Tag Archives: Kindle downloads

The Mouse and the Motorcycle Trilogy, by Beverly Cleary, 1965, Book Review

I dearly love Ramona, but my all-time favorite Beverly Cleary character has to be Ralph S. Mouse. There’s just something about that precocious little fella that gets me every time. Maybe I see a little of myself in him. Maybe I remember being just a little irresponsible and wanting so much to grow up. Maybe I just love the idea of a young mouse who trills with the speed of a tiny red motorcycle trimmed with chrome and dual exhausts. I always have wished animals could talk.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle is a marvelously imaginative story delivered with just the right blend of adventure and fun. Ralph is a medium-sized mouse who lives in the Mountain View Inn. When a young boy named Keith checks into Ralph’s room, they find that mice and boys who share a love of motorcycles naturally speak the same language, and they become friends. Through a series of humorous, kid-pleasing adventures, Ralph proves to Keith that he’s growing up, and Keith, before departing, kindly leaves his toy motorcycle in Ralph’s possession.

But that’s only the beginning of Ralph’s story. In the second book of the trilogy, Runaway Ralph decides he’s sick of scrounging for crumbs, and he’s had it with the scores of young siblings and cousins always begging for rides on his precious motorcycle. So he decides to run away from home. (This one will tickle every one of us who ever packed a suitcase!) He finally lands at Happy Acres Camp and meets Garf, an unhappy little boy. Ralph ends up with much more than just the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he’s been craving. After run-ins with cats, dogs, cages and one alfalfa-hating hamster, he learns a lot about what’s really important to him.

In Ralph S. Mouse, Ralph meets another young boy named Ryan and ends up haunting the halls of the Irwin J. Sneed Elementary School. It takes a few close encounters with danger and some disagreements before Ralph and Ryan learn a hard lesson–and Ralph ends up with a new vehicle to drive!

While the first installment is my favorite, I highly recommend them all three books. Each describes a different adventure, with different boys and different situations, but each is written by a master craftswoman with a keen understanding of how children think and what they love. I’ve yet to meet the child Ralph didn’t delight.

Read more of my Beverly Cleary reviews.

The Door in the Forest, by Roderick Townley, 2011, Book Review

the door in the forestThe best words I can think of to describe The Door in the Forest, by Roderick Townley, are “unique” and “vague.” Unique because Townley takes everyday themes like death, war and rebellion and weaves around them a tale unlike anything I’ve ever read before. With a little magic, the focus suddenly leaves the commonplace and shifts to the surreal, the mystical, the little-understood but oh-so-important island guarded by the Byrdsong family. Making very effective use of a repeating curtain metaphor, Townley explores topics just beyond our range of factual knowledge, like death, superstition, time travel and secrets.

I’d say vague because, though Townley spins out a wonderfully engaging tale, one that dishes out information slowly and tantalizingly, I still felt some confusion even at the end of the book. Like, what was the war about anyway? And where does the story take place? It references World War One as having ended four years previously, yet soldiers remain active, refuges flood from the city and the Uncertainties (a term for armed conflict, I think) continue in parts of this country. But what country? This bizarre combination of  history and make believe left me feeling a bit unsettled. Yet at the same time, this vagueness becomes the curtain metaphor.

I love Emily Byrdson, an unreadable, mystical figure herself, and her grandmother who reads the future in soap bubbles. Two brothers, Danny, the boy who cannot lie, and Wes join with Emily and work together to reach the island. They return determined to save it from the soldiers intent on destroying it.

I totally enjoyed Mr. Townley’s cunning descriptions, word pictures and comparisons. Again and again I found myself thinking, that’s such a perfect way to say it. For example: “The sky was still blue overhead, but the trees deeply shadowed, as if they knew more about night than the rest of us.” Precise and appropriate. His language, however, isn’t always so exemplary. Several mild profanities punctuate statements, making them bolder, more emotional. But they could have been left out. At this age, they should have been left out.

I hardly can describe this book further. My mind still feels a little cobwebby from trying to figure out what I just read. I carry away the vagueness and uncertainty of its pages, yet I can firmly say I enjoyed the journey through Mr. Townley’s unparalleled imagination.


Newbery Honor Books, 2000-2010

Here’s where to find Newbery Honor books and my reviews. Asterics indicate the books I’ve read for my ongoing Newbery challenge but not reviewed.