Wednesday 1 January 2020

Taking the Lead

Taking the Lead by David Hill (Penguin Random House New Zealand) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9780143774518

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This picture book is one of a series about well-known international identities from New Zealand (with titles such as ‘First to the Top, Hero of the Sea and Dinosaur Hunter). Taking the lead is the world’s youngest female leader, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern.

The book tells of Adern’s childhood in a Waikato orchard where she lives with her family and drives a tractor and collects – and sells – golf balls from a nearby course. Adern, whose father was a police officer, observed that some children who attended her school (her mother ran the canteen) had no shoes and often no lunch. Ahern’s interest in politics came when, for a school project, she worked for her local MP, Marilyn Waring. She then worked for the Labor Party in the 1999 General election: this work helped her organise meetings and election events.

Following this, Adern studied at University and worked for NZ’s second female PM. She travelled overseas, worked at a soup kitchen in New York, then joined the cabinet office of British PM, Tony Blair, joining the International Union of Socialist Youth, taking on the Presidency which took her to other countries.

IN 2008, at the age of 28, Adern was elected to Parliament as the country’s youngest MP. Her first speech was for action against climate change.

The rest of the book covers Adern’s parliamentary work and
personal life, including her meeting with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. She went to work (still as PM) when her first child was born in 2018. The baby sat on her father’s lap while her mother spoke to world leaders at the United Nations.
As PM, Adern has accepted many refugees into New Zealand, speaking in Arabic in some of her speeches.

Told in a straightforward manner, this is a story that can surely inspire many young girls who want to make a difference to the world through politics. The story is accompanied with brightly coloured, full-page illustrations and smaller pictures accompanying pages of text.

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