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  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143774518
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

Taking the Lead

How Jacinda Ardern Wowed the World

Meet Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who hopes the things she's done will help everyone, especially children, to believe that they can do great things too.

An inspiring illustrated story for children about Jacinda Ardern, and her meteoric rise to become the world’s youngest female leader.

Nobody is too young to start changing the world.

When Jacinda was little, she wanted to be a clown. But when she saw schoolmates who didn't have lunch, or even shoes, she knew she had to do something. Some kids laughed at her for wanting to help people so much, or said she couldn't do it. But that didn't stop Jacinda.

She became the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the world's youngest female leader.

This is the true story of a trailblazer who has inspired people around the planet, told by award-winning author and illustrator.

  • Published: 3 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780143774518
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 32
  • RRP: $25.00

About the authors

David Hill

David Hill is a prolific and highly regarded New Zealand writer, playwright, poet, columnist and critic. Best known for his highly popular and award-winning body of work for young people, ranging from picture books to teenage fiction, his novels have been published all around the world and translated into several languages, and his short stories and plays for young people have been broadcast here and overseas.

Born in Napier, New Zealand, David studied at Victoria University of Wellington and became a high-school teacher, teaching both in New Zealand and the UK. In 1982 he became a full-time writer and his first novel for teenagers, See Ya, Simon (1992), about a boy with muscular dystrophy, was shortlisted for major awards in New Zealand and the UK and won the 1994 Times Educational Supplement Award for Special Needs. An enduringly popular novel used as a class text in high schools all over New Zealand, in 2002 it was awarded the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book.

David has published more than 50 titles over four decades. His middle-grade novels include My Brother's War (2012), which won the Junior Fiction Award and the Children's Choice Junior Fiction Award in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, the LIANZA Librarian's Choice Award and was listed as a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book, a White Raven and an IBBY Honour book. This was followed by novels Brave Company (2014) – also a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction book; The Deadly Sky (2015); Enemy Camp (2016), which won the 2016 HELL Children’s Choice Award for Junior Fiction; Flight Path (2017), a Storylines Notable Book; Finding (May 2018), Highly Commended in the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards 2018; and Coastwatcher (2021).

Below (2022) won the Wright Family Foundation Esther Glen Award for Junior Fiction at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2023. Described as 'a white-knuckle survival story set in a catastrophic tunnel collapse', the judges commended the way 'it trusts its young readers to handle big environmental ideas and come to their own conclusions'.

David is also the author of a number of critically acclaimed picture books with illustrator Phoebe Morris. First to the Top (2015) is their bestselling story of the life of Sir Edmund Hillary, which won the 2016 Children's Choice Award for non-fiction and was a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. Speed King (2016), about the world-record-breaking achievements of Burt Munro, and Sky High (2017), recounting the life of the daring aviator Jean Batten, were both presented with Storylines Notable Picture Book awards. Hero of the Sea: Sir Peter Blake's Mighty Ocean Quests was published in 2018 and Dinosaur Hunter: Joan Wiffen's Awesome Fossil Discoveries was published in 2019.

In 2004 David was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and in 2005 he was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, acknowledging his significant contribution to children's literature in New Zealand.

In November 2021 David was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement - Fiction in recognition of his outstanding contribution to New Zealand Literature.

He lives in New Plymouth with his wife Beth, and juggles his many writing projects with numerous school visits, leading professional development for teachers, mentoring new and emerging writers and tutoring creative writing.

Phoebe Morris

Phoebe Morris has been drawing for herself since 1996, and for other people since 2013. From a small studio in Wellington, she has collaborated with acclaimed author David Hill on award-winning picture book biographies of famous New Zealanders for Penguin Random House New Zealand: Sir Edmund Hillary (First to the Top, 2015), Burt Munro (Speed King, 2016), Jean Batten (Sky High, 2017), Sir Peter Blake (Hero of the Sea, 2018), Joan Wiffen (Dinosaur Hunter, 2019) and Jacinda Ardern (Taking the Lead, 2020).

Phoebe is also the illustrator of the Frankie Potts junior fiction series by Juliet Jacka.

In 2021 Phoebe illustrated The Adventures of Mittens by Silvio Bruinsma, following the adventures of Wellington's most famous exploring ginger cat.

Unanimously praised for the quality of the illustrations, First to the Top was named a 2016 Storylines Notable Picture Book. In a review for the New Zealand Listener, Ann Packer wrote 'Wellingtonian Phoebe Morris makes a stunning debut as an illustrator ... from the arresting cover, through cameos of his younger life, to haunting, other-worldly mountainscapes, Morris's style gives the old story a cool new edge.'

In 2018 Phoebe was shortlisted for the Russell Clark Award for Illustration in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Though much of her work focuses on narrative storytelling, Phoebe also creates illustrations for apps, websites, editorials, animation and interior design. Find out more about her work at phoebemorriscreative.com

Praise for Taking the Lead

[A] contender for New Zealand picture book of 2020...Hill, helped by Morris’ bold and bright illustrations, does a superb job of telling Ardern’s story while encouraging young readers — it’s aimed at 5-10-year-olds — to think more about the role of politics in daily life and become more involved.

Dionne Christian and Zoe Gadd, Weekend Herald

This is an easy to read, heartwarming story that inspires you to do good things. We don’t all need to great things. Ordinary everyday things can be just as important. But we can learn to ignore the people who put us down and say we can’t do this and we can’t do that. Jacinda is saying ‘We can do this!’ [...] I know we can help, we can be kind, we can invent new ways to do things in a year when it looks like we will have to do things very differently. I loved reading this. It has inspired me so much.

Paula Green, Poetry Box

This inspirational, non-partisan account of how Ardern worked her way to the top - not to mention the global admiration of her handling of the Christchurch mosque attacks - is pitch-perfect for young readers. My eight-year-old thought it was “full of top quality facts” [...]; my six-year-old liked “that she travelled around the world and goes fishing”. Hill’s text is accessible yet informative; Morris’ illustrations are bright and engaging.

Stacey Anyan, NZ Booklovers

[Y]ou'll probaby be pleased to learn that this kids book about how Jacinda Ardern wowed the world isn’t political. This is a story of a person who had a passion and got on with it… my eldest boy [was] fully engaged from beginning to end! He’s growing up and has nearly a year’s worth of school under his belt now and he took great interest in each little anecdote, full of chatter and questions about the girl that would become Prime Minister, a mum and meet the Queen of England!

Ronnie Swainston, Kidspot

An inspirational tale of a girl who would become Prime Minister, this charming children’s book proves that a ‘let’s do it’ attitude can take us a long way indeed.


The message of the book is for Kiwis to just get on with it and fix what’s wrong in the world.

Ann Kilduff, Rotorua Daily Post

...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...

Lyn Potter, Grownups.co.nz

The book shows kids that determination, perseverance and resilience help you to achieve the goals you want to make happen. Girls especially will be empowered by Jacinda's story. David Hill writes an engaging story that show all the parts that make a whole... Phoebe Morris's artwork is vibrant and colourful... Paddles the Prime Minister's cat makes a surprise appearance on the back cover too. A wonderful edition to the series that will be most welcome in home and school libraries. Teachers and home-schooling parents can use it as an introduction on lessons about leadership too.

Maria Gill, Kids Books NZ

Discover more

Beautiful NZ Picture Books from 2020

Sometimes a story is best told alongside a beautiful picture, Here's a small selection of some of our favourite 2020 picture books from local creators. 

Taking the Lead: downloadable activity

Download our Taking the Lead word search here!

Teachers' notes
Five things you didn’t know about Jacinda Ardern

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is famous for her empathy and leadership skills.