Runaway Ralph is the second book in Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse series, about a inquiring mouse and his red toy motorcycle that he uses to get around in the world of people. Other books in the series include The Mouse and The Motorcycle and Ralph S. Mouse.
In this book, Ralph gets annoyed with his family, who all cram themselves into the walls of the Mountain View Inn, and decides to take the motorcycle Keith left behind for him and runaway. He settles on traveling to Happy Acres Summer Camp. In doing so, he faces a lot of challenging moments, including a standoff with a hostile dog, a near catastrophe with some ambitious cats, and being caught and caged by a boy named Garf.
When a girl’s watch turns up missing, everyone in camp blames Garf. Ralph convinces Garf that he’ll find the watch and clear the blame if Garf will promise to set him free afterwards. Once Garf lets him go, Ralph realizes that, although his family gets on his nerves, he really does miss them and need them around. Even his old Uncle Lester, who got on Ralph’s nerves constantly with his nagging and bickering and even barred Ralph from riding the motorcycle. So Ralph decides to head back to the Mountain View Inn, with his toy motorcycle carrying him home.
This book is an excellent read for children just getting into chapter books. Its vocabulary is simple enough that children as young as 6 will understand, but its plot is interesting enough to hold the attentions of older kids as well. It does a nice job with just being a book about adventures, not morals and other things that often turn kids off to books.
Runaway Ralph was also made into a TV movie, staring Fred Savage and Sara Gilbert. It was made for ABC in 1988 and was directed by Ron Underwood. It differs slightly from the book; Garf becomes a lot more likable (and is also referred to mostly as Garfield). The movie also plays much more around Ralph’s interactions with humans rather than other animals. It’s a little corny at times and the animation/animatronics are a little cheap. As well, it doesn’t hold the flavor of the book nearly as well as its prequel, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, did, but it’s still worth your time.