Made by Raffi
Craig Pomranz and Margaret Chamberlain
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Raffi feels different from the other children at school and asks himself why. He knows he shies away from rough and noisy play, preferring instead to spent time in quiet, peaceful places. One day he notices a teacher sitting knitting and she offers to teach him how to do it.
Soon Raffi is knitting and loving it, so much so that when he gets home he persuades his parents to let him buy some wool.
Having done so, he decides to knit a multi-coloured scarf for his dad’s birthday. However, so enthusiastic is Raffi, knitting at every opportunity, that he is laughed at by schoolmates on the bus, as the rainbow scarf trails everywhere.
That evening at home, Raffi talks to his mother about feeling different. “Do you think I’m … girly?” he asks. His mother’s sensible words reassure Raffi and then the following day at school, an announcement about the school play inspires him to use his creative talents to design and make a wonderful cloak for Barry, the lead actor in the school play, to wear for his performance.
Raffi gains the respect of all his classmates and self esteem boosted, thinks about becoming a designer in the future. In the meantime, there’s that scarf to finish and all manner of other projects to work on –
Best of all perhaps though is Barry’s comment on seeing Raffi knitting some weeks later … “Cool,” he said.
This story is a great advocate for creativity, demonstrating that differences should be celebrated as well as promoting the idea that everyone should have the confidence to be true to him or herself without fear of being made to feel inferior or being laughed at.
There is at least one Raffi in every class so I truly hope this book goes some way to deterring potential bullies: there must be no room for bullying in any shape or form.
Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations too celebrate diversity and sympathetically portray Raffi’s changing emotions as he embarks on his journey of self-discovery.
Definitely a book to share and discuss with children in primary classes everywhere.
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My Big Brother Boris
Boris has a birthday party but it seems to Little Croc that his big brother has started acting in a very odd manner telling the small narrator that he’s grown out of childish games, and wanting to spend all his time with his friends or sleeping. Mum is understanding and reminds Little Croc that there are preparations to finish before the party can start, even though the chief guest has yet to get up. When he does finally make an appearance, horror of horrors: Boris is sporting a shiny snout ring.
Parental ranting follows and Boris storms off to his room. His guests arrive and then it’s down to Granny and Grandpa Croc and their younger grandson to save the day with a special party game of ‘guess who’s in the photos’.
Harmony restored, Boris has, so he announces to all, “the best party EVER.” and reassumes his place as best big brother.
Young children with teenage siblings will recognize Boris and his behaviour; this funny story (a reissue) offers the opportunity to explore the feelings around the topic through a reassuring and amusing scenario. Liz Pichon’s pictures are a hoot and crammed with delicious details both visual and verbal.
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How Are You Feeling Today Baby Bear?
Jane Evans and Laurence Jackson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The author, Jane Evans has worked with families and children affected by domestic violence for many years and as a result of numerous requests from parents, carers and support workers she created this book to help adults trying to enable young children to make sense of the feelings they experienced when they were frightened and confused.
The story revolves around Baby Bear and his feelings
(sensitively portrayed in the illustrations) as the Big Bears shout and rant at each other
until one leaves the family home.
Using a family of bears rather than human characters perhaps helps create some distance -a space within which children feel safe to discuss and explore those feelings and emotions.
On some pages there are prompts for adults that can be used to start conversations with young children and at the back of the book are some activities and games to facilitate the understanding and expression of difficult emotions. Wearing my children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher’s hat, I particularly like the ‘tummy sunshine’ and the ‘grey rainy’ sad feelings. (Incidentally these can be useful with all young children).
I recommend this little book to all working with children affected by domestic violence whatever the setting.
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Worries Go Away!
Kes Gray and Lee Wildish
Hodder Children’s Books
The little girl narrator of this rhyming story shares with readers what happens when she is feeling sad: she goes off to her own world inside her head.
There she feels free and at first everything is perfect but then once again, those worries begin to take hold, growing monstrous. Under a now blackened sky,
the monsters give chase as, tripping and stumbling, the little girl makes for safety. She discovers a door in the darkness but where is the key? Through the keyhole, on the other side she discovers people waiting, waiting for her to open the door –
the door of her heart and let them in. That’s when all those worries dissipate as she feels engulfed by love and not only that, she knows that next time there will be somebody waiting to share her troubles with.
The tension is palpable as the tentacles of the blotchy orange amorphous monsters seek to entangle the narrator’s thoughts in Lee Wildish’s powerful pictures: it’s almost as if the swirls are transformed into her curly tresses as she breaks free through the door.
Children do become engulfed by worries, letting those, to adults seemingly small troubles, become enormous and overwhelming. Kes Gray’s pacing of the rhyming text somehow helps to keep under control, the rising panic of the little girl and gives space for her to realize the way through.
Not a story for an everyday story session, rather it’s one to share and discuss as part of a PSE (personal, social and emotional development) programme for young children.
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