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Children and adults alike can imagine the fun of having a secret friend with whom to share an adventure! Author Beverley Cleary provides just such an experience with her novel, The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Activities reinforce concepts in a variety of subject areas including science, social studies, math and language arts.
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A Brief Synopsis
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965) is the first in a series of three stories about a little mouse named Ralph written by famed children’s author, Beverley Cleary.Ralph lives with his family in a once-fashionable mountain resort which is still charming, but run-down and worn.It is here that Ralph meets a young boy named Keith, the owner of a small, toy motorcycle.The book goes on to detail the adventures the pair have together after Keith teaches Ralph how to ride the motorcycle simply by making the same noise Keith himself makes during his pretend play.Their friendship is solidified when Ralph risks his own life to save Keith during an illness by delivering to him an aspirin which he has found on the ground, under a dresser in one of the guest rooms of the hotel.
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For science, spend time learning more about mice. In Chapter Two, Ralph is disappointed to see that the boy occupying room 215 was an older boy – younger children were more “considerate to leave crumbs on the carpet." Spend some time reading and learning about what kinds of things mice like to eat – both in and out of captivity. You may even wish to keep a mouse as a class pet, so that students may have a first-hand opportunity to learn about what a mouse eats as a part of its daily diet.
You may also wish for your class to learn more about how and where mice live. Investigate both their natural habitats and their habitats when kept as pets. Afterward, challenge your students to create a mouse habitat of their own. The home could be for a real mouse - or for a fictional mouse who prefers items of comfort, like Ralph.
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Your students will learn in Chapter One of the book that Keith and his family traveled for 5 days from Ohio to the California foothills, and at some point traveled across Nevada. Since the foothills are located along and around the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County, California, the family most likely traveled through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada before arriving in California. Use Google Maps or Google Earth to trace the route the Gridley family may have taken. What landmarks might the family have seen along the way?
The story goes on to say that the Mountain View Inn is located 25 miles from Highway 40. Try pinpointing an approximate location on a map.
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Here are several sample story problems which you can use in conjunction with the book:
- Ralph had 22 apples. Keith gave him 9 more apples from room service. How many apples does Ralph have now?
- Keith had 38 toy cars. He gave 24 of his cars to Ralph. How many toy cars does Keith have left?
- Matt, the bell boy, was called to help a group of tourists carry suitcases out of their rooms. There were 12 rooms. Each room had 10 suitcases. How many suitcases did Matt have to carry?
- Uncle Lester found a bag of 64 cookies. He decided to give them to his 8 nephews. How many cookies did each nephew get?
Challenge students to make up their own story problems, to share with classmates!
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- Watch the movie version of The Mouse and the Motorcycle. Compare and contrast the film to the book. For younger students, this may mean working together to complete a Venn diagram. For older or more advanced students, challenge them to write a paper using compare/contrast.
- Write a letter to Beverly Cleary telling her what you liked about the story. Her address is:
Mrs. Beverly Cleary (Author)
c/o HarperCollins Children’s Books
1350 Sixth AvenueNew York, NY 10019
- Challenge students to write an illustrate a story about having their own furry friend living in their desk! Ask them to describe how they would explain every day objects such as notebooks and rulers to their creature, the way Keith did for Ralph.
- Complete your author study by reading other books written by Beverly Cleary. These might include the rest of the books in the series (Runaway Ralph and Ralph S. Mouse), books from the Ramona series (such as Ramona the Brave, Ramona the Pest, Ramona and Her Father or Ramona Quimby, Age 8), books from the Henry series (such as Henry Huggins, Henry and Ribsy or Henry and the Clubhouse), or even her autobiographies titled A Girl From Yamhill and My Own Two Feet.
- The information offered in this article is based on the author's extensive experience as a classroom teacher.
- The official website of Beverly Cleary
- Cleary, Beverly. The Mouse and the Motorcycle. HarperCollins. 1990.