Carla Fitzgerald is a Sydney-based author who has previously published the picture book Keeping Up with the Dachshunds. How to Be Prime Minister and Survive Grade Five is her debut middle grade novel.
The book opens with eleven-year-old Harper’s dad—Australia’s newest Prime Minister thanks to his role in a boogie board rescue that went viral—heading off to a ‘conference’ no one else seems to know about and accidentally leaving his phone behind… in Harper’s possession. With their mum away, no one but Harper and her younger sister Lottie know he’s gone… so, not wanting him to be any more of a laughingstock than he already is, the sisters tell everyone their dad has a highly contagious illness and, by impersonating him in text messages to his assistant, take charge of the country for a few days.
Of course, Harper and Lottie’s plan to save their family’s reputation while making several kid-approved changes to the nation’s modus operandi proves to be more challenging than expected given the presence of an overbearing nanny, personal security guards, lurking paparazzi, an unscrupulous kid-hating politician and a looming deadline to announce a new government policy! Add in social dramas at their fancy new school, a public speaking competition and Harper’s discovery that her favourite park is going to be sold to developers, and the girls are in for an eventful few days. However, all’s well that ends well… for the First Family, and Australia too.
The back matter includes a quiz about former PMs and a page of ‘Would You Rather’ questions. (There are one or two serious questions hidden amongst the silly ones, and when my children read this page in the car it led to a conversation in which the nine-year-old explained to the six-year-old what pollution is!)
Featuring plenty of humour, a strong sibling bond, and themes of courage, environmental activism and family love, this is a fun, charming and wholesome read that is perfectly pitched at its target age group. After all, what kid wouldn’t want to run the country while getting to eat as many lollies as they want?