Friendship is Sharing: A Review of ‘A Mouse and the Motorcycle’

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”–Leo Buscaglia

Reading Level:

Grades 4-5

Review and Thoughts:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary is a story about a mouse named Ralph and a boy named Keith who develop a true friendship based on a love of motorcycles, speed, adventure, and an impatience to see life unfold.  I must confess that I do not like rodents or anything that I would classify as a rodent.  Ralph, however, is special and not on my mental list of nibbling mammals.  He is endearing, honest, and absolutely a thrill seeker.  Keith is a young boy who is excited about possibilities and savors new experiences. He seems mature in the way he ponders situations and draws responsible conclusions.

Keith and his parents arrive at a rather quaint hotel after a long vacation drive.  His parents have different opinions about the hotel but agree to a much needed break from holiday traffic. While Keith settles in his room, he has an unexpected onlooker from a knothole. Ralph is watching him with hopeful anticipation for some quality food or at least lots of crumbs discarded by the boy.  When he sees Keith play with a few cars and a motorcycle, Ralph forgets about food.  He is mesmerized.  The motorcycle is not just a toy it is perfection!

Ralph eventually finds a way to get close to the motorcycle.  Unfortunately, he and the cycle fall into the garbage can, and he is trapped.  This is where Ralph and Keith meet and thus begins their first adventure.  Their introduction is rather sweet as Keith’s gentle nature presents itself.  He quietly talks to Ralph and begins a conversation, which does not seem unusual to either of them.  They recognize that they are just “two creatures who share a love for motorcycles and naturally speak the same language.” Keith carefully helps Ralph out of the garbage can and encourages him to ride the motorcycle.  Ralph cannot believe his luck!  With one last reminder from Keith to be careful so his tail doesn’t get stuck in the spokes Ralph is off.  He realizes this is what life should be like.  The two new friends make a pact that Keith will play with the motorcycle during the day, and Ralph will ride it at night.  So, on that first night Ralph rides the motorcycle down the hallway of the hotel.  He knows that he will never be the same.

Ralph’s second adventure is a dangerous situation.  He is confronted with a powerful vacuum cleaner while a maid is cleaning Keith’s room and has to save himself.  He and the motorcycle end up in a pile of sheets on the floor and eventually the sheets and Ralph are taken to the laundry.  Ralph must gnaw his way out of the sheets, (Okay, maybe he does nibble a little.) but he is not able to save the motorcycle. He knows he must tell Keith about losing the motorcycle and admit he rode it during the day even after promising he would not. Ralph feels distressed and dreads facing Keith, but his conscience urges him to take responsibility and admit what he has done. When he confesses, Keith is not happy that his favorite motorcycle is lost.  After thinking about it though Keith admits to himself that he makes mistakes also. He remembers that his parents sometimes say ” he does not use his head or take the time to do things properly.”  Keith forgives Ralph and their friendship grows stronger.

Ralph’s bravery and ingenuity are tested when he faces his last challenge. Keith is sick and has a high fever, but his parents cannot find any aspirin.  Ralph is very concerned about him.  After all, he was the boy who saved him from the wastebasket, trusted him with his motorcycle, and forgave him.  Ralph knows he has to do something so he decides to search the hotel from top to bottom and find an aspirin. He goes from room to room looking everywhere while trying not to get too discouraged.  His quest almost comes to an end when he faces several perilous obstacles.  He eventually finds an aspirin under a dresser, but then he faces the predicament of how to get the aspirin back to Room 215. He does some quick problem solving and borrows Keith’s ambulance.  After a few very tense moments, he is able to bring the aspirin safely back to Keith’s room.  Wisely, Keith does not take the aspirin until his parents inspect it and make sure it is indeed an aspirin.

The next morning, the missing motorcycle is returned to Keith by the friendly busboy who finds it in the laundry.  Even though they are thrilled to see the motorcycle, they both know that Keith’s stay at the hotel is almost over.  Ralph is surprised when Keith asks him to come home with him.  He would like their friendship to continue, but Ralph definitely does not want to live in a cage so he refuses the offer.  Keith then asks Ralph if he wants to keep the motorcycle, and Ralph is overjoyed. The friends plan where in the hotel the motorcycle can be safely kept during the day.  With that task accomplished, it is time to say good-bye. Keith tells Ralph that he will “write a composition about his summer vacation about meeting a brave little mouse named Ralph who rides a motorcycle.

The friendship between Ralph and Keith is a mixture of generosity, trustworthiness, and respect. They share a love of the motorcycle and the adventures that brings.  Even though there are a few disagreements along the way, Keith and Ralph resolve their differences and their friendship grows even stronger.  They enjoy the mutual love of many things but in the end each one allows their friend to live his life and become who he was meant to be.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle is the first of three books about Ralph S. Mouse.  It is a good read aloud book for the suggested age group or even children who are a bit younger.  Fourth and fifth graders will enjoy reading about Ralph’s adventures and learn more about Ralph through his innermost thoughts.  This book was published in 1967 so some things in the story may seem outdated.  The story of a new and respectful friendship is never outdated.

Possible Issues:

  • Ralph calls Keith stupid but immediately regrets his rudeness.
  • The maid was going to the parking lot to meet a busboy after her work was done.
  • A man staying at the hotel tells his dog to shut up so he doesn’t wake everyone.
  • Ralph sticks out his tongue and waggles his paws in his ears at the dog in the hallway, a gesture he knew would anger.

Further Discussion:

Draw the hotel with the three routes of Ralph’s adventures.

  • Supplies: Large piece of paper or poster board, pencil, crayons or markers, ruler
  • Procedure:
    • Fold the large piece of paper or poster board in half like a book.
    • On the cover, draw a picture of what you think the outside of the quaint hotel looks like. Don’t forget to add the vines.
    • On the inside draw the inside of the hotel including all the locations mentioned in the book – Room 215 and 216, hallway, elevator, lobby, laundry, etc.
    • Use a different colored marker or crayon to trace each of Ralph’s adventures with the motorcycle and ambulance – riding down the hall, being taken to the laundry in the sheets, searching for the aspirin and returning to the room.

 Catholic Resources:

  • The lessons parents teach their children are not in vain. Both Ralph and Keith remind us of this as  they remember the advice and lessons their mothers taught them.  The voices of their mothers are in their heads and lead them to make good decisions.

A Mother’s Prayer for Her Children

Holy Mother Mary,

Who by virtue of your divine motherhood,

Hast become mother of us all

I place the charge which God has given me,

under your loving protection.

Be a Protecting Mother to my children.

Guard their bodies and

keep them in health and strength.

Guard their minds and keep their thoughts ever holy

in the sight of their Creator God.

Guard their hearts and keep them pure and strong and

happy in the love of God.

Guard always their souls and ever preserve in them,

faithfully, the glorious image of God

whom they received in Holy Baptism.

Always Mother, protect them and keep them

Under your Mothering care.

Supply in your all-wise motherhood,

For my human deficiencies

And protect them from all evil.

Amen.

[Family-prayer.org]

 

  • CCC 2416 –   Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.
  • Definition of conscience:
    • Antecedent conscience: The judgment of a person deciding on a moral matter prior to acting on it. Antecedent conscience either commands or forbids, counsels or permits the performance of an act.
    • Consequent conscience: The judgment of the mind on the morality of an action already performed. The conscience either approves what has been done, giving peace to the mind and spiritual joy, or disapproves of what was done, thus causing remorse and a sense of guilt.

(From Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary)

 

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