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Literature / Ralph S. Mouse

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The Ralph S. Mouse series is a trilogy of children's chapter books by Beverly Cleary. The first two books were illustrated by Louis Darling; the last one by Paul O. Zelinksy.

The first book, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1965), deals with Ralph and his adventures around Mountain View Inn once a boy named Keith gives him a toy motorcycle. The second, Runaway Ralph (1970), deals with Ralph running away from home and going to a summer camp, where he stays in a cage with a grouchy hamster named Chum. The third, Ralph S. Mouse (1982), has Ralph becoming friends with a new boy named Ryan who lets him live at his school.

These novels contain examples of:

  • Animal Talk: An interesting variation. All the animal characters are capable of speech with one another, but only Ralph seems to have the ability to talk to humans — and even then, only certain humans (mostly young boys), not a whole rookery.
  • Cats Are Mean: All the cats in Runaway Ralph, especially Catso. The kittens are even specifically taught how to be mean, by watching their parents play cruelly with Ralph before planning to eat him.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Ralph's dad was killed some time before the first book by an aspirin pill. He was carrying it in his cheek and it dissolved.
    • Ryan lives with his mother, and when Brad asks where his father is, Ryan admits he doesn't know. It turns out the boys aren't that different in this regard; Brad has a Missing Mom due to a divorce.
  • Discard and Draw: After Ralph's motorcycle is broken in book 3, he's given a sports car to replace it.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In Ralph S. Mouse, the kids at school build a maze for Ralph to run through. Ralph climbs on top of the walls to look for the peanut butter, to the annoyance of Ryan (who helped build the maze to see how smart Ralph was in the first place).
  • Fake Rabies: Ralph S. Mouse describes an incident where Ralph found an open tube of toothpaste and tasted it out of curiosity. He ended up running through the hotel hallway foaming at the mouth and frantically looking for water, whereupon a maid saw him and started shrieking, "Mad mouse! Mad mouse!" After that, Ralph was smart enough to avoid toothpaste.
  • Food Coma: In the third book, Ralph eats beans from a mosaic painting, but this makes him sleepy and he falls asleep.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In Ralph S. Mouse, Brad is introduced as a mean kid and borderline bully, who punches Ryan in a fight and inadvertently breaks Ralph's cherished motorcycle in doing so. After he and Ryan actually talk, they end up becoming friends and Brad gives Ryan a car to replace the motorcycle.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Ralph can drive toy vehicles by making the appropriate noises. And drive them in reverse by making the noises backwards.
  • Last of His Kind: Ralph is the only survivor of his peer group, the rest being killed by poisoned grain. The other mice were presumably too old and experienced to take the bait or too young to go for solid food.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: "The S. stands for Smart."
  • Mouse World: Eeyup. The mice have their ways of getting around the hotel in secret so the humans won't catch on.
  • Nervous Wreck: Ralph's mother. Almost every scene she's in, she's worried about something. Admittedly, being a mouse and all, she has a damn good reason to worry...
  • Playground Song: "Great Green Globs of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts" makes an appearance in Runaway Ralph.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Toy vehicles are literally powered by this. To drive his motorcycle, Ralph has to say pb-b-b-b-b-b. When he upgrades to a car, he has to say vroom vroom instead, and if he wants to reverse, he has to say ''moorv moorv''. In book 1, he also has to say "wh-e-e wh-e-e" for a toy ambulance.
  • Slice of Life: Well, slice of mouse life, anyway.
  • Surprisingly Functional Toys: The first book with its titular motorcycle (and also a toy ambulance), and the third with its fancy sports car.