Today’s book is a chapter book “for ages seven to 107”: Toletis by Rafa Ruiz, translated from Spanish by Ben Dawlatly (Neem Tree Press).
Dominic: My favourite bit is the Wobbegong language because it was really funny. How do you say “treenie-weenie” in Spanish anyway?
Toletis is a story of nature and noticing. The book takes us on a journey through the year, with three chapters dedicated to each season. Early in the book Toletis sees the trees in his town disappearing and sets out with his friends to turn their valley green again. Along the way, we meet the treenie-weenies who are “the souls of all the trees that had been felled in the town over recent years”. We also get introduced Aunty Josefina and her Wobbegong language.
In summer, a boy, Alexander Atherton-Aitken (A-A-A) comes to the town who had been “brought up in the city”. We join him as he discovers the countryside, as he worries about getting his shoes muddy and whinges about the ants. Toletis and his friends play a game called the Sounds-of-Silence. You have to lie in silence and listen to what they can hear – “the clinking of cowbells”, “the incessant song of the crickets” and the “rustle of the poplar trees in even the lightest of breezes.”. A-A-A we are told “always won the games on his smartphone. However, he always came last in the Sounds-of-Silence game.” What an important message to us all in our busy lives to stop, put our phones down and take heed of what is around us.
This book must have been so much fun to translate and it was one of the books on the challenge that really made me want to seek out the original text and wonder how I would have done it. Dominic and I also had discussions about what the words in Spanish might have been and how you get to these English ones. I love the descriptive language used throughout and it’s a really gentle book. As we talk about male role models for our children, particularly our boys, it’s great to have a story of a strong but sensitive boy who is interested in helping save the planet and noticing the smaller details. Our boys are not all rough and tumble and superheros. I love this book for honouring our thoughtful boys.