The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (by Roald Dahl)

When my sons were around six to eight, I read several Roald Dahl books to them, including the classic ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. But I don’t think I ever read the simpler Dahl books, intended for younger children. However, my three-year-old grandson is staying, and he has a voracious appetite for books. So I’m reading aloud for at least an hour every day (often longer), including some short chapter books.

Our copy of ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’ is in the format of a large style picture book, wonderfully illustrated by Quentin Blake. It doesn’t contain any chapters, but it’s a short children’s novel rather than a typical picture book. There are a lot of words on every page, and it took me well over half an hour to read it aloud this morning. It’s the second time I’ve read it since we acquired it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s an enjoyable story that’s quite fun to read.

It’s told in the first person by a boy called Billy, whose ambition is to own a sweet shop. He meets a strange trio who have set up a window-cleaning business: a giraffe, a pelican and a monkey. They’re invited to clean the windows of a Duke’s mansion, and in doing so they manage to avert a serious crime…

Unlike Dahl books for older children, there are no gruesomely awful people. Billy’s parents are not described, and the Duke speaks in an upper-class style; he’s rather angry when we first meet him, but it’s not unreasonable in the circumstances. His threats of violence are humorous rather than of any concern even to a young and sensitive child.

The story is ridiculous, of course, and gradually becomes more so; quite apart from speaking and setting up a business, the giraffe and the pelican both have unexpected and unique special features. Inevitably there’s a happy ending that suits everyone. There’s a lot of ironic and other mild humour in the writing as well as in the pictures, and it makes an excellent book to read and talk about.

The language is reasonably simple without being condescending or unrealistic. My only mild problem with the book is two or three instances of mild bad language used by the Duke. I prefer not to use this kind of thing when reading to young children. It wasn’t a problem to change or omit the words when reading, but it could be disturbing to some.

Other than that - and it’s only on one page - I would definitely recommend this as a read-aloud for children of three and upwards, and for fluent readers of any age.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

No comments: