The Book That Made Me: James Mayhew 17/07/19
Made By Raffi
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Raffi is a small, shy boy who happens to like bright colours and quiet activities. Unlike most of his peers, he prefers not to spend his lunch break playing football, yelling, fighting or throwing things, so he generally finds himself on the periphery of playground activity, instead enjoying the peace of sitting with a teacher.
Raffi is conscious of feeling different from his peers, although he's not entirely sure why, or whether it's a problem. Despite reassurance from his parents that he is perfect just the way he is, he still gets teased and feels adrift. Then one day his teacher agrees to teach him how to knit, and bingo - Raffi has found a creative outlet, a passion and a skill. Despite his new hobby initially prompting a fresh bout of jokes from his classmates, Raffi persists and soon he is designing, knitting and sewing 'cool' clothes which they cannot help but admire.
Raffi is a thoroughly engaging hero, who we see quietly refusing to accept traditional gender stereotypes and finding the confidence to go his own way. There is an underlying sense of authenticity - indeed the story was inspired by the author's experience with his own godson. Chamberlain's effective and appealing illustrations also play an integral role in delivering the book's messages about equality and diversity, and one of the lively crew of classmates is a wheelchair user.
A delightful and gently revolutionary picture book that challenges our absurd notions about what constitutes 'normal' or 'appropriate'.