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The Whale Rider 25 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 uite 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 it The book I was less enthusiastic about What I did like was the melding of the rational world and the world of maori mythology The opening seuence describing a primordial New Zealand complete with fairies and sentient Tuatara was uite evocative The famous legend of Paikea who travels to NZ on the back of a whale is lovingly interpreted throughout this novel I enjoyed Ihimaera's mythical majestic whales right up until the point they started considering the genetic effects of oceanic radiation from Moruroa atoll which seemed an anthropomorphism too far Putting that issue to one side in general I found the story telling uite ham fisted The characters feel thin and underdeveloped There was the odd decision to have the narrator travel to Sydney and Papua New Guinea for a few chapters The story in my opinion is best when cleaving to that intersection between reality and myth I don't think this book has aged particularly well and might struggle against the nuanced stories YA readers would now come to expect I would love to find NZ authors taking on our own myths and legends and weaving some fictional magic out of them but unfortunately this particular interpretation didn't work for me but it did make an enduringly beautiful film Also available on the WondrousBooks blog Country New ZealandIn 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 myselfSo in a way this book just was The story was interesting in its entirety and the fairytale uality of the entire novel There are two stories between which the narration shifts current times and the birth of Kahu a little girl who possesses the spirit of Maori mythology but is not loved by her grandfather who as the chief of the community wants a grandson and is always displeased with little Kahu; and the stories from the Maori legends about the whale riders and the pain of a whale which was ridden by the last whale riderAs you can imagine Kahu's story is very endearing and cute and the whales' story has of a surreal uality However this would be an oversimplification of how exactly wild this book gets at times It's a wildness in the method and narration rather than one in the actual events but ultimately leads to a very fairytale ish world of collision between myth and realityThis however can also be confusing as I wasn't sure how I'm supposed to take the story utter fiction? Mythological reality? Fairtytale? My confusion lead me to that awkward moment which one experiences when they meet someone who seems to be insane and one doesn't know if that person is jokingsarcastic or really mentally unstable In all fairness I'm in this situation often than I shouldThe other thing which a story like this heavily influences is the depth of the characters Mythological characters are rarely very deep and well developed so in a book which is unsure about its allegiances with reality expectedly the characters were not really three intentionalLastly while I enjoyed the stories about Kahu I was rather bored with the whale narration and the general repetitiveness of the book Every encounter with Kahu and her grandfather or the two of her grandparents just ended up being the exact same chapter over and over again down to the actual expressionsOn the positive side I learned very interesting things albeit minor ones about the Maori culture and the belief system they have to a degree So while this was not the most successful encounter it was definitely not without virtues 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 this novel takes a much positive approach The Maori in this novel are active in teaching their native languages and passing down traditions What once was in danger of being lost such as the ability to communicate with whales looks like it might be preserved if the Maori are willing to change with the times Unexpectedly there is a small diversion where the narrator travels to Australia and then to Papua New Guinea before embracing his Maori identity This was great for me in my year of reading Oceania because he talks about the differences between the three countries and the treatment of the native populations In particular that the PNG tribal groups had to live one thousand year in one lifetime because of the rate of change in technology and culture A gem that glistens Beautiful A contemporary rewriting of an ancient Maori legend Its messages speak of the strength of women but even 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 adultsThe 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 will we get audiobooks with varied music and numerous songs? Anybody listening out there? 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 uniue way of writing stories and it's captivating 5☆ 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 enticedUnfortunately my shackles are still shaking as I think about how important it is to put well written books into children's hands in order to turn them into lifelong readers Here's a few basics 1 If you use big words provide context 2 Don't dumb down3 Every element of the story should clearly belong Don't lose your readerFirst there were unfamiliar names in the legends This is excusable But there were also lots of unfamiliar words in the opening scenes Nuff said on that I'm still struggling to decide if this book is a children's book or a YA book At times it seemed to be written for grade schoolers and at others for young adults Then there were things written over the heads of all of us The narrator is sixteen years older than the subject a young girl gifted to be the savior of her people At times a scene would feel childish and at others worldly And only upon reflection did I understand how an uncle could have been killed in the car accident in New Guinea when all the Maori relatives live in New Zealand Perhaps a very short 1 2 paragraphs preface on terminology would have been helpful And when it comes right down to it was that part of the story necessary? Would a young reader understand why it was included? But that's not all I'll just dissect the scene that had me spitting spume Fistfights erupt between the Maori and the New Zealanders who were mutilating beached whales I'm going to paraphrase a bit but here goesThe gulls cried outraged as we vroomed through their New Zealanders gathering numbers The first sight to greet out eyes was this old European lady who had sat down on a whale that some men were pulling onto the beach with a tractor They had put a rope round the whale's rear flukes and were getting angrier and angrier with the woman manhandling her awayWe came to the rescue and that was the first fistfight of the dayThere were several beefy guys loading a dismembered jaw onto the back of a truck As we approached we saw an old man scuffling with them One of the young men smacked him in the mouth and the old man went downWe roared up to the truck 'Hey man' I hissed 'that whale belongs to Tongaroa''Who's stopping us?''We are Billy said He grabbed the chain saw that the beefy guys were using to cut up the whales started it up and next minute had sawed the front tires of the truck That started the second fistfight of the day Okay I have to interject something here Billy took the guy's chainsaw???? The beefy guy didn't like try and stop him??? He sawed one tire and then walkedran around the truck and then sawed the other one???? Okay back to the storyIt was at this stage that the police and rangers arrived I guess they must have had trouble figuring out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys because they started to manhandle us as wellAre you kidding me?????So there's a fight going on and the policerangers don't immediately understand what's going on????Good guys and bad guys???? See what I mean about dumbing down????There's to this scene and it doesn't get any betterIt's always interesting how writing reviews solidifies one's opinions of a book I've now dropped it to one star Just can't recommend it I've heard the movie is really good Skip the book Try the movie 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 Kahu is his only great grandchild and Maori tradition has no use for a girl But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe it is Kahu who saves the tribe when she reveals that she has the whale rider's ancient gift of communicating with whales 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 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 stifled my reading at times The Whale Rider is a poignant exploration of gender politics and coming of age in a changing world 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 eually brilliant as fluid and swift as the feeling evoked as the whales sliced through the seaI would like to wonder out loud though as to the general designation of this book as children's literature In the primary library in which I work we shelve it as Jgenerally chapter books for grade school and middle school readers Ihimaera uses a reasonable amount of very erudite language that I imagine would be challenging even for some adult readers and he addresses some rather adult issues of race and poaching through the novel's narrator Kahu's Uncle Rawiri I'm thinking specifically of two scenes 1 The hit and run that occurs in Papua New Guinea when Rawiri's white friend Jeff hits and kills a native and friend on the side of the road with his family's car and the family urges him to drive on because It's only a native and the tribe might seek retribution; and 2 The horrific and immensely sad scene when a herd of 200 whales beach themselves and poachers come to dismember the bodies before they've actually diedI wonder sometimes what differentiates a children's book from an adult book Just because Kahu is an 8 year old doesn't mean necessarily that it should be a book for 8 year olds I wouldn't suggest a child read Bastard out of Carolina just because it has a young protagonist I think this book has definite crossover appeal along the lines of To Kill a Mockingbird and after viewing the movie after reading this book I can see how they toned down a lot of the various conflict in the book to make it kid friendly But that's the movie which is great in its own right and this is the book Other libraries consider it a Young Adult book but in a general sense of its audience would a teen want to read a book in which its main character only reaches the age of 8? I haven't done any research yet into this uestion but I wonder if Ihimaera intended for The Whale Rider to be a children's book or if this was the publisher's marketing idea? Hmmmjust some uestionsDespite all this I really did truly enjoy the book especially for its insight on Maori culture the ecological concerns of a world very different from mine and the bravery and persistence of Kahu I would absolutely recommend it focusing on mature readers Yay The BBC World Book Club interviewed Witi Ihimaera and used one of my uestions Ihimaera provides a moving and eye opening commentary about the book you should check it out

  • Hardcover
  • 152 pages
  • The Whale Rider
  • Witi Ihimaera
  • English
  • 08 April 2014
  • 9780152050177

About the Author: Witi Ihimaera

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 RiderIhimaera 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