleary, let’s dispense with my review: this book is awesome! It’s one of the best books ever written, middle grade or otherwise, and if you haven’t read it, stop reading this review and go get a copy. If you want to write successful middle grade--and as you’re here, I’ll assume the thought has at least crossed your mind--you owe it to your craft to read this book (and a fair amount of others, many recommended in the list to the left of this post:) I love this book and either you do too, or you will once you read it. It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone disliking this novel , unless certain religious zealots somehow find the idea of a vulgar mouse riding a secular motorcycle an abomination in the eyes of God. So let’s role up our sleeves and pop this book’s hood to see what’s driving the engine. A good place to start is with the book’s first sentence:Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn.Now there’s a good old fashioned hook if I ever read one! Plenty of horror novels have begun with similar sentiments and the sentence, taken by itself, is a bit off putting. What sort of story is this anyway? Who is watching Keith and why and should we be concerned? Note, Cleary doesn’t actually confirm who is watching Keith until chapter 2 (even though there’s a spoil-sport illustration of a mouse peering out of his hole) and by then then the reader’s interest has been thoroughly peeked. And that, of course, is the point. By the time the reader has satisfaction to the question of who is watching Keith, Clearly has raised other story questions and made a few promises to the reader and the pages will continue to turn. The next thing to notice is Cleary’s ability to get completely inside the heads of her characters and to take us with her. Her characters do not seem to exist to serve the plot. Rather, the plot arises from the motivations and actions of her characters. More on this in a moment, but first I want to share a passage with you. Many writers have presented us with a believable child’s perspective (I continue to seek them out for interviews), but how many writers outside of Hilary Wagner can give us a believable mouse’s perspective:At first he was disappointed at the size of the boy who was to occupy the room. A little child, preferably two or even three little children, would have been better. Little messy children were always considerate about leaving crumbs on the carpet. Oh well, at least these people did not have a dog. If there were was one thing Ralph disliked, it was a snoopy dog.Next Ralph felt hopeful. Medium-sized boys could almost always be counted on to leave a sticky candy bar wrapper on the floor or a bag of peanuts on the bedside table, where Ralph could reach them by climbing up the telephone cord. With a boy this size, the food, though not apt to be plentiful, was almost sure to be of good quality.The third emotion felt by Ralph was joy when the boy laid the apple core by the telephone. This was followed by despair when the mother dropped the core into the metal wastebasket. Ralph knew that anything at the bottom of a metal wastebasket was lost to a mouse forever. Sure, there’s a bit of telling: Ralph felt hopeful (blasphemy, my critique partners would cry), but who cares? Clearly does plenty of showing elsewhere and the important thing is how much consideration she has given to Ralph. I imagine a young Beverly Clearly standing up quickly when someone came into a room, an embarrassed look and crumbles of cheese on her face, yet still trying to assure the interloper that she was most certainly not crouched on all fours attempting to see the world from the perspective of a mouse. Ralph S. Mouse lives at the Mountain View Inn, and what he wants is to eat the boy’s crumbs (perfectly believable motivation for a mouse) until he sees Keith playing with a toy motorcycle. Ralph wants to ride that motorcycle and was there ever a child anywhere who didn’t hope that cute, talking mouse would come to them and want to play with their toys? Keith is lonely and so is Ralph. They each need a friend and they both love motorcycles. The fact that they are of different species does not present a problem, as explained in my favorite passage from the book:Neither the mouse nor the boy was the least bit surprised that each could understand the other. Two creatures who shared a love for motorcycles naturally spoke the same language.In my own writing, I almost always start with plot and then find characters who are up to the job of servicing it. I like to imagine Beverly Cleary began with a mental image of a mouse on a motorcycle and worked her way up from there:How would a mouse get a motorcycle? Perhaps a boy loaned it to him. Perhaps they’re friends. But that’s not a story, that’s a situation. Hmmm… (eats some cheese)… I’ve got it! The boy gets sick and Puke the mouse (from an early draft) has to use the skills he learned riding the motorcycle to save the boy’s life. I speculate, of course. For all I know, Cleary spent weeks and weeks working on the characters and then added a plot, or perhaps she had a vision and woke up to write down all the prophet had told her. In any case, it got done. What do I know about how great literature was produced, I can’t even maintain a steady blogging schedule:)One more point about plot and characterization, and we’ll call it an overly-long review—what can I say, I was just so happy to be back with you Esteemed Reader! Mice are a natural fit for children’s stories, which is why there are so many books about them. Mice are small and a nuisance to adults, sort of like certain little Esteemed Readers. There are as many stories about mice as there are about actual children (probably not true, but it sounds true-ish). It is no wonder why Cleary chose a mouse to star in her children’s story, but it’s worth noting the kind of mouse she chose. She didn’t go for happy go-lucky bachelor like Mickey, or a wise old fatherly mouse, or even a Fonzie parody (which would so have been the easy way out). She chose a child as a mouse. There are two children in The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Ralph’s arc dovetails with Keith’s, or maybe it’s the other way around. And when choosing a character to empathize with, do you suppose children will be more interested in a sick kid lying in bed or an adventurous mouse who risks life and limb for a friend? Here’s a nice after school special moment to illustrate my point:You mean you aren’t mad at me anymore?” asked Ralph.“I guess you might say I’m mad but not real mad,” Keith decided. “I’ve been lying here thinking. It wouldn’t be right for me to be real mad, because I get into messes myself. My mom and dad tell me I don’t stop to use my head.”Ralph nodded. “I guess that’ my trouble, too. I don’t stop to use my head.”“They say I’m in too much of a hurry,” said Keith. “They say I don’t want to take time to learn to do things properly.”Ralph nodded again. He understood. If he had waited until he had learned to ride the motorcycle he would never have ridden off the bedside table into the wastebasket.“I’ll never forget the first time I rode a bicycle with hand brakes,” reminisced Keith. “I took right off down a hill. I had always ridden bicycles with foot brakes, and when I got going too fast I tried to put on foot brakes only there weren’t any.”“What happened?” Ralph was fascinated.“By the time I remembered to use the hand brakes I hit a tree and took an awful spill.Somehow, this story made Ralph feel better. He was not the only one who got into trouble. “The hard part is,” continued Keith, “I am in a hurry. I don’t want to do kid things I want to do big things. Real things. I want to grow up.” You look pretty grown up to me,” said Ralph.“Maybe to a mouse,” conceded Keith, “but I want to look grown up to grown-ups.”“So do I,” said Ralph with feeling. “I want to grow up and go down to the ground floor.” “Everybody tells me to be patient,” said Keith, “but I don’t want to be patient.”“Me neither,” agreed Ralph.And that’s going to do it. It’s so good to see you again, Esteemed Reader, I think we should have us another date next week. What do you say, you and me, next Tuesday discussing another fine middle grade novel? We’ll even invite an author to join us to face the 7 Questions on Thursday just like we used to do. And if that works out, we’ll do it again the next week… and after that, well… let’s just wait and see how worn out and behind on the new manuscript the Ninja is, shall we? But next week for sure. And until then, I’ve got something you always used to like, Esteemed Reader—some of my favorite passages from this week’s book:“To pilfer a pill,” said Ralph. “An aspirin tablet.” His answer was dramatic enough even for Uncle Lester. His entire family stared at him in disbelief. Not an aspirin! Not after his own father had been poisoned by one of the dread tablets.“An aspirin!” Ralph’s mother gasped. “No, Ralph, not that! Anything but that!”“Why, there’s Ralph,” squeaked his Aunt Sissy, who thought she was better than the rest of the family because she lived in the bridal suite where, she led her relatives to believe, riches of rice fell to the carpet when the bride took off her hat and the groom shook out his coat.“Ralph, stay here,” pleaded his mother. “You’re too young. Let you Uncle Lester go.”“Well, now, let’s talk this over,” said Uncle Lester.


A lovely story about Ralph, a daring mouse who longs for adventure. Ralph befriends a young boy who has come to stay at the hotel he lives in. Keith has a toy motorcycle which is just the right size for Ralph to ride. As Ralph gets more and more daring things begin to happen and adventures abound. Beverly Cleary is a fantastic storyteller with a great style that appeals to young children. Although this story is obviously aimed at boys my 8yr old daughter loved it as well. Both suspense and humor are used to keep the reader hanging on to find out what will happen next. While I was a keen Ramona Quimby fan as a child I missed the Ralph books. I will be reading the rest of the series soon.

Tony DiTerlizzi

Mouse buddy + toy motorcycle = Awesome!

Julie Sondra Decker

In this book, motorcycle-riding Ralph is a mouse who goes on adventures! An understanding human provides this toy-size cycle for him and finally he can pursue the exploration he always craved.I wasn't an animal-stories fan and my favorite Beverly Cleary books were the Ramona titles. However, I think there are some kids (especially boys) who would be more likely to get into Cleary's excellent books if they start with a non-human character with an adventurous spirit. Cleary has a talent for making you really care about her characters even when their problems are personal, not world-shaking. I love stories that are about the everyday, and while a mouse riding a motorcycle is hardly something you'd see in real life, it still felt authentic and real.


I chose this book to read with my seven year old son because there really aren't that many sweet, simple, "boy" stories. This one fit that bill and my nine year old daughter ended up joining us while we read this. Both of them really enjoyed this one. I found Ralph a tad bit sarcastic and mischievous, but really liked the story. My favorite part was the chapter where Ralph decides to search for an aspirin for his human friend Keith. This is a great classic and I really appreciate the simplicity of the story.


I loved reading this book. It reminded me of when I read this book while student teaching to my fifth graders and we had a mouse named Ralph in the class.


This, the underrated, overlooked and oft forgotten prequel to Runaway Ralph and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence, tells the tail (yes I did!) of one Ralph S. Mouse, a grease monkey of an entirely different genus (Mus). Praised in France for its controversial use of alcoholism in mice and free-spirited sexuality, the book received numerous awards including the prestigious Caldecott Medal. It was later the basis for the film Motorcycle Diaries, for which it was rumored method actor Gael Garcia Bernal spent months preparing for his role as Ralph only to have the role changed to a more believable, though less interesting, Che Guevara. In recent years, the books exclusion from the New York Times' 10,000 Greatest Books from the 20th Century has spawned a grass roots support group called "In the Hearts of Mice."


I just finished reading this to my class. Ralph is great. He's an underestimated juvenile mouse who gives a heroic and inspirational (for 4th graders, age or mentality) performance. It was fun to read it to the class because I could show off some motorcycle knowledge and make pbb, ppb, pbb sounds when Ralph rode around. One drawback: most of the kids had seen the movie version so they already know what was going to happen. Damn Hollywood, stealing all the fun.

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