Teaching The Mouse and the Motorcycle: 40 Questions for an Elementary Literature Circle

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Are you using The Mouse and the Motorcycle in your elementary classroom this year? Why not consider utilizing literature circles?

Literature circles are a great tool for in-depth learning. If you are not familiar with the concept, imagine a “book group” for the younger set. Students read the story independently or together, as a group, and then gather to discuss. Depending on the age of the students involved, the discussion may revolve around a set list of pre-determined questions, or topics and themes the group delves into spontaneously. More information about using literature circles for units of study in the classroom can be found right here at Bright Hub.

In this article, you will find literature circle questions to be used for guiding either a small group or whole group study.

A Brief Synopsis of the Story

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, Beverly 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.

Before Beginning the Reading

  1. Before you begin discussing The Mouse and the Motorcycle literature circle questions, take a look at the illustration on the front cover of the book. Based on this, what do you predict the story may be about?
  2. Read the title of the book. Does it confirm your prediction? Why or why not?
  3. Who is the author of this book? Have you read any other books by this author? If so, what were the titles and what were they about? Did you enjoy them? Why or why not?
  4. Is the author the same as the illustrator? You may need to look further inside to find the answer.


  1. What are the impressions of the inn for each member of the Gridley family? (Chapter One)
  2. We know from the title that there is going to be a mouse in the story. Besides the title and illustration on the front cover of the book, what clues - or foreshadowing - is there in Chapter One that leads us to this conclusion? (Chapter One)
  3. Do Keith and his mother share the same opinion of mice? How do you know? (Chapter One)
  4. How do you feel about sharing space with mice? (Chapter One)
  5. What was Ralph’s first impression of Keith? Did that impression change over time? If so, in what way and why? (Chapter 2)
  6. Why is Ralph’s mother concerned about aspirin tablets? Is she right to be so concerned? (Chapter 2)
  7. What happens when Ralph find the motorcycle? (Chapter 2)
  8. In Chapter 3, Ralph becomes trapped. How did this happen and what are Ralph’s thoughts and actions regarding his predicament? What would you do if you were in the same situation? (Chapter 3)
  9. In Chapter 4, Ralph and Keith finally meet. How? Describe this meeting. (Chapter 4)
  10. Whose idea is it for Ralph to drive the motorcycle? (Chapter 4)
  11. Why do you think Keith would allow Ralph to drive the motorcycle? Would you have done anything differently? (Chapter 4)
  12. What are some of the adventures that Ralph has in Chapter 5 while driving the motorcycle? (Chapter 5)
  13. Share you memories of a time when you ventured away from home on an adventure. (Chapter 5)
  14. Why is Keith upset when Ralph returns with the motorcycle? How do you know? (Chapter 6)
  15. Describe a time when you were upset after a friend borrowed something that belonged to you? (Chapter 6)
  16. Do you think Keith was right to be upset? Why or why not? (Chapter 6)
  17. Ralph seems to be getting quite comfortable with his interactions with Keith. Is this a good or bad thing? Why? (Chapter 6)
  18. Ralph has several more adventures with the motorcycle in Chapter 7. Describe them. (Chapter 7)
  19. He has to make a decision between saving his own life and saving the motorcycle. Do you think he made the right or wrong decision? (Chapter 7)
  20. What would you have chosen if you were in Ralph’s place? Why? (Chapter 7)
  21. In Chapter 8, Ralph has to admit to Keith that he has lost the motorcycle. What is Keith’s response? (Chapter 8)
  22. Describe a time when you had to admit to a wrong-doing or losing something. What was it like? What was the person’s reaction? How did you feel afterward? (Chapter 8)
  23. Keith says, “I guess I should have known you weren’t old enough to be trusted with a motorcycle.” What does the author mean when she says, “The boy could not have said anything that would hurt Ralph more”? Is she right? (Chapter 8)
  24. In Chapter 9, Keith says, “I am in a hurry. I don’t want to do kid things. I want to do big things. I want to grow up.” Describe a time when you have felt the same way. (Chapter 9)
  25. Ralph’s family no longer feels safe in their home. What do you think they should do? (Chapter 9)
  26. In Chapter 10, Keith falls ill. How does the author convey that the situation is serious? (Chapter 10)
  27. Why do you think Ralph decides he must be the one to help Keith? (Chapter 10)
  28. Ralph’s family is very concerned when he tells them that he is looking for an aspirin. Why? Do you think their concern is justified? (Chapter 11)
  29. Do you think Ralph’s plan to get aspirin for Keith is a good plan or a bad plan? Why? (Chapter 12)
  30. Why could Ralph be described as resourceful? (Chapter 12)
  31. At the beginning of Chapter 13, the author states that, “Ralph was a hero in the mouse hole that night.” What are the characteristics of a hero? Does Ralph posses those characteristics? (Chapter 13)
  32. How did Ralph finally prove that he was grown up, and responsible enough to ride a motorcycle? (Chapter 13)
  33. Relate this to an experience in your own life. (Chapter 13)

General Questions After Reading

The following are general The Mouse and the Motorcycle unit questions which can be used after the reading:

  1. Do any of the characters change in the story? What causes them to change?
  2. What do you think was the best part of the story? Why?
  3. If you could make one chapter longer…which one would it be and why? What would you have added to it?
  4. What do you think might happen in the sequels to this book?

This post is part of the series: The Mouse and the Motorcycle: A Literature Study Unit for the Elementary Classroom

This series of articles provides teachers with activities, literature circle questions and an end of the book quiz to support a literature study using the book The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary.

  1. Curriculum Activities for The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  2. Literature Circle Questions for the Mouse and the Motorcyle
  3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle: Testing Students' Recall and Comprehension