The publisher says this book will teach children about “friendship and sharing” but for me, there’s a lot to unpack vis-à-vis gender stereotypes.

  • Title: Floss the Playground Boss
  • Author: Corrine Averiss
  • Illustrator: Sam Usher
  • Reading level: From 3 years
  • Date published: Mar 9, 2017
  • Publisher: Egmont
  • Country: UK
  • Country printed in:
  • Printing:

1. ILLUSTRATION

The publisher describes Usher’s artwork for this book as “classic Quentin Blake-esque”. Usher used the same style for his own books Snow, Rain, and Sun, in which the central character of the three books is a red-haired little boy. He uses the same style and same distinguishing physical characteristic for the main character Floss in this book as well. So here’s a trend! Still, surely Usher didn’t think he could get away with THIS much imitation? Because Floss resembles Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking. That aside, Usher’s black pen lines are busy, drawing up expressions and actions, matching the energy generated by the text, especially the punchy rhymes.

2. GENDER STEREOTYPES

You can choose to take this beautiful publication at face value. For me, there’s a lot to unpack. Floss is a girl, who, as another in the book says: “Floss doesn’t play, she bosses!” The choice of words is gendered; in the workplace a woman “bosses” people around but the male is “the boss”, signalling leadership. On this playground, the new boy stands up to Floss. She throws a hissy fit— if you’re a woman can you relate to ‘don’t get emotional’?—then sees that she could PLAY with Peter instead of telling everyone what to do. In the end: “Now Floss the Boss can just be Floss.” So to be herself, Floss can’t be the boss. Why can’t she be the boss? Can’t she work to be a better boss? Or is the writer saying there’s no need for a boss?

It’s a bold move making Floss female. Would the other kids say the same thing about Peter if he was the boss? Could the meeting between Floss and Peter turn out differently if it was between two girls or two boys?

All this makes the Pippi resemblance interesting. The 1st Pippi books were released late 1940s, the 2nd batch in the early 1970s. Pippi was fun because she broke with socially-expected behaviours of girls. She was physically strong, financially independent, could do her own repairs etc. This was Girl Power when women were a lot more disenfranchised than now. But here’s a book in 2017 with the central character resembling Pippi told that, to be herself, she can’t be the boss. Sigh.

Note: This review has been added to after its first publication on Aug 19, 2018 on the Instagram @emmyloveschildrensbooks.