Pomranz, Craig. “Made by Raffi”, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2014.
A Shy and Different Boy
Raffi is a shy boy who is often teased at school so he does not have friends there. As his father’s birthday approaches, Raffi gets the idea of making him a scarf for a birthday gift and this really gets him excited. He doesn’t care that the kids at school think knitting is for girls. His teacher offers to teach him to knit and he loves it so much that he knits everywhere. With the annual school pageant drawing nigh, Raffi offers to make a cape for the student who is playing the prince. That cape stole the show and Raffi becomes the object of admiration and continues knitting wonderful new things. Beautiful illustrations from Margaret Chamberlain illustrate the story.
So many children today feel different and this bothers them. Raffi discovered a way to be accepted by others even with his differences and that is the strong message that this wonderful book gives us. It celebrates diversity positively and with a sweet story. The topic is not new—we have read it many times but evidently it has not sunk for many who need to be reminded that diversity is a good thing and everyone is, to a degree, different from everyone else.
Raffi shows us the value of self-confidence and that he was determined that no one would stand in his way of being different. The book celebrates not just Raffi but each of us who do not fit the mold that society has for us. (May I remind everyone that society is made up of many, many people who do fit the mold but together these people, in most cases, get along with each other.
Raffi wonders why he is different and why he enjoys doing things that are feminine basically. But then he discovers that he can be creative by knitting and sewing and this fills him with enthusiasm and happiness. So what if what he does is different from what his schoolmates do —it is his and he enjoys it.
His parents support what he does and a teacher shows him how to knit. The other students will eventually understand and accept Raffi just as he does for them. Most of us were taught to follow our dreams but we hit societal snags along the way yet this lesson is very powerful especially for the young. We live in a world where everyone is somewhat unique and that is what this world so wonderful—can you just imagine how we would feel if everyone knitted? While being different is not easy, it is important to recognize it and celebrate it. This is a perfect book for young readers and its messages will never get old or disappear. Every time a child is born, a “different” kind of individual enters this world and it will always be that way. This is also a perfect book for adults and parents because it leads discussions on being different.
I really love seeing Raffi’s courage while receiving peer pressure to conform. Later, when he is complimented on the cape he made. Raffi remains humble when others recognize his talent. By the way, that talent came from having been allowed to pursue what he wanted to do.Raffi is allowed to develop his gifts and we see his courage in doing so because of the pressure that he feels.I see a twofold purpose in this book—for children who feel different, it can provide reassurance and for other children who do not feel what Raffi does, it can teach them to be empathetic and have compassion. The book might be written for young readers but its message is for all of us.
Let me share a word about Margaret Chamberlain’s artwork—it is perfect for the book and the colors and ideas are electric. What I have not mentioned is that the book is also interactive in that there is a spread with instructions on how to knit. Craig Pomranz’s book about embracing differences is one that will stay with you for a long time. It was recently released in Chinese and Korean and it appears in a total of eight different languages and is available in eleven countries. Pomranz shared that he wrote the book to support young boys and girls who are perceived as “different” because of their appearance or hobbies. He also shared that composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman (“The Land Before Time”) wrote a song “Different” to be attached to the book.