Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Mouse and the Motorcycle follows the parallel stories of two youngsters, one human and one animal, and their adventures when they meet. In some ways, it is a classic “buddy story” of two youngsters learning about and helping each other. The details are fantastic, such as human-animal conversations, and the theme of self-discovery and bonding will appeal to children.

The story is based on a series of adventures culminating in Ralph’s “rescue” of Keith from illness. Beverly Cleary introduces readers to the plot and characters by showing the Gridley family’s entrance to the Mountain View Inn from Ralph’s perspective. Ralph is entranced with Keith’s toy motorcycle and is irresistibly drawn to ride it. He falls into an empty wastebasket, where Keith discovers him. They find that they are able to communicate.

Their friendship grows: Keith brings food to the mouse family, and Ralph tells him about life at the inn. The relationship is tested when Ralph borrows the motorcycle without permission and loses it. Keith is hurt and upset, but he realizes that he too has done irresponsible things. Ralph vows to make it up to him.

Keith becomes very ill with a high fever; it is a holiday weekend and drugstores are closed. His parents are frantic. Ralph seizes the opportunity to search the hotel for an aspirin. After a series of near disasters, he delivers the aspirin to Keith.

When Keith recovers, he is overjoyed to see that Matt, the bellboy, has found his motorcycle. Praising Ralph’s maturity, he offers to take him back home to Ohio. Ralph is tempted but, on learning that he would be kept in a cage, refuses. Keith, in a gesture of...

(The entire section is 693 words.)