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The Whale Rider

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  8,445 ratings  ·  943 reviews
Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary ‘whale rider.’ In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Harcourt Paperbacks (first published 1987)
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Samatha Lepaio The myth is very well-known as most people know of the ancestor who rode the ancient whale. Fitting into the reality of New Zealand? The idea of the w…moreThe myth is very well-known as most people know of the ancestor who rode the ancient whale. Fitting into the reality of New Zealand? The idea of the whale rider is a Maori myth but myths and legends are a huge part of any culture, and Maori's are very proud of theirs. But Kahu trying to prove to her Koro that she can be a leader even if she is a female is a strong representation of what this book is about.

From someone who spent most of her life in New Zealand.(less)
AS I think the reading level would be advanced for a child that age, and also there are definitely scenes that would be upsetting and scary for elementar…moreI think the reading level would be advanced for a child that age, and also there are definitely scenes that would be upsetting and scary for elementary-school age kids. I would save it for junior high age and up, and even as an adult reader, I found parts of it pretty intense. Amazing story, though, and worth the read. (less)

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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Whale Rider not even three years ago and fell in love with this tale. I got this book for my youngest daughter to read but she wasn’t interested, at least not yet, and I could not resist a reread. As my lead in to International Women’s Month, I returned to the story of Kahu of Whengara, New Zealand.

I have been fascinated by whales from the time I was a young child and saw a blue whale skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. This one event precipitated a lifelong love of
C.  (friends, please call me by name)
I live in the centre of Canada. No one is further from oceans than Manitobans. I dearly wish to see whales. Learning the cultures and languages of people and animals is something I have enjoyed since I was a child. I was a worldwide penpal. Since the internet came, it is fun for acquaintance to grow past a social network, to e-mail, to hand-to-hand mail. Kerri is a good friend from New Zealand, whose culture I want to learn. Discovering a race about whom I had not heard is a thrill. When Kerri t ...more
* 2.5 *

I am having a wee moment of picking up New Zealand books that I should have read a long time ago and that have co-incidentally been made into films. Maurice Gee's In my Fathers Den was my most recent foray and off the back of that I decided to read Witi Ihimaera's novel The Whale Rider . Ihimaera has written quite a long list of books and short stories but The Whale Rider is probably his most well known due to the 2002 film of the same name. It is a beautiful film. I highly recommend
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
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
Apr 22, 2013 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
Dec 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jeannette Nikolova
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.

Country: New Zealand

In all honesty, this was a peculiar little book. I both liked it, and didn't like it. I'm saying this in the sense that while I was reading The Whale Rider, I wasn't bored out of my mind. However, at the same time, I can't say that I actually enjoyed myself.

So in a way, this book just was. 

The story was interesting in its entirety and the fairytale quality of the entire novel. There are two stories between which the narration shift
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. The Māori culture was really interesting, and I love how Kahu and Nanny Flowers are constantly trying to fight the iwi's sexist, traditional ways. As a kiwi, I feel that this book has an amazing way of telling one of our many stories- all the Māori legends and myths we should know but don't. Witi has a unique way of writing stories, and it's captivating. 5☆ ...more
It's the blatant misogyny for me. Idc if it's supposed to tie into the story, it made me super uncomfortable and angry.
The story was good, though.
This is amazing - don't be put off by anyone telling you it's YA or fantasy - it isn't in my opinion. It has a child main character but I think it's YA in the same way that To Kill a Mockingbird is 'YA'. It's the sort of book you're made to read in school but you appreciate more as you get older. It's based on Maori legends, so not a 'fantasy' book but an insight into the richness that is Maori history. It also touches on the discrimination that exists between genders and races. You can learn a ...more
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
Megan Maurice
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and such vivid imagery. I listened to an audio book edition narrated by Jay Laga’aia and it was just such a beautiful thing to listen to. I was swept up in the story from start to finish.
I still love Witi Ihimaera's writing. I spend so much of his books committing Māori words to memory, in a vain attempt (I suck at languages) to be able to remember and use words after I finish reading.

I hate though books with ingrained cultural misogyny and an exceptional girl having to spend all her time "proving" she is worthy, let alone better than the men and boys in the novel due to this. I understand it as a trope. I understand it as a realistic thing that happens All. The. Fricking. Time
Kim Lockhart
May 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
A novella which packs an emotional punch. Beautifully written.
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011, yaf
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
What an experience reading this book provides! Heartbreaking, yet hopeful. We humans need to live in harmony with nature...after all, we ourselves are a part of nature, including all elements of this planet, particularly other animals, plants, etc. Harmony is the key. Gender is a socially-constructed term and should be irrelevant. Anyone can be a leader.
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. ...more
A beautiful story about the Maori culture, with a touch of magical realism, everything I love. Plus it's well-written and a quick read, I highly recommend! ...more
Michelle Boyer-Kelly
Witi Ihimaera wrote the novel Whale Rider in response to his daughter’s wondering why there were no female heroes in the stories and films they were viewing—such a wonderful question for 1987 when most literature did revolve, arguably, around male characters—but even more significantly, Ihimaera’s daughters also expressed concern that there were even fewer Maori characters in the world. Thus, the novel (later to become a film adaptation) was born. It is a great example of Maori literature, Young ...more
Book Concierge
5***** and a ❤

In the poignant author’s note at the beginning of this edition, the author writes about her inspiration for telling this story. While she was working in New York City, she witnessed an extraordinary event – a whale swam up the Hudson. Coincidentally, at the same time, her young daughter, following a day at the movies, asked “Daddy, why are the boys always heroes while the girls yell out, ‘Save me, save me, I’m so helpless?” And so inspired by these two events, Ihimaera turned her a
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
"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
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a super fast read, unsurprisingly, given the reading level. There are a lot of Maori words--don't make my mistake and find out about the glossary halfway through the book, yeah? It's back there, and very useful.

The story is good, if a little...oddly told. The choice to render the story from the uncle's point of view was odd and annoyed me a few times. That said, it has some very beautiful parts in it, and I think it's a good book to have kids read.

This is going to sound like sacrilege, b
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Evie Braithwaite
Set text for University

A short rewriting of an ancient Maori legend juxtaposed with the present day. I enjoyed the insight into primordial New Zealand and their culture rich with fairy tales. Young Kahu has the misfortune of not being born the boy her Great-Grandfather, Koro, so desperately wanted and her one-sided relationship with him was heart-breaking. Yet, despite her age, she possessed an admirable determination to prove her love and her destiny.

Although the unfamiliar vocabulary stif
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Glaiza by: Aentee
Immersive writing that draws on close connections between Māori mythology and family. Loved the focus on harmony with the environment, home and identity.

Jay Laga'aia, the audiobook narrator was fantastic too. Full review here:
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awwww this was just pure sweetness from start to finish. Rawiri and Kahu's relationship is precious, Kahu is generally a great character as is Nani Flowers.

Pure adorableness. Doubly cute that the author wrote this for his daughters.


#8: An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
Beautiful. Read first and then watch the movie.
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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 lives 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 a

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