Ihimaera - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

Whale Rider
Witi Ihimaera
Fiction, General Fiction/Fantasy

DESCRIPTION: In ancient times, the great whale rider came from the land of the ancestors across the sea, the first of a long line of Maori chiefs. In those days, men still talked with animals, and the gods of land, sea, and sky were treated with proper reverence and respect. It was a very long time ago...
In modern times, the Maori of Whangara are losing their way. They still take classes in the old lore, but the twenty-first century has little use for old gods or ancestors who talked to whales. The line of the whale rider seems to have come to an unpromising end; young Kahu is no man, fit to wear the mantle of power, but a girl. There is something special about her, but her grandfather Koro refuses to see it, seeking instead among the boys of the village to find a fit heir. It may take the whale rider himself to show Koro that she is not to be so lightly brushed aside.

REVIEW: I saw the movie before I read the book, and there are differences. The book is told from the view of the girl's uncle, and talks more of the state of the Maori and racial tensions. Kahu is intriguing, but we never see inside her mind. The movie (which renames several characters, and turns Kahu into Pai) is narrated by the girl herself, and is more about how ancient powers can still manifest in modern times. Koro comes across as more sympathetic in the movie, as well. For me, the movie worked a little better, but this is still a wonderfully lyrical book with great imagery and neat characters.
(And, yes, I know the publisher does not label this one as Fantasy. I do; there's more than enough fantastic elements here.)

You might also enjoy:
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi, YA Fiction - An upper-class girl from the mid-1800's is accused of murder on a trans-Atlantic sailing ship)
Stormsinger (Stephanie A. Cain, Fiction - A lady privateer transports a prince to his betrothed and encounters a deep-sea danger)
Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex - Illustrated (Owen Chase, et al., Nonfiction - The true story of the wreck that inspired Melville's classic Moby-Dick, along with period articles on whaling and whales)
Just Good Friends (Rosalind James, Fiction - Fleeing a stalker, California-born Kate clashes with New Zealand rugby star Koti)
The Piratica series (Tanith Lee, YA Fiction - In an alternate Earth, a brave young woman with unreliable memories sets out to become an honorable pirate queen, as her mother was before her)
Moby Dick (Herman Melville, Fiction - In the 1850's, a man ships aboard a Nantucket whaler and becomes part of Captain Ahab's obsession with the white whale Moby Dick)
The Bloody Jack adventures (L. A. Meyer, YA Fiction - A plucky girl from elder-day London escapes the horrors of the streets by hiding her gender and becoming a "ship's boy," embarking on a life of wild adventure)
The Song of the Lioness quartet (Tamora Pierce, YA Fiction - In a magical world, a noble girl disguises herself as a boy in order to train for knighthood)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - Tired of being the proper princess in a fairy tale world, a girl runs away to live with dragons)
Whale Rider (2003 movie DVD)

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