Get to Know the Story Behind the Book and How Ralph’s Adventures Continued!
“I think readers can relate to the excitement and adventure [Ralph] seeks, and the independence he longs to have. Those are universal themes in childhood.”
Adventure, friendship, humor, talking mice—The Mouse and the Motorcycle has it all!
So how did Newbery Medal–winning author Beverly Cleary get the idea for her classic novel? How can you spend more time with Ralph S. Mouse? Share these fun facts with your students to go behind the scenes of The Mouse and the Motorcycle and to learn how Ralph’s adventures have continued since.
1. The idea of a mouse on a motorcycle was inspired by Beverly Cleary’s son and a mouse caught in a bucket.
A special interview was included at the beginning of the “Celebrating a Timeless Classic” printing of The Mouse and the Motorcycle. In it, the interviewer asked Beverly, “Of all the animals in the world, how did you decide that a mouse would get not only his own story but his own motorcycle?”
This was Beverly’s answer:
“I myself am surprised to have written it! When my husband, kids, and I were visiting England, my son developed a fever and had to stay in bed. He had some toy cars to play with to amuse him, and among the cars was a little motorcycle. He seemed to get lost in some imaginary adventure, running the motorcycle up and down the stripes of the hotel’s bedspread.
“Then, when we got home, a neighbor of mine had caught a mouse and wanted to show me. When I saw it, it occurred to me that this mouse was just the size of the motorcycle that my son had been playing with in England. And from there, the idea for the story began. A mouse of all things!”
2. The Mouse and the Motorcycle inspired two more stories.
After the success of The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary made the story into a trilogy. Ralph’s adventures continue in Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse.
In Runaway Ralph, Ralph leaves the Mountain View Inn and goes down the road to Happy Acres Camp, where he is captured by a boy who makes him his pet! In Ralph S. Mouse, Ralph goes to school with the son of the new housekeeper at the inn.
3. In 1986, The Mouse and the Motorcycle was made into a TV movie.
The 42-minute live-action movie was part of the ABC Weekend Special/Kidtime lineup. You can watch the full movie here!
There were also films based on the two sequels, Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse.
Beverly Cleary (1916–2021) remains one of America’s most beloved authors. As a child, she struggled with reading and writing. But by third grade, after spending much time in her public library in Portland, Oregon, she found her skills had greatly improved. Before long, her school librarian was saying that she should write children’s books when she grew up. Instead she became a librarian. When a young boy asked her, “Where are the books about kids like us?” she remembered her teacher’s encouragement and was inspired to write the books she’d longed to read but couldn’t find when she was younger.
She based her funny stories on her own neighborhood experiences and the sort of children she knew. And so the Klickitat Street gang was born! Mrs. Cleary’s books have earned her many prestigious awards, including the American Library Association’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, presented to her in recognition of her lasting contribution to children’s literature. Dear Mr. Henshaw won the Newbery Medal, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Ramona and Her Father have been named Newbery Honor books. Her characters, including Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Ralph, the motorcycle-riding mouse, have delighted children for generations.
Beverly Cleary lived to be 104, passing away in March of 2021, but her books—relatable, humorous, and inspiring stories for kids, about kids—will live on for generations to come.
Beverly Cleary quote from The Mouse and the Motorcycle special edition (HarperCollins, 2016).
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