Children’s Book Review – The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965, by Beverly Cleary)

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Short, sweet, and oh so much fun, you will believe a mouse can ride a motorcycle! This is the lovely tale of Ralph, a young mouse addicted to the speed and thrill of cycling, and his friendship with a boy who loves miniature race cars. They understand each other through their mutual love of motorcycles. At least according to Ralph.

That old Milo the Bellboy can talk to Ralph is left as a lovely mystery for us to ponder. Perhaps he has a motorcycle too.

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As part of my daily ten-minute morning reading meditation, I’m enjoying re-discovering old childhood novels. Recently, my sister and I uncovered a whole stack of old books from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse & The Motorcycle was my first pick to reminisce over. RIP to Ms. Cleary, who died on March 25, 2021. She left us with so many lovely children’s books to rediscover and read to our own children. You can see the booklist on her website here. Did you know Cleary was over 100 years old?

Quoted from BeverlyCleary.com: “Beverly Cleary’s books have earned her many prestigious awards. In honor of her achievements, she was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. Of most importance to Beverly Cleary, the more than thirty-five statewide awards her books won based on the votes of her young readers. Her characters, including Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Ellen Tebbits, and Otis Spofford, as well as Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse, have delighted children for generations.”

The Mouse & The Motorcycle is a charming little fantasy

What stands out about Mouse is its appeal to young boys (the mouse, the child, and even the bellhop are male), but has enough fantasy elements to loop in girls for the ride. It’s fun. It’s funny. And Ralph’s amazing adventures are by no means denigrated by the perils being mouse-sized: being trapped in a waste-basket, climbing down vines quietly enough to elude owls, and the Big Aspirin Hunt. It all feels as real as the epic told by rabbits in Watership Down (my second-favorite novel after The Lord of the Rings).

Mouse is low-fantasy compared to LOTR, but the stakes feel large enough for Very Small Creatures. A clever little story that will make you smile.

(158 pages)

Movie Grade: A-

You can also watch the short — 45 minutes — 1986 live-action movie based on the book, also called The Mouse and the Motorcycle, in full on YouTube and on Daily Motion.

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