Title: Made by Raffi
Author: Craig Pomranz
Illustrator:: Margaret Chamberlain
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Length: 40 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Raffi is a shy boy who doesn’t like noisy games and is often teased at school. But when he gets the idea of making a scarf for his dad’s birthday, he is full of enthusiasm even though the other children think it is girly to knit. Then the day draws near for the school pageant, and there is one big problem: no costume for the prince. And that’s when Raffi has his most brilliant idea of all — to make a prince’s cape. On the day of the pageant, Raffi’s cape is the star of the show.
Review: I have to confess when author Craig Pomranz submitted Made by Raffi for review, my initial reaction was an emphatic no, The Novel Approach is an adult-oriented review site, and “Raffi” is, quite obviously, a children’s book aimed at the early elementary school set. After some studying of the book’s blurb and in light of both recent and upcoming author posts on the subject of gender roles and societal/cultural expectations, however, it soon became clear Made by Raffi is a story that couldn’t have come along at a more opportune time.
Along with its vibrant color palette and charming illustrations by the talented Margaret Chamberlain, Mr. Pomranz has offered a story that celebrates a young boy who doesn’t fit the mold of what is largely expected of a male child—not boisterous or interested in the rough-and-tumble games the other boys his age play, Raffi is a quiet and gentle soul who wonders why he’s different. In a society where our male children don’t play with dolls unless they can comfortably be called Action Figures, Raffi’s talents and interests lie in what many would label feminine pursuits. When he discovers his ability to create wearable works of art through knitting and sewing, Raffi blooms with the happiness he finds in his craft in spite of the fact his schoolmates find it odd.
Made by Raffi is a book that should be in every elementary school library. From his supportive and loving parents, to the teacher who encourages Raffi to knit, to the eventual turnabout by Raffi’s classmates, this sweet and engaging story offers the opportunity for children like Raffi to experience a positive and uplifting message, but also gives children who aren’t like Raffi the chance to see that it’s our differences—all our differences—that make us unique and special. It’s never too early to teach a child empathy and compassion, nor is it ever cliché to teach a child that simple joys are not so far beyond his or her reach, especially with the love and support of family and friends. Craig Pomranz’s straightforward storytelling is perfect for early readers, while this book’s message is both timeless and ageless.
As Mr. Rogers once said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” That’s a message every child should hear, and often. It’s a message Mr. Pomranz delivers.
You can buy Made by Raffi here: