Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Beverly Cleary
Illustrator:  Jacqueline Rogers 
For ages 8 to 10
HarperCollins, 2016   ISBN: 978-0380709243

When a little boy enters Room 215 in the Mountain View Inn, Ralph, the mouse who lives behind the knothole in the wooden wall, is watching his every move. He hears about how tired the boy’s father is of driving, and finds out that the little family will be staying at the hotel for a few days because the father does not want to be on the roads during the holiday weekend. The boy will be staying in the room by himself, and Ralph dares to hope that this will mean that he and his family will get some decent snacks to eat. Human children are often very messy, which means lots of crumbs for the mice to eat.

It turns out that the boy, Keith, has brought a collection of toys with him. There are some toy cars, and a little red toy motorcycle, which Ralph finds irresistible. As Keith plays with the motorcycle he makes a “Pb-pb-b-b-b” noise, a noise which, to Ralph, speaks of “highways and speed, of distance and danger, and whiskers blown back by the wind.”

When Keith falls asleep, Ralph tries to ride the motorcycle and end up rolling off the bed and into the wastebasket, which is made out of metal and is therefore in escapable, even for a mouse. Soon enough Keith finds Ralph and the motorcycle in the metal wastebasket, and he rescues both of them. The mouse and boy strike up a conversation and then Keith tells Ralph to try riding the motorcycle. Ralph is delighted to do so, though he has to admit that he has no idea how to make it start. The boy explains that all Ralph has to do is to make the Pb-pb-b-b-b noise. Of course, why didn’t Ralph think of that?

Soon Ralph is zooming around the hotel room having the time of his life. He even rides it in the corridor and is having a wonderful time when everything goes wrong. He gets seen by a dog, he gets locked out of Room 215, and then Keith’s mother sees him. Luckily everyone thinks she is dreaming when she says that she has seen a mouse on a motorcycle.

The next day Keith goes out for a while with his parents. Before he leaves he makes Ralph promise not to ride the motorcycle until night falls, when he is less likely to be seen. Ralph means to keep his promise, but he doesn’t. He goes for a ride, almost gets sucked up by the maid’s vacuum, and then ends up being gathered up with some dirty bed linens, which are then taken to the linen room. Ralph is able to escape from the linens by chewing himself free, but he cannot rescue the motorcycle and has to leave it behind.

Needless to say Ralph feels very bad about losing Keith’s motorcycle, especially since the boy told him not to ride it during the day.

Young readers are going to thoroughly enjoy this wonderful Beverly Cleary story, which has all the elements a good story should have. The tiny hero is brave and motorcycle mad, and he often chooses not to listen to his mother. Most of the time this is not a problem, but sometimes this is a bad idea, and he pays dearly for his determination to be independent.

It is interesting to see how Ralph matures as the story unfolds, and how he learns that sometimes you have to do something not because you hope you will benefit from it, but because it is simply the right thing to do.