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The Whale Rider (1987)

por Witi Ihimaera

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1,1873912,143 (3.85)1 / 128
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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Koro Apirana is disappointed to learn that his first great-grandchild is a girl, Kahu. But Kahu grows into a young child determined to get her great-grandfather to love her.

I read this book to fulfill one of Book Riot's "Read Harder" challenges for 2019; it was listed on their website as an example for a specific category. I thought it sounded interesting and was even more pleased to learn it's considered a children's book, since that could be helpful for my job (recommending books to kids is a big part of being a children's librarian!). In the introduction to the book, the author explains how he wrote this book in part for his young daughters who were sick of seeing only boys as the heroes in narratives. So this all seemed promising.

Unfortunately, it was pretty disappointing. Ihimaera's way of writing a strong female character fell precisely into the same trap that so many men fall into -- basically making the girl into a boy. Literally, there is a story given of the ancestor who prayed to the gods to become a man in order to overcome a perilous situation. This is referenced numerous times, including at this book's climax when Kahu's great-grandmother declares "If you think you need the help, well, I shall change myself into a man." Kahu herself is named after a male ancestor and is constantly trying to sneak herself into male-centric activities (e.g., listening outside the door of classes designed only for the men in the tribe). Further, the whole story isn't even told from Kahu's perspective; instead it's mainly told from the first-person point of view by her uncle Rawiri, a grown man.

Which brings me to my second point -- this doesn't really seem to be a children's book. Even though Kahu is the book's nominal hero, she isn't the narrator and we spend a lot of time with Rawiri when he isn't even around Kahu. This includes an interlude in which he travels first to Australia and then to Papua New Guinea, where he witnesses the casual murder of a "native." Other scenarios are also disturbing (including the gory cutting up of whales), and some of the language is suggestive and not exactly appropriate for young children. For instance, note this passage towards the end of the book: "The old mother whale began in a three-tone sequence drenched with love. 'My dear lord,' she continued, adding a string of harmonics. 'My man,' she breathed with slyness, threading her words with sensuous major arpeggios, 'the rider you carry isn't Paikea.' The other female whales edged away carefully, but they secretly admired the courage of the old mother whale in questioning the identity of the whale rider. ... The old mother whale cast her eyes downward, hoping that the bull whale would take this as a sign of feminine submission, but she knew, in fact, what she was up to. 'No, no, my lord,' she belled sweetly. The other female whales gasped at the old mother whale's stubbornness. The warrior whales waited for the word from their leader to teach her a lesson." And, yes, even the whales are in a strict patriarchy (with some rather disturbing implications)! The prose can in fact be quite beautiful at times, but the language seems to be above the vocabulary knowledge held by your average 8-year-old (the age of Kahu at the end of the book).

The story itself is layered with mythology, which could be interesting. However, it was so apparent from beginning to end what all would happen that it held no compelling reason to keep reading. I found myself putting it down a lot after only a few pages; even though it's a short book, it took me a while to finish it as a result. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Oct 11, 2019 |
This story takes place in New Zealand and describes Maori culture. It is about an 8-year-old girl named Kahu who descends from a long line of chiefs that go all the way back to the first chief Paikea. The legend is that Paikea led their people from a distant island to New Zealand on the back of a whale. Kahu's great-grandfather believes that only males can take the position of chief, so he doesn't accept Kahu. She has to prove that she can be the next leader. The story is narrated by Kahu's uncle Rawiri. It also weaves together the ancient legend of Paikea and the perspective of the whales who migrate along the coast and protect Kahu. ( )
  haworthkaren | Jul 2, 2018 |
An utterly wonderful book! It was a window into the Maori culture and their unique relationship with the ocean and the life within the ocean.

This summer I had the fortune to take a ferry from Bella Coola to Port Hardy and saw humpback whales along the way. They are so awesome. It is hard for me to believe that people can hunt and kill these magnificent creatures. I was reminded of Farley Mowat's book "A Whale for the Killing" which details the awful treatment a whale stranded in Newfoundland received. I really hope we have progressed from these horrendous acts but according to this article in Wikipedia whaling is still pursued in many countries, including Canada. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 10, 2017 |
I remember the sense of excitement when we went to see The Whale Rider at the movies in 2002. The only other New Zealand film I’d seen was The Piano (1993), which was a great film but not, apart from the scenery, distinctively New Zealand in character because the characters were 19th century pioneers from Britain. The Whale Rider was my first introduction to Māori mythology and customs.

And now, over a decade later, I’ve finally read the book. A novella of 148 pages, The Whale Rider is Witi Ihimaera’s fourth work of fiction, and probably the best known. Like his other books it explores Māori culture in contemporary New Zealand, in this case, the crisis that occurs when the first-born to whom traditions are entrusted turns out to be a girl. However there are significant differences between the book and film, not just in the naming of characters but also in the plot. (Kahu is called Pai in the film). Re-reading the summary at Wikipedia I can see that dramatic tension has been escalated by characterising the girl as more confrontational than she is in the book.

The narration is mostly by Kahu’s older cousin Rawiri, from the generation that sees the wider world beckoning. As a teenager he observes his grandfather Koro’s rejection of Kahu because of her gender, and he admires his feisty grandmother Nanny Flowers who stands up to him. But as a young man he takes off to the bright lights of Sydney and then to labouring work in Papua New Guinea, returning home seven years later only when it is made clear that his mate’s mother doesn’t find him acceptable because of his colour. Rawiri is like a bridge between the generations, recognising that the world is different and some ways in the coastal village of Whangara must change but he is also keen to learn about his traditions and he’s a willing protector of customs. He’s a ‘manly’ man, physically strong and powerful on his motorbike, but even when a teenager he is not afraid to show that he has a tender side and nurtures his much younger cousin. He isn’t torn between his two warring grandparents: he loves and respects them both.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/07/03/the-whale-rider-by-witi-ihimaera/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 7, 2017 |
The Whale Rider has been marketed as a children's or young-adult book, and you can see why someone might think that at a cursory glance. There are sentient animals! The main character is a young girl! It has positive messages about environmentalism and gender equality! But there is a lot of depth here, and some very adult issues being grappled with (not to mention quite a bit of bloody death--both animal and human--that I think makes it pretty inappropriate for anyone under a mature 10).
The question of how to embrace tradition--how to preserve one's national and tribal identity--while moving forward with the changing world is at the heart of this story, and one that I think many indigenous peoples face in the modern world. How much do you integrate? How can you take advantage of the benefits of modernity without losing what makes you unique, and without adopting the negative aspects of a colonizing culture?

This review is an excerpt from a longer review which can be found on my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books. ( )
  Dunaganagain | Jun 27, 2017 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Ihimaera, WitiAutorautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Hangasmäki, MerviTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Kearns, SerenaDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Laga'aia, JayNarratorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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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
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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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Média: (3.85)
0.5
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1.5 1
2 10
2.5 8
3 64
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Penguin Australia

2 edições deste livro foram publicadas por Penguin Australia.

Edições: 0143011391, 0143503278

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