Craig Pomranz, author of Made By Raffi, talks about his new book and its lessons on letting children be comfortable with themselves.
What is Made By Raffi about and why did you write it?
Raffi is the story of a little boy who learns how to be true to himself. He finds an activity he likes -knitting and sewing – but when confronted by the odd and even negative reactions of his peers, he has to ask himself, “Why am I different?”
The question of how we stereotype ourselves at such an early age is an important issue of our time. How do we encourage our children to be themselves when society creates these limitations? I wrote the book to help parents, caretakers and teachers have open conversations at home and at school on how to be yourself and how to be kinder to others. It is supposed to be a funny and entertaining book, too!
Do you think children today respect and accept differences more so than in previous generations?
That is an interesting question. I’m not sure at what age a child starts to identify differences in others. This is why it is so important to introduce these topics at a young age. For instance, as we see more openness toward gay people, there is an illusion that we have become a more heterogeneous culture. But I see the world getting narrower and narrower. Pink and princesses for girls, blue and sports for boys seems to have become more prevalent again in recent years. Ubiquitous social media offer more opportunities for people to judge and shame those who depart from the norm. Most parents want their kids to be themselves, but understandably they are also protective. So once the teasing starts, they urge their children to conform.
How big of a problem do you think bullying is today in schools?
It is a problem [that has] certainly become more visible with media attention. The solution is not easy and has to involve parents, teachers and the kids themselves. Parents have to be vigilant so that their own children are not the perpetrators, while also trying to foster empathy. At the same time, they must try to find ways for the child who is different to cope with both cruel and unthinking children and adults.
Who is publishing the book and where can we find it?
Made by Raffi is published by UK publishers France Lincoln under the Janetta Otter-Barry imprint. The book is currently in eight languages and 11 countries. You can find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as many independent bookseller sites. You can also like and find conversations about Made by Raffi on Facebook.
What are your future plans with the book?
I would really like to see Raffi in as many libraries and schools as possible. As much as I can, I intend to keep putting the book out there to encourage the many important conversations it stirs up.
Composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time) love the book so much they wrote a song “Different” for the book. I will release it in the next few weeks.
I also answer a lot of emails and blogs regarding diversity, bullying and parenting.
Tell us a bit about your background as a writer.
This is my first book! I am working with publishers on several new books right now. Most of them deal with children empowerment. More can be found out about me on my website Craig Pomranz.