Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a young child? Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz is a charming book about a young boy who enjoys knitting and sewing.
A shy boy, Raffi doesn’t enjoy noisy, rough-and-tumble games but takes to needlework when he hits upon the idea of knitting a scarf for his dad – prompting teasing from other children.
The story skillfully demonstrates that different people enjoy different things, and that sometimes boys like to do things normally associated with girls, and vice versa.
Featuring illustrations by the award-winning Margaret Chamberlain, the book is now available in six languages and distributed in nine countries by UK publishers Frances Lincoln under their diversity imprint, Janetta Otter-Barry Books.
The tale may be of particular interest to LGBT parents – or gay aunties and uncles – and anyone who thinks children should know that likes and dislikes are not always decided along simple gender lines.
‘It was inspired by an incident with my godson,’ says Pomranz, who grew up in St Louis but relocated to New York to pursue a career as a singer and actor.
‘He felt "different" because he didn’t use words like ‘dude’ and he didn’t care so much for sports and loud horseplay, and asked: Is there such a thing as a tomgirl?
‘Of course there really is no word but it immediately hit me that he was on to something. Today, the idea of a tomboy is celebrated – she’s strong and independent. But the idea of a tomgirl carries a negative connotation; boys are judged harshly for being “girly.”
‘I have heard from parents all over the world, journalists, even knitters’ Pomranz [pictured right] says, when asked about the response he has received to the book. ‘The fact that it crosses all cultures says so much, perhaps about human nature.
‘Every human being understands what it feels like to be on the outside, to be “different.” Parents and teachers are looking for a way to support and encourage kids as they try on different identities.
‘We all have a conventional and unconventional side, and we should we be permitted to try them on as we grow up.’