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The Whale Rider (1987)

by Witi Ihimaera

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,4304613,234 (3.85)1 / 152
As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor.

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» See also 152 mentions

English (45)  French (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Paired with an audio copy. Most chapters end with the Maori words "Hui e, haumi e, taiki e" which are a lyrical chant meaning "let it be done". Set in New Zealand in Whangara. When Kahu was born, her grandfather refused to teach her to Maori ways because she was a girl. But in the end, she was the one to save the culture. ( )
  nancynova | Jul 2, 2024 |
Maori chief Koro Apirana is an old man who feels his health and strength fading. He is desperate to have an heir of his own blood to pass on the things the next leader must know. But when his grandson produces the first child of the next generation, it is a disappointing girl. Koro vows to have nothing to do with her and to look outside his immediate family for the next heir.

The girl, Kahu, makes her great grandfather the center of her life and loves him like no other. She also has inherited some of the mystical Maori powers – apparently she can speak to the whales, echoing the Maori legend of Paikea who led his people to New Zealand on the back of a whale.

The story is told by Rawiri, Kahu’s uncle who is finding his own balance between the Maori traditions and the modern world. At one point he goes to work in Papua New Guinea, where, he finds that although the plantation owner’s son is his best friend, other dark-skinned people in the country are treated poorly.

The third set of characters are a pod of whales – we are inside the pod and hear their thoughts as they travel from the Antarctic northward to the fateful island of New Zealand.

This is much more than a children’s story, although it is often depicted as such. It’s a beautiful combination of the exquisitely sad and the beautiful with a strong element of humor thrown in (Go Nanny Flowers!) , which as the author says in an interview, is like “putting an arrow in the bum”(shooting someone with an arrow in the ass) to keep it from being too overwhelming to read.

5 stars with a few tears at the end. ( )
  streamsong | Jul 23, 2023 |
Differs from the movie enough to keep you guessing, while still being just as charming. ( )
  grahzny | Jul 17, 2023 |
Superb narrator! Highly recommended. ( )
  sgwordy | Dec 31, 2022 |
I found The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera an emotionally touching and inspired read. The book delves into the myth of how the Maori ancestors came to New Zealand, as well as other aspects of the Maori culture and mythology. Setting his story in modern times, he also wrote this book to appeal to his daughters who had complained that so many stories featured boys as the heroes.

As narrated by her uncle, we learn of Kahu, the first grandchild of her generation. She is cherished by everyone in the extended family except her grandfather, whom she greatly loves but who has no time for females. But after a traumatic episode of whales beaching themselves and dying, Kahu demonstrates that she has the gift to communicate with the giant creatures and she helps to restore one ancient giant to the ocean by using the revered tradition of riding the whale out to sea. As Kahu demonstrates her empowerment and overcomes the subtle resentment that her grandfather had directed at her, I was brought to tears.

Written in a poetic style and highlighted with Maori words (for which there is a glossary at the end of the book), I found The Whale Rider to be both a soothing and powerful read. Although marketed as a YA read, I think this book might appeal more to adults than to children. The Whale Rider is a magical book that I highly recommend. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ihimaera, Witiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hangasmäki, MerviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kearns, SerenaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laga'aia, JayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schulte, SabineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kia hora te marino
Kia whakapa pounamu te moana
Kia tere te karohirohi
I mua i tou huarahi

May the calm be widespread
May the ocean glisten as greenstone
May the shimmer of light
Ever dance across your pathway
For Jessica Kiri and Olivia Ata, the best girls in the whole wide world

He tohu aroha ki a Whangara me nga uri o Paikea.

Thanks also to Julia Keelan, Caroline Haapu and Hekia Parata for their advice and assistance
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In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning.
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As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor.

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