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The Whale Rider (1987)
por Witi Ihimaera
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On the cover: "A triumphant novel!"
Superb narrator! Highly recommended.
I found The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera an emotionally touching and inspired read. The book delves into the myth of how the Maori ancestors came to New Zealand, as well as other aspects of the Maori culture and mythology. Setting his story in modern times, he also wrote this book to appeal to his daughters who had complained that so many stories featured boys as the heroes.
As narrated by her uncle, we learn of Kahu, the first grandchild of her generation. She is cherished by everyone in the extended family except her grandfather, whom she greatly loves but who has no time for females. But after a traumatic episode of whales beaching themselves and dying, Kahu demonstrates that she has the gift to communicate with the giant creatures and she helps to restore one ancient giant to the ocean by using the revered tradition of riding the whale out to sea. As Kahu demonstrates her empowerment and overcomes the subtle resentment that her grandfather had directed at her, I was brought to tears.
Written in a poetic style and highlighted with Maori words (for which there is a glossary at the end of the book), I found The Whale Rider to be both a soothing and powerful read. Although marketed as a YA read, I think this book might appeal more to adults than to children. The Whale Rider is a magical book that I highly recommend.
5***** and a ❤
In the poignant author’s note at the beginning of this edition, the author writes about his inspiration for telling this story. While he was working in New York City, he witnessed an extraordinary event – a whale swam up the Hudson. Coincidentally, at the same time, his 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 his attention to the Maori folklore of his homeland, New Zealand and penned this book.
What a wonderful story. Magical, mystical, and yet completely relatable. Eight-year-old Kahu wants nothing so much as to please her Grandfather and be loved by him. But he dismisses her as a “useless girl.” Still, her grandmother, father and uncle champion her cause, as she comes of age and proves that she has what it takes to become chief and lead her people.
The novel is full of Maori legend and language, but a glossary at the back helps. As with many stories based on legend and folklore, I am reminded of the many summer nights spent sitting in the dark on the porch at my grandmother’s house, listening to my grandparents, aunts and uncles tell stories that enthralled, scared, educated, and inspired us.
I would love to read more by this author.
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's literature. In the primary library in which I work, we shelve it as "J"...generally, 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 died.
I 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 more 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 question, 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? Hmmm...just some questions.
Despite 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 more mature readers.
Yay! The BBC World Book Club interviewed Witi Ihimaera and used one of my questions! Ihimaera provides a moving and eye-opening commentary about the book--you should check it out.
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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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Sistema Decimal Melvil (DDC)428Language English Standard English usage (Prescriptive linguistics)
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2 ediciones de este libro fueron publicadas por Penguin Australia.
Ediciones: 0143011391, 0143503278