Some literary heroes face insurmountable challenges and achieve great feats. Some heroes inspire us with their dedication and bravery. Others have big dreams. And some heroes are mice that ride motorcycles.
If you have a soft spot for rodents in literature (and don’t we all?), you’ll definitely want to check out Beverly Cleary’s classic Ralph S. Mouse series.
To state the obvious, Ralph is a mouse, but he’s a special mouse who is able to speak and be understood by some humans (usually young boys with an affinity for mice). Ralph longs for adventure and independence, but his opportunities are limited by his circumstances–that is, until a toy motorcycle zooms into his life and expands his horizons.
Naturally, Ralph’s cautious mother worries constantly about her daredevil son, and usually for good reason. Throughout the three-book series, Ralph manages to escape from one close call after another, almost always with his precious motorcycle in tow.
Want to read more? Take our free Ralph S. Mouse Checklist to your local library!
You may be most familiar with Beverly Cleary‘s books about the irrepressible Ramona Quimby, but the Newbery Award–winning author has also entertained generations of children with her books about other memorable characters, including Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, and, of course, her smallest protagonist: Ralph S. Mouse.
Over the course of Beverly Cleary’s iconic career as a children’s author, her books have sold more than 90 million copies, she’s won countless honors and awards, and she has earned the love and admiration of children all over the world. She possesses an unparalleled ability to depict genuine feelings and create amusing situations, and—decades after publication—her books continue to stand the test of time.
Cleary is said to have written The Mouse and the Motorcycle specifically for her young son, Malcolm, who was a reluctant reader. Malcolm had a strong interest in motorcycles, so Cleary used that interest as a springboard for the story. A 2012 poll by the School Library Journal ranked The Mouse and the Motorcycle as #89 on a list of the Top 100 Chapter Books.
In The Mouse and the Motorcycle, we meet Ralph, a young mouse living in the walls of the Mountain View Inn. The day-to-day monotony of Ralph’s hum-drum life is punctuated by the coming and going of hotel guests and the variety of crumbs they leave behind. But the arrival of a boy named Keith transforms Ralph’s ordinary world into a fast-paced whirlwind of excitement—thanks to a marvelous toy motorcycle.
Ralph roars back into the spotlight in Runaway Ralph and immediately makes a bold decision: to run away. As Ralph explains, “I don’t want to grow up to be another crumb-scrounging mouse. I want adventure and excitement, and I’m going to ride off on my motorcycle and find it.” A visit to a summer camp amply fulfills Ralph’s desire for adventure—although not exactly in the way he had envisioned—and ultimately, Ralph discovers that there’s no place like home.
But Ralph doesn’t learn the lesson very well. In Ralph S. Mouse, Ralph and his motorcycle hit the road again, snatching yet another opportunity to move away from the Mountain View Inn. Ralph joyfully takes up residence at the Irwin J. Sneed Elementary School, but quickly discovers that life in the school has its downsides, too. The devastating loss of Ralph’s motorcycle threatens to pose an unhappy ending, but readers can always trust that Cleary will come through, and poor Ralph gets a happy ending after all.
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: children’s fiction, humor
Interests: animals, adventure, friendship, childhood mischief, growing up
Suggested age range: 8 to 12
Gender preference: boys and girls
In the series: 3 books, 176 to 191 pages
Do your kids need extra encouragement to read?
Take our Ralph S. Mouse Series checklist to your local library and have your child check off the books as he reads them.
Looking for more great chapter books? We’ve got you covered!