Victoria Brewster, MSW

Victoria Brewster, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Made by Raffi: Bullying is Not OK

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz and Margaret Chamberlain

Made by Raffi is a beautifully illustrated book with an important message. Bullying is not okay and the results on/for a child can be devastating. In this book there is a young boy who is ‘different’ and participates in activities that are different from his peers. He likes to read, is introverted, and enjoys knitting and sewing.

His peers make fun of him, call him names, and exclude him from activities. As the story progresses, Raffi’s differences no longer matter and his peers accept him for who he is. This is as it should be.

If we were all the same and liked all the same activities, life would be boring. Excluding peers from activities, name calling and such can lead to, a child who develops low self-esteem, may become socially isolated, not fare well in social environments and/or the school environments, and if this continues, possibly lead to depression and further social isolation which can follow a child into their adult life.

Embrace difference, uniqueness as if we were all the same, life would be boring!

Interview with one of the two authors of the book, Craig Pomranz:

Why did you write this book?

I know so many parents who are trying to encourage their kids to “be themselves” on one hand, while understandably seeking to protect them from teasing and bullying on the other.  I wrote the book as a tool for parents and teachers to start a conversation about this issue.  At the same time, I wanted it to be cheerful and entertaining, not preachy and serious!

Where did the idea come from?

It was based on an actual incident with my godson.  One night when he was very young he was talking about how at school the other kids would talk about sports and soccer, and use words like “dude,” things that were not a part of his vocabulary.  Then he asked the question:  Is there such a thing as a TomGirl?  I immediately thought, I should write this down.  TomGirl really isn’t a word and yet it already has a distinct negative connotation.  In our society a TomBoy is celebrated for strength and independence, yet a TomGirl already sounds like a “sissy” with negative ideas attached, like the misuse of the word “girly” to describe a boy.

Your reading audience is?

Although the book has a publishers demographic of 4 to 9, the story seems to resonate with all ages, I think because every person knows what it is like to wonder if something is wrong with them, if they are different from everybody else.  Also, I believe that most people have been exposed to some form of “teasing” or misunderstanding in their life and that really hits home.  I hear from teens and adults who have read the book to younger children and yet felt the need to let me know how it reminds them of their experience when they were young.  I just learned that the book is being translated into Mandarin, the sixth language, so it seems to resonate across cultures as well.

You have ventured from theatre and voice-overs to authoring a book, Why?

I was very lucky to find Frances Lincoln, a supportive publisher with a diversity imprint, Janetta Otter-Barry Books. But this isn’t a departure from my singing career, as it happens.  Composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time) loved the book so much they wrote a song about it for me to record, “Different.”  We finished the final mix and will release it this month.

Anything else you would like to add?

This has been one of the most satisfying professional experiences of my life — can you imagine how much pleasure I get from letters I receive from all over the world, thanking me for understanding their story?

Thanks so much to Craig for reaching out to SJS re: this book and for agreeing to an interview!

This is an important topic and if the book is resonating with individuals of all ages, discussions and change are needed.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW- Staff Writer


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