The Whale Rider

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Eight-year-old Kahu craves her great-grandfather’s love and attention. But he’s focused on his duties as chief of the Maori in Whangara, New Zealand—a tribe that claims descent from the legendary “whale rider.”

Available in paperback or hardcover.  The Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera. 1987, 150 pages.

Eight-year-old Kahu craves her great-grandfather’s love and attention. But he’s focused on his duties as chief of the Maori in Whangara, New Zealand—a tribe that claims descent from the legendary “whale rider.” In every generation since the whale rider, a male has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir—there’s only Kahu. She should be next in line for the title, but her great-grandfather is blinded by tradition and sees no use for a girl.

Kahu will not be ignored. And in her struggle she has a unique ally; the whale rider himself, from whom she has inherited the ability to communicate with whales. Once that sacred gift is revealed, Kahu may be able to reestablish her people’s ancestral connections, earn her great-grandfather’s attention—and lead her tribe to a bold new future.

Witi Ihimaera, a prolific writer and editor in New Zealand, has written numerous award-winning short-story collections, novels, anthologies, and nonfiction titles. He is hailed as a pioneer among Maori writers: His Pounamu Pounamu was the first collection of short stories published by a Maori, while Tangi was the first novel by a Maori. A diplomat for many years, Mr. Ihimaera now teaches English and creative writing at the University of Auckland.

This story was the stirring inspiration for Whale Rider, the movie, which won the 2003 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Audience Award, the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award, and the 2003 Rotterdam International Film Festival Canal Plus Audience Award.

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Language: English (Maori terms)
Culture Group: Maori