Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Whale Rider” as Want to Read:
The Whale Rider
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Whale Rider

by
3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,459 Ratings  ·  527 Reviews
From the time of her birth, Kahu is destined to become the leader of her tribe in the East Coast village of Whangara. But her grandfather, Koro Apirana, is caught up with the problems facing the tribe. He refuses to accept that a girl could take over from him as chief. Then a pod of whales beach themselves at Whangara. Kahu has to act if she is to save them and her people. ...more
Paperback
Published 2005 (first published January 1st 1987)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Whale Rider, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

D.K. Janotta I agree with Tamsin B-g, this is a story about an 8 year old, not for 8 year olds. I wanted my sons to watch the movie (they are 8 and 9) but felt it…moreI agree with Tamsin B-g, this is a story about an 8 year old, not for 8 year olds. I wanted my sons to watch the movie (they are 8 and 9) but felt it better to wait a couple of years, due to the opening scene of Kahu's birth.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this in my self-proclaimed New Zealand November, 2015. I saw the movie based on the film a few years ago but only have a vague memory of it.

The book comes from the perspective of Rawiri, the uncle of the girl Kahu. It is a very readable intertwining story of the modern day characters with the mythology of the gods of New Zealand and the ancient whales within their own societies and rituals. Whereas Once Were Warriors shows the Maori on the margins and struggling with poverty and violence
...more
Chrissie
Apr 25, 2013 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Janice
A gem that glistens. Beautiful. A contemporary rewriting of an ancient Maori legend. Its messages speak of the strength of women, but even more importantly of the oneness of the past and present, the rational and the irrational, what we understand and don’t understand and of all life on earth. This is young adult literature for adults.

The audiobook narration by Kiwi Jay Laga’aia was well done. There is music throughout the recording, but it is the same snippet repeated over and over again. When
...more
Mmars
Dec 18, 2013 Mmars rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh boy howdy I put on my ice skates and slid my way through this one. It didn't take long for me to realize that:
1) I am a jaded YA reader from years in the biz
2) there's much better out there
3) I would never have read this if not for my book club.

I really wanted to like it too. Other than the excellent The Bone People I have read little and know virtually nothing about the Maori people. Add a girl power element and mythology involving whales and I'm enticed.

Unfortunately, my shackles are st
...more
Zaid
May 28, 2014 Zaid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an interesting book it showed how the females couldn’t gain traditional leadership of the Maori people but Kahu (short for Kahutia Te Rangi], an eight year old Maori girl who was a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, kept trying to learn the ways of a leader and wants to become the chief of the tribe. Her grandfather Koro believes that this is a role reserved for males only.

My favourite character in this book is the main lead, Kahu. Even though she is a young eight year o
...more
Amanda (musicalpoem)
Loved this. Teared up and everything. It's a beautiful retelling of an old Maori legend, and the themes are transcendent. The dynamic between Kahu and Koro alternately made me smile and broke my heart, and I adored Nanny Flowers. Now I want to watch the movie.
jess
Jan 04, 2012 jess rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yaf, 2011
This book alternated between ancient mythology and the modern struggle of a young girl trying to take her place in society. The mythology portions tell the story of the whale rider, who was a long-ago ancestor who rode a giant ancient whale to the land where the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand live. The young girl is Eight-year-old Kahu. Kahu is the only great-grandchild of an aging chief who is desperate for a male heir to take his title.

So, the parts about the mythology and the internal
...more
Rusty
Aug 11, 2015 Rusty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-ya
A beautiful story by a talented writer. It's so charming yet has some very real messages. Man over-fishes his seas and out of his greed changes the balance in nature, particularly in this case with regard to whales. Many men choose to kill those who beach themselves rather than trying to turn them back into the sea to save them.

I found Kahu an enchanting heroine who adores her grandfather, Koro. Koro was so disappointed that his first grandchild was a daughter. Only a son, he believes, can inher
...more
Nancy Brady
Dec 09, 2015 Nancy Brady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
Maori chieftain Koro's hopes are dashed when Kahu, a great granddaughter, is born as she is next in line for the title. Girls are nothing in his eyes and he needs a male to continue his line as the chief of his tribe.

Through the years Kahu tries to win his love but to no avail, yet she is the "whale rider." She has inherited from the original whale rider himself the ability to communicate with the whales. Will he ever see for what she is? Will she ever win his love?

Maori words and tradition are
...more
Shakaela
Jun 13, 2015 Shakaela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Whale Rider" was a book I was quite drawn to, as I am a kiwi, and I love New Zealand. I really felt for Kahu (or Pai) especially, and now I will look up to her as a favoured character. If I was in English class, I'd write a long descript essay into the characters and the morals etc... But I don't feel the need for that level of depth right now.

I really liked being carried back to the days before I was born in Aotearoa, and then feeling the effects history has on a country and its people. I
...more
Anna [Floanne]
4.5 stars
“La Balena e la Bambina” è una piccola ma splendida fiaba Maori in cui mi sono imbattuta per puro caso la scorsa settimana mentre curiosavo tra gli scaffali della bibloteca locale. Non avevo nemmeno mai sentito parlare del ben più celebre film che ne è stato tratto nel 2002 e che ha riscosso notevole successo al botteghino: vincitore del Toronto International Film Festival e del più noto Sundance Film Festival, ha fruttato alla sua interprete principale, la giovanissima Keisha Castle-
...more
Judy Croome
Jan 21, 2012 Judy Croome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1987, THE WHALE RIDER is a deceptively short book. Only 120 pages long, it’s a richly layered story dealing with several major social issues: family relationships, gender discrimination, generational differences, racial prejudice, loss of the cultural identity of indigenous tribes, ecological conservationism and modern man’s disconnection from his spiritual self.

Kahu is a young Maori girl who, from the moment of her birth, had a deep connection with her great-grandfather Koro Apirana,
...more
Lindsay
Such a beautiful, challenging book. Witi Ihimaera weaves a lush story, combining land and sea, past and present. The tragic scenes were incredibly heartbreaking--between Kahu's one-sided relationship with Koro and when the whales beach themselves, I about started crying at my work desk. And the triumphs were equally brilliant--as fluid and swift as the feeling evoked as the whales sliced through the sea.

I would like to wonder out loud though as to the general designation of this book as children
...more
Leo
Feb 09, 2016 Leo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book at all - at times there was no meaning in the text and there were no parts that were merely amusing or entertaining. Although it claimed to be a story of the history of the Maori-New Zealand tribe, many parts of the book were irrelevant to the main plot.
george
Kahu is the eldest great-grandchild of Kori, the chief of the Maori in Whangara, New Zealand. Unfortunately, Kahu is a girl and therefore Kori has no interest in her because he is only focused on finding the next leader of the tribe. Kahu showers Kori with love and admiration despite the fact that he continuously dismisses her and he continues his classes for the the males in the tribe and searches for the "one."

This is a heartwarming story of a detrmined little girl and her quest to find her w
...more
Holly
I read this as a part of my attempt to read more New Zealand literature. I saw the film years ago and can’t remember a lot about it, but I do remember my mum being very moved by it. I was probably too young to fully understand what the characters were experiencing. What I missed from the film I undoubtedly found in the book. This book was the perfect length and I was able to read it in one sitting. Kahu was the most delightful heroine and Ihimaera’s storytelling was spot-on.
Elizabeth A
Aug 23, 2014 Elizabeth A rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2014
I saw the movie based on this novella when it came out years ago, and remember really liking it. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Jay Laga'aia, and would recommend the audio as there are Maori phrases and music that add to the enjoyment of this story.

I love creation stories, and this one retells an ancient Maori legend juxtaposed with the present day lives of the Maori. Kahu is a young Maori girl who has the misfortune of not being born the boy her Great-Grandfather desperate
...more
Hye-Lin Lee
Aug 14, 2015 Hye-Lin Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bron
My son is reading this for English, so I decided to read it as well. This book is a sweet story about a maori chieftain's family, of which one ancestor had arrived in New Zealand riding a whale. Unfortunately for the chieftain, his first-in line grandchild is born a girl, which is bad because it should be a boy to lead the tribe. The chieftain spends the next 8 years refusing to believe his grand-daughter is good for his tribe, and in doing so pushes her away and does not love her. Fortunately f ...more
Chana
This is a short, sensitive book about a Maori family and the passing of the tribal mantle of leadership. When a girl is born, the first grandchild of that generation, her great-grandfather is terribly disappointed. He doesn't accept the possibility that she could be the one to take over leadership. She loves her great-grandfather so much, and she was born with the gifts that are the tribal heritage such as being able to talk to the whales. It takes tragedy and near loss to open his eyes.
I am wi
...more
Fiona
A friend recommended this to me a few years ago and so finally I pulled it off my bookshelf and read it and after such a long time of being embedded in bricks, or books that I wasn’t particularly taken with, The Whale Rider felt like a breath of fresh sea air.

Ihimaera chose to tell the story not from Kahu’s point of view, but from her Uncle Rawiri instead, giving the story the feel of a modern day legend. Kahu herself became more of a secondary character.

In a modern day world, culture becomes er
...more
Michele Velthuizen
Interest level: 7th +
Reading level: medium
Genre: whales, Maori, myths, mythology, fantasy, New Zealand

Witi Ihimaera, the author of what has become a classic, was the first Maori writer to publish a novel in New Zealand. In 2003 it was turned into a movie.

In ancient times there was a whale rider called Kahutia Te Rangi, but ever since the whale rider turned away from the sea to join those on land, the whales have been seeking a new rider. Kahu, the great gandchild of a tribal elder seems to have
...more
Jackie
Sep 26, 2012 Jackie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s very unusual for me to read a book that I’ve already seen the movie for. However, it’s been some time since I’ve seen The Whale Rider movie and this audio was a freebie from the YA Sync Summer Program so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. It was a whale of a tale!!! (Sorry couldn’t resist : P).

This audio was sheer perfection! The narration, the music, the story…the whole thing was just lovely and just as good (at times even better) than the movie. The narrator and music really
...more
Brenna Hobson
1. I decided to read this book because it was given to me by a relative a while ago, and it is the only book written by a New Zealander that I own.

2. This book fits the categories: book written by a New Zealander, book with a female main character, a book that teaches me about a culture other than my own, a book recommended to me by a member of my family and a book which has been made into a film.

3. The character that I found the most interesting is Kahu, because of her determination to win over
...more
Mila Latu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ana
I decided to read the book Whale Rider as I had looked up the books written by a New Zealander and it had came up with this novel. The cover looked intriguing as it has a picture of a beautiful Māori girl.This book ticks off the category "A book written by a New Zealander".

An interesting character in this story would be Kahu- who is 8 years old and also because she was so determined to win over her great-grandfather who disliked her because of her gender. Even though her Koro was mean and cruel
...more
Reshma
Sep 25, 2013 Reshma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Whale Rider is about a Maori 18 year old girl called Kahu, she is a member of a Maori tribe of Whangara. Kahu tries to fulfill her dream that her grandfather doesn't seem to recognize, along the way she finds she is gifted and can communicate with whales.

This book covers the category of a book written by a New Zealander.

My favorite quote in this book is "When she was born, that's when things went wrong for us". I liked this quote because it was upsetting because they felt like things went wr
...more
Peggy
Very fast read (also very short at approximately 150 pages) and I read it in one day. I really enjoyed the present-day story of the book, and I thought Kahu was such a wonderful and sweet girl. I found the Maori legends very interesting and loved reading those! I liked that the author often used Maori words, but as I don't know any Maori except for Kia Ora and Aotearoa I had to look them up in the glossary. Having to do that interrupted the reading and kept me from being able to read the story s ...more
Darcy
Feb 01, 2013 Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A moving story, but not what I expected. I thought this would be a cute story. It's short and shelved in the Juvenile Fiction section of the library, so naturally I assumed it would be a light read. This was not the case.
I can't imagine very many children enjoying this story. Ihimaera's prose is ripe and overflowing with lyricism that seems like it would be a bit above most children- "The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colors.
...more
Alisha
Dec 08, 2015 Alisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, natalie
Having seen the movie, I haven't been exactly looking forward to reading this book. I liked it the first time I saw it, but then I worked at a summer camp for 3 years with a bunch of Kiwis... and I LOVED them, but they LOVED this movie and watched it everytime it was a rainy day... well, MOST summers were pretty rainy, so if you're catching my drift, I've seen the movie probably about 50 times. LITERALLY.

HOWEVER, I don't know why I didn't trust in my usual instinct of books ALWAYS trumping their
...more
Rebecca
I read this as a novel for adults and I am not sure if it was written for children although it is about a child. I loved the dreamlike quality of the writing and some of it sent tingles down my spine. I dithered between 4 and 5 stars but in the end gave it 5 because reading it felt like good medicine. I loved the film too which follows the book quite closely and is haunting and beautiful in much the same way.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
1001 Children's B...: February 2015: The Whale Rider 1 12 Jan 30, 2015 11:21PM  
Is the book as good as the movie 3 23 May 20, 2014 12:57PM  
  • Once Were Warriors
  • Potiki
  • Under the Mountain
  • The Penguin History of New Zealand
  • The Cuckoo Clock
  • An Angel at my Table (Autobiography, #1-3)
  • Marcelino Pan Y Vino
  • Mein Urgroßvater und ich
  • A Hundred Million Francs (Le Cycle de Louvigny, #1)
  • A Dog So Small
  • Jennings & Darbishire
  • The School for Cats
  • La regina dei Caraibi
  • Something's Fishy, Hazel Green
  • Ash Road
  • The Cat: Or, How I Lost Eternity
  • Fire, Bed, and Bone
  • Way Home
62911
Witi Ihimaera is a novelist and short story writer from New Zealand, perhaps the best-known Māori writer today. He is internationally famous for The Whale Rider.

Ihimaera in New Zealand and is of Māori descent and Anglo-Saxon descent through his father, Tom. He attended Church College of New Zealand in Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand. He was the first Māori writer to publish both a novel and a b
...more
More about Witi Ihimaera...

Share This Book



“He loved them deeply, but sometimes love becomes a power game between the ambitions that parents have for their children and the ambitions that children have for themselves.” 5 likes
“Der Mensch mag sein moko (Tätowierung) in die Erde tätowieren, aber sobald seine Wachsamkeit nachlässt, nimmt die Natur sich zurück, was er sich angeeignet hatte, um seine Eitelkeit zu befriedigen.” 3 likes
More quotes…