Made by Raffi, written by Craig Pomranz and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain.
Made by Raffi is the story of a little boy named Raffi who feels different from the other kids at school. Compared to his classmates, his hair is longer, his clothes are brighter, and he doesn’t like the noisy, crowded playground. One day at recess, he sits down next to a teacher who is knitting; when she takes the time to teach him how to knit, he is thrilled. Raffi’s enthusiasm for his new skill is encouraged by his parents, and soon he is knitting all the time.
Unfortunately, Raffi’s knitting gives him some unwelcome attention on the school bus. That evening, he asks his mother some difficult questions. “Am I strange or weird? Why do I like to sing and draw and knit? Do you think I’m…girly?” Raffi’s mother responds with love and affirmation, “I think you are very…Raffi.” and “Dad and I are very proud of you.” Empowered by the conversation, Raffi is content to continue with his newfound hobby.
The next day at school, Raffi’s teacher announces that his class will be putting on a play, with a boy and a girl playing the part of a prince and princess. Raffi asks if the prince can have a cape for the play, but his teacher thinks there isn’t enough time to make costumes. Raffi is determined to make a cape for the play and goes ahead and sews one at home that evening. When he brings it to school the next day, all of the kids in his class are suddenly impressed by his talent, and eager to call him a friend.
The message of the story is for kids to embrace who they are and what they enjoy – regardless of whether their peers accept them that way. Throughout the book, Raffi remains true to himself; he seeks and receives encouragement and love from his parents when his peers cause him to question how he fits in at school. He ultimately finds happiness and acceptance just by being himself. By pursuing what makes him happy, and sharing it with others, he creates a space where his uniqueness is appreciated and valued.
Made By Raffi is an excellent book for encouraging children to be themselves, even when they don’t seem to “fit in” with everyone else. The story is honest and empowering, without becoming overly preachy or emotional, and sends a great message to children of any age. Chamberlain’s bright, colorful artwork brings Raffi’s personality – and his new hobby – to life on the pages.
Made By Raffi is published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (2014) and recommended for ages 6-9. My 10 year old and 8 year old children give it two thumbs up.