Craig Pomranz noticed that his godson seemed anxious one night when he was putting him to bed. In the process of trying to figure out what was causing him anxiety, Pomranz said his godson asked, "Is there such a thing as a tomgirl?"
"I just thought out of the mouths of babes," Pomranz said. "We are such a misogynistic society and tomboy, that is kind of great. You are strong and you can do this and that. Tomgirl, you are silly, weak … already implications; there is no such word and yet it has so much meaning."
The question inspired Pomranz to write Made by Raffi, an illustrated children's book that tells the story of Raffi, a little boy who doesn't care for sports but likes to knit and sew. Raffi is initially teased about his hobby, but in the end he becomes a hero to his class.
"I wrote the book to support young boys and girls who are perceived as 'different' because of their appearance or hobbies," Pomranz said. "It is a funny, colorful book with a serious message and will interest those who care about promoting diversity and embracing our differences, as well as all children seeking to fit in."
The book became available in Europe in February 2014. It is being published in five languages and distributed in eight countries so far by UK publishers Frances Lincoln under their diversity imprint Janetta Otter-Barry Books.
Award-winning artist Margaret Chamberlain illustrated the book.
Made by Raffi is already getting positive reviews.
"I have already received terrific early trade reviews and many supportive messages from those who have seen advance copies of the book as well as from those who have ordered," Pomranz said.
He noted one email came from a man in Istanbul who wrote, "Today I enjoyed to preorder your beautiful and meaningful children book for my cousin. Especially here in Turkey we need to learn respect to the one who is different than us. Thanks for your effort to make the world a better place to live."
Additionally, a donor has given 75 books to the Archdiocese of New York Catholic schools for all of its libraries.
"It's been amazing to me how a picture book with such simplicity in language and pictures can have such an impact on people," Pomranz said.
Pomranz thinks the story can help parents who are struggling with how to let their kids be themselves but at the same time are concerned about bullying and teasing.
"Most of the parents of young kids I know are trying on one hand to let their kids follow their own interests, but on the other are concerned about their kid fitting in and not being teased," he said. "As a result, atypical hobbies and behaviors are only encouraged so far."
This is the first book Pomranz has published. He has spent his career in entertainment, working as a singer.
His singing career and publishing career might soon collide.
Pomranz said Amanda McBroom, who wrote "The Rose," made famous by Bette Midler in the film "The Rose," and Michele Brourman, who wrote music for the "Land Before Time" series along with McBroom, loved the book so much they wrote a song for it called "Different," which Pomranz recently recorded.
He is not sure what else might come from the book, but said he is open to opportunities to get the story out to as many kids and parents as possible.
"It's been overwhelming," he said. "It's been the most emotionally satisfying thing I've ever done on so many levels and for so many reasons."
Made By Raffi is available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com .