The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Billy is a boy who frequently walks by a boarded-up old sweet shop near his house. He wishes someone would open up a new sweet shop there – he even wishes that he could make it into a sweet shop again.
Someone does buy the shop, and installs a very tall door. Writing on the window identifies it as the Ladderless Window Cleaning Company. Billy then meets the very unusual individuals that make up the window cleaning company: the Giraffe, the Pelican, and the Monkey.
The group receives a message that the Duke of Hampshire would like to have them clean his windows (all 677 windows plus a greenhouse), so they set off with Billy showing them the way.
When they get to the Duke’s estate, he is urging a gardener to pick the highest cherries from a tree. As the gardener can’t reach those particular cherries, the Pelly (pelican), with Billy riding in his beak, flies up to pick the cherries. After some confusion (the Duke thought a monster was stealing the cherries), they agree to pick apples in the fall, and settle down to talk about windows. The Monkey sings:
“We will polish your glass
Till it’s shining like brass
And it sparkles like sun on the sea!
We will work for your Grace
Till we’re blue in the face,
The Giraffe and the Pelly and me!”
The window cleaners get to work: the Giraffe is the ladder, the Pelly is the bucket, and the Monkey is the cleaner. The Giraffe has a magical neck that can stretch to be a long as she wishes – in this case, as high as the top floor of windows.
“The speed with which the team worked was astonishing. As soon as one window was done, the Giraffe moved the Monkey over to the next one and the Pelican followed. When all the fourth-floor windows on that side of the house were finished, the Giraffe simply drew in her magical neck until the Monkey was level with the third-floor windows and off they went again.”
The cleaning team sees a man rummaging through drawers in one of the bedrooms on the third floor, so they tiptoe back to the Duke to tell him. The Duke declares that someone is stealing the Duchess’ jewels. The Pelly thinks quickly, flies upside down to dump out the window cleaning water, and swoops into the room with the robber. The Pelly returns to the group moments later with his beak bulging, the robber inside.
In typical Roald Dahl humor, the Duchess, who was once a famous opera singer, runs out of the house saying her diamonds are gone – and breaks into a version of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean (….bring back, bring back, bring back my diamonds to me…).
The police arrive, the Pelly opens his beak, and the police take away the notorious thief, the Cobra. The Duke is grateful to the window cleaning team, and offers to have the Giraffe, the Pelly, and the Monkey live forever on his estate, in exchange, they can have all the food they want (the Duke has special trees for the Giraffe, a salmon river for the Pelly, and walnut trees for the Monkey). The Duke does ask that they clean his windows, and pick his cherries and apples – and that the Pelly give him a ride every now and then.
The Duke asks Billy if he has “just one extra special little wish all for yourself.” Billy tells him about his wish for the sweet shop. The Duke is enthusiastic and says they will make it into the sweet shop.
“We’ll make it into the most wonderful sweet-shop in the world! And you, my boy, will own it!”
They do rebuild the sweet shop – and stock it with candy from all over the world, including some from Wonka’s chocolate factory.
The Monkey sings a farewell at the end:
“All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be.
No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.”
This is a relatively short chapter book (less than 100 pages), with a few black and white illustrations throughout. This is a good book for readers ready to move beyond early readers and into chapter books – and for Roald Dahl fans. There is mention of violence twice – when the Duke thinks they are stealing cherries, he jumps around waving his walking stick and warning them; and the robber shoots a hole in Pelly’s beak (which doesn’t hurt) when they are waiting for the police. Overall, a wonderfully silly book.