top of page
  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Take me to your Leader by Leonie Agnew

Once again, Auckland-based author Leonie Agnew delivers a rollicking good novel that is sure to captivate young readers across the country.

Faced with the threat of his rural school closing down, 11-year-old Lucas comes up with a creative scheme to save it in Leonie Agnew's entertaining middle-grade novel Take Me to Your Leader.

Lucas lives with his overworked mom and younger sister in a small rural community, struggling to get by after the death of his father. The potential closure of his tiny school would be devastating, forcing a move to the city or long commutes to distant schools. Unwilling to leave his dad’s grave behind, Lucas and his friends hatch a wild plan to generate tourist interest and revenue in their town - they'll stage an alien encounter with crop circles and flying saucer sightings.

At first, the plan works brilliantly. Curious visitors start pouring in, boosting the local economy and garnering media attention. But Lucas quickly loses control of the hoax, as over-eager tourists, reporters, UFO enthusiasts, and opportunistic locals take things to chaotic extremes. And then there's the mysterious van that seems to be stalking Lucas and his friends, its intentions unclear. What started as a clever scheme to save his school suddenly has Lucas worried about much more than closure.

Agnew crafts a fast-paced, comical adventure propelled by a quirky cast of characters. Lucas makes for an appealing protagonist, resourceful and determined but also anxious and guilt-ridden. The escalating fiasco tests his wits and conscience, even as laugh-out-loud humour arises from each new “close encounter.” Peppery dialogue and an ironic narrator further enliven the story. Some events strain credulity, but the sheer fun of the outlandish plot overrides any lapses in realism.

While the alien craze plot propels most of the action, deeper themes emerge around grief, economic hardship, preserving community, and the power of joyful scheming to catalyse change. Lucas faces adult problems with touching maturity and taking responsibility while never losing his quintessential kid-ness. Readers will relate to his worries and cheer his willingness to act.

Captivating, funny, and thought-provoking, Take Me to Your Leader offers a winning expatiation of the contrasts between youthful hope and grown-up realism. Both poignant and silly, Agnew’s extraterrestrial lark will appeal to middle-grade fans of Auckland-based author David Hill’s similarly quirky, heartfelt tales. By playfully imagining visitors from another world, the story reminds us of the delights and challenges of this one.

Reviewer: Chris Reed



bottom of page