Toletis is a positive role model for boys
Toletis is a quiet, sensitive and caring boy who isn’t afraid to show his emotions. His character is a perfect antidote to the expectations of a “typical” boy: loud, boisterous and destructive. This is definitely a book for parents who reject the saying “boys will be boys”.
The ‘big’ real life stuff
One of the things I love most about Toletis is that it touches on big real life events such as the death of a family member in a wholesome and loving way. Sad events in the book are neither taboo nor overly sad; they are expertly touched upon in a way that is both matter-of-fact and empathetic.
Toletis encourages a love of nature
It’s easy to be drawn in by the immersive storytelling and beautiful illustrations. Toletis spends much of the book exploring the hills and valleys around his home, foraging, planting trees and doing all of the things every child should. The book gives just enough detail – the smells, the sounds of the hills are so clear you’re almost there yourself.
Toletis has a good sense of justice
Toletis has a good sense of justice. When trees are cut down to put a wide road through the town, he hatches a plan to stop it. He knows what is wrong in the world and isn’t afraid to step up and change it.
The Wobbegong Language
Toletis had always been very advanced in languages. He enjoyed playing word games by comparing words that were almost the same, but had very different meanings: amused and bemused, bountiful and bounceable, bazaar and bizarre, dingy and dinghy. ‘Imagine you said: what a bounceable vegetable patch my grandfather has. It would be an absolute load of codswallop, Tutan. And it’s very easy to fall into that trap,’ he taught his friend. He also liked to linger on the sounds in especially playful words, like she-nanigans, nincom-poop, repeti-ti-titive.
He loved reading encyclopaedias and dictionaries page by page, as if they were novels. What’s more, one of his greatest pastimes was playfully building sentences that seemed to be totally fine, but were actually impossible and meaningless. He would then put his inventions to Tutan so that he could try to guess whether they were possible or not. ‘It’s not worth it anymore, it’s already too soon,’ was one of his favourite impossible sentences. And this one, ‘It couldn’t have happened, it’s already late.’ But the Wobbegong language that he’d learnt from his buxom Aunty Josefina was making his life tough.
This is the Wobbegong language. Its vocabulary is made up of 47 words. Some of them are words we all know, some exist only for Toletis and his Aunty Josefina:
Wobbegong. Bumblewee. Busybody. Brittlebit. Barbecue.
Balderdash. Rubylocks. Bilibate. Batfish. Dodgy-bodger.
Discombobulate. Caboose. Bludger. Blubbery. Bullocking.
Thingamabobble. Booby. Babirusa. Bumboat. Squibble.
Nobble. Wibble. Bibble.
Collywobbler. Quibsnib. Gobbledygook. Blubby.
Underbelly. Smellybutton. Flabby. Feeble. Nibbly. Mamba.
Blubberbus. Blunderbuss. Bubblegum. Blobbytum.
Kebabble. Frobscottle. Flibbertigibbet. Bobbly. Babble. Belfry.
Bellicose and Bellington Woots.
‘He made such a blubby mess, even the wobbegong got up and left. Look at that girl, she’s a total collywobbler. What a bunch of bludgers, they live in a right old caboose. He’s a dodgy-bodger. And what a squibbly bunch his kids are. He always wibbles when he nibbles, but at least while he’s eating, he’s not babbling so much piffle. Stop picking bobbles from your smellybutton, get in the shower and scrub your blobbytum. He seems like a bit of a bobbly bumboat to me. He’s grumbling like a babirusa. I’m telling you, that man’s got batfish in the belfry.’
That’s how Aunty Josefina spoke, with her semi-invented vocabulary full of the letter “b” and, above all, with a bubbling, burbling sound. It was, without a doubt, not very grammatical, but it was fun and very expressive.
‘Don’t be a busybody, or a flibbertigibbet, or a discombobulater. You ought to be respectabable and honourabable,’ is what she used to say to Toletis. And, even though she never explained those words to him, he knew perfectly well, because of the way they sounded, what his Aunty was implying.
That way of speaking was contagious, and Toletis picked it up just like you pick up Scottish, Welsh or Irish accents if you hear them for long enough at a time. And he started to converse with his Aunty Josefina with her feeble billycans, barbecued beefcakes, rubylocks, frobscottles, and kebabbles.
So, the words, rather than being formed of syllables, were composed of syllabubbles.
Toletis found he was comfortable with that language, and he considered re-baptising himself as Bubba, Beda or Biscop after the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Lindsey, which chimed well with the musicality of his vocabulary. But in the end, he decided to keep the Egyptian nickname and leave Bubba-da-Biscop for special occasions, and only ever as a middle name.
Thank you, Rafa Ruiz and Random Things Tours.
About the author
Rafa Ruiz is a journalist and author who has a staunch commitment to culture, art and the environment. He spent 25 years at Spanish newspaper El País and is a partner-founder of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA). He has written numerous children’s books, and he codirects the Mad is Mad art gallery in Madrid which gives space to up-and-coming artists. He is one of the partner-founders of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA).
Social Media Links (Spanish)
His art gallery: @mad_is_mad
About the illustrator
Elena Hormiga is an illustrator with a sense of humour. She studied and worked as an engineer and later turned to illustration
About the translator
Ben Dawlatly took an MA in Hispanic Studies and Translation Theory at UCL. He translates both technical and literary texts. However, his real calling is in fiction and poetry.