Who could have ever imagined that a girl who had her first driving lesson, not in a car but on a tractor in a Waikato orchard, would one day become the world’s youngest female leader?
And that an image of her hugging a young Somali woman would be shone onto the world’s tallest building, the 828- metre-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai, after the Christchurch mosque shootings. Her impassioned speech to say that all New Zealanders are one, and the fact that she put on a hijab, a Muslim headscarf, to show respect for the victims, brought her international acclaim.
David Hill and Phoebe Morris have collaborated to tell her story, in a nonpartisan way, in Taking The Lead. How Jacinda Ardern wowed the World. This is the latest in their biographical Picture Book series about famous New Zealanders including Sir Edmund Hilary and Sir Peter Blake.
The first part of the book covers her childhood. They have managed to uncover some interesting facts e.g. when players at a nearby golf course accidentally hit balls into the family orchard Jacinda used to sell them back to them.
Her social conscience was awakened when she discovered that some children at her school in Murupara, a small New Zealand forestry town, who came from poor families, had no shoes or lunch and she wanted to do something about this.
It was once her ambition to become a clown, and she also thought of following in her sister’s footsteps and training to be a scientist. But encounters with two women helped her to choose politics. One was Marilyn Waring who had been a local member of Parliament. Jacinda was impressed by how friendly and helpful she was when she interviewed her for a school project. The other was her Auntie Marie who invited her niece to work for the Labour Party in the 1999 General Election.
This was a chance to help people. She took time out from her after school supermarket job to drive to New Plymouth in her old car and learnt how to organize meetings and election events.
David Hill goes on to describe how after her University studies and working in Wellington for the Labour Party she travelled overseas and developed her political and leadership skills in a variety of jobs before returning to New Zealand. Once back home in 2008, aged 28, she was elected to Parliament as the country’s youngest MP. But there was more than just politics in her life. She also performed as a DJ at an Auckland Festival and in record shops. Her playlist included the Beatles and her favourite New Zealand bands.
A meteoric rise through the ranks followed, from Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to its Leader in 2017 just before the election. When a coalition government was formed, she became the third female Prime Minister of New Zealand, our youngest leader in over 160 years
As well as succinct account of Jacinda’s political life this book also provides a few glimpses of her life away from politics. Phoebe Morris has drawn a delightful picture of Jacinda and Clarke out fishing accompanied by Paddles, their now sadly departed cat, who undoubtedly was hoping for his share in the catch. And another of Jacinda, Clarke and little Neve sitting outside in the garden reading, looking like just an ordinary New Zealand family enjoying the outdoors.
And that is how Jacinda sees herself. She does not believe that she is any more special than any other working parent- I am a Mother not a Superwoman she once said.
The hope is that any child reading this book might be inspired to feel that nobody is too young to change the world if they just get on with it, as Jacinda did.
Taking the Lead. How Jacinda Adern Wowed the World was published shortly before the coronavirus spread around the world.
The way Jacinda Ardern has handled the pandemic ,always prioritizing lives over the economy ,and how she has inspired all of us to be strong, be kind, and unite against Covid-19 has again brought her to the attention of the world and won the admiration of many.
Taking The Lead’ How Jacinda Adern Wowed the World is by David Hill and Phoebe Morris. Imprint Picture Puffin. RRP $25.
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveler, writer & passionate home cook