Made By Raffi by Craig Pomranz was nominated for the Little Rebels’ Book Awards and was recently translated to Chinese and Korean. Here’s everything you need to know about the book and its inspiration.
More often than not, we decide what young boys and girls should like. From gifts to clothes and creative classes, and more. Craig Pomranz decided to write a book about a young boy who likes to knit – a supposed hobby for girls and ladies but not for boys and gents. Recently translated into Chinese, Made By Raffi is an up-and-coming children’s book that should be read by people of all ages.
We chat with Craig Pomranz
A jack of many trades, Craig started his career in singing, performing, and songwriting; more recently, he is focused on writing children’s storybooks. He published Made By Raffi in 2014 and it was recently translated into Chinese and Korean. Craig Pomranz gives us exclusive insights on the inspiration of his book, key takeaways from the story, and what’s to come in the future.
Hi Craig! Tell us about your creative journey. What inspired Made By Raffi?
One evening my godson seemed particularly anxious. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he felt different from the other children; how he didn’t like loud noises or rough play, instead he liked to sit quietly and knit. He then asked, “Is there such a thing as a TomGirl?”. And I immediately recognised how important this new term was and should be talked about. I went home and wrote the book.
What inspired you to choose knitting and sewing to be of particular interest to Raffi?
It is a true story. In real life, I originally thought my nephew should have dancing lessons, which would be good for him physically and perhaps help him focus and centre himself. But given his long ride to school, I thought knitting would be another way to help. It turned out to be something he loved doing and could do on his own and almost anywhere.
What came easy during the writing process for Made by Raffi? What was more difficult that you anticipated, or what surprised you?
The actual book came easily, the story was clear to me from the start. Working with an illustrator was new but also not particularly challenging. The surprises came from the letters I received after publication. I was surprised by the number of people I have heard from who, after reading Made by Raffi, realised that their child was the bully.
What do you hope that children and parents take away from reading Made By Raffi?
It is my hope that we all start to recognise that, first, we can embrace everyone and how they represent themselves. Second, we should let children AND adults try on different skins to find out who they really are and stop defining them by the rigid ideas of the past. We are all constantly searching for ways to make ourselves whole.
Children absorb stereotypical gender norms very early on. What can we do to help broaden the definition of masculinity when teaching and parenting boys? Why is this important and how will it affect boys later on in their life?
Times are changing, but we still need to be reminded of our differences in a positive way and embrace them. How we speak and treat each other matters. Like the Stephen Sondheim song says, Children will Listen. It is not just boys, but girls who need help. For example, a tomboy is seen in a positive light – she is assertive and strong. But the term tomgirl is fraught with negatives, and what does that say to girls? Possibly, that acting like a girl is lesser than or wrong? I often quote Gloria Steinem “We have finally learned to raise our girls more like boys, but very few have the courage to raise our boys like girls.”
What can grown ups do to help shy boys feel more secure at school and in their peer groups?
Parents and caretakers should support the testing of boundaries without forcing anything. We want to help young people go through the steps of finding out who they are. While we can’t protect children (or adults!) from non-violent teasing or bullying, but we can give them the tools to avoid becoming a victim, to ignore the bully, or lessen the sting from teasing so it can roll off their backs.
Why do you think it can be difficult for men to talk about their insecurities? What can people do to help empower men to talk about body image and body confidence issues?
We have to be able to create safe spaces so everyone feels comfortable to reveal themselves. That can be a family member or two, or a therapist (if willing to do so). We can deal with anything if we can admit our vulnerabilities. Men are also self-conscious about their appearance and compare themselves to others, but boys are supposed to be tough and pretend not to care about such things. That dissonance and lack of emotional honesty is the trigger for both rage and depression, not to mention bullying in childhood and adulthood.
Currently it gets harder and harder for all of us to find our self-worth when challenged by what we see in the media in advertising, TV, films or even comics. These images have a profound effect on all of us and can be hard to ignore or navigate or put in context of our own realities.
Do you have future plans for more books? How similar or different will they be from Made By Raffi?
I am working on several other books, a couple of which are part of the Raffi series, like Raffi Loves to Bake. One I hope will be published soon is a book on being happy. I hope to empower children and help give them the tools to find peace with themselves and that they can be happy.
You can order a copy of Made By Raffi on Amazon.