The Whale Rider

( 8 )


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 ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (24) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $80.00   
  • Used (23) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Sending request ...


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.
Now available in simultaneous hardcover and paperback editions.
Feature film in theaters in June 2003!

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First published in 1987 in New Zealand-the author's homeland as well as the story's setting-this circuitous novel inspired a film of the same title, which is scheduled for U.S. release this summer. A rather dense prologue tells of the long-ago appearance of a gigantic whale with "a swirling tattoo imprinted on the forehead" and a spear-throwing man riding on its back. After the narrative shifts to contemporary times, readers learn that this "whale rider" was Kahutia Te Rangi, founder of the Maori tribe whose chief is now Koro Apirana, grandfather of the 24-year-old narrator, Rawiri. Hoping for a great-grandson to inherit his title, Koro Apirana is disgusted when the wife of Rawiri's older brother gives birth to a girl. The child, named Kahu in honor of the whale rider, adores her great-grandfather, yet he ignores her, continually dismissing her when she tries to listen in on his lessons to the boys on tribal traditions. But Kahu can communicate with whales and emits a "special radiance," and it becomes evident that she will play a crucial role within her tribe. Despite Kahu's prominence, this story is also very much the narrator's, and as such may be likelier to hold the attention of adults than children. Ihimaera is at his best in depicting the bonds among the family members, but his use of symbols can be heavy-handed and passages focusing on the now-ancient whale may seem slow-moving. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Written in 1987, this novel is one of the most popular of the Maori writer's books in New Zealand and Australia. A new movie based on the book will fuel interest in its American release. A lushly worded prologue describes how Kahutia Te Rangi rode to the coast of New Zealand on the back of a tattooed whale and became the ancestor of the Maori people. Rawiri, a young man of the tribe, takes up the tale a thousand years later. Rawiri's older brother is next in line for chief, but much to his grandfather's dismay, Porourangi's first-born child is a girl. "I will have nothing to do with her," he grumbles, "She has broken the male line of descent in our tribe." Clearly little Kahu is a special child, but her grandfather adheres stubbornly to the Maori traditions and refuses to give the girl the love for which she yearns. Kahu's destiny is integral to the survival of her tribe, however, and in a dramatic scene, she becomes the whale rider her grandfather and his people have sought. Although compelling, this novel includes some obstacles for young readers. The prologue, a Maori genealogical story, has complex poetic language that moves slowly. There are many Maori words intermingled, which might further deter readers, although a glossary is included. When Rawiri takes up the narrative, the pace quickens. The strengths of the story are the warm and lively picture of the family and village life and the appealing little girl, Kahu, who becomes a heroine. Rawiri's voice, too, is strong, and through his eyes, readers see the discrimination faced by a Maori in a white world. Glossary. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003 (orig. 1992), Harcourt, 152p,
— Lynn Rutan
From The Critics
From the day she was born, little Kahu was overlooked by most because she was a girl. Her grandfather, the chief of the village, was too blinded by tradition to see the power his little granddaughter possessed. The author takes us to a little village in New Zealand where history and tradition work together in keeping the tribe's strength. The story is told from the perspective of Kahu's teenaged uncle, who watches her unfold into the role that destiny has reserved for her. Kahu is a vibrant, young girl destined to be the chief of her people. However, due to the fact that she was born a girl, she is challenged to prove herself and regain the strength of her land. She is gifted with the ability to speak to whales, allies to her people for many generations. In addition to the description of this New Zealand village, the somewhat mythical stories of ancestry, as well as Kahu's ability to speak to sea dwellers, will capture young readers right away. Her innocence and determination carry the reader all the way to the very end. First published in 1987 in New Zealand. 2003, Harcourt, 152 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Shannon Lederer
Witi Ihimaera spins a breathtaking tale of eight-year-old Kahu, a Maori girl in New Zealand whose destiny is to be a whale rider and the savior of her tribe. Moving between contemporary New Zealand and some ancient past time, the story of Kahu's life unfolds. Kahu is unloved by her great-grandfather, the main object of her affection, and shown that girls have no place of importance in Maori culture. Undeterred by this, Kahu learns all she can about her culture and her people, meanwhile developing a quiet and mysterious connection with the whales. The time for Kahu to fulfill her destiny comes when the whales strand themselves on the beach of Kahu's village. She rises to the challenge, proving to her great-grandfather that she is indeed worthy of being heir to the title of chief. Kahu is feisty and determined, a strong hero in a small package. While the passages on the ancient whales tend to drag a bit, the rest of Ihimaera's beautifully written story sparkles with life and will be hard for any reader, child or adult, to put down. (Editor's Note: This was first published in New Zealand and now has been made into a highly successful motion picture.) KLIATT Codes: JSA*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1987, Harcourt, 152p., Ages 12 to adult.
— Amanda MacGregor
Library Journal
The feature film version of Ihimaera's 1987 novel recently took the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival and is making the rounds at art houses throughout the country, which should make this popular. A young New Zealand tribal girl endeavors to break old traditions and be named chief, a role historically held only by males. Since the text contains numerous words in Maori, the book is capped with a glossary. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Witi Ihimaera blends New Zealand's Maori legends with a modern girl's struggle to have her special gifts recognized in this novel (Harcourt, 2003). Though Kahu is the first child born in her generation and she is well loved by her extended family, she seeks the approval of Koro, the stern man who is not only her great grandfather but also her clan's chief. Family lore is filled with stories of Koro's ancestor who rode a giant whale to bring his people to New Zealand. Their village continues to have a special relationship with the sea and its creatures. When a pod of whales is stranded on a nearby beach, everyone in the community works to save them. Many animals are lost and only one desperately weak whale is turned toward the sea when Kahu climbs onto his back. Both the whale and the girl feel their ancient connection, and when Kahu rides off, her great grandfather finally sees that she is the next leader for her clan. Though the eight-year-old girl is feared lost, her whale companion has left her where she can be found and reunited with her family. Narrator Jay Laga'aia handles the book's poetic rhythm and its Maori words and phrases with an easy tempo and honest emotion. Occasionally the sound quality seems too quiet, but it reflects the novel's introspective sections. Though the Maori language may be a challenge for some listeners, the universal theme of a child looking for acceptance makes this a good additional purchase for middle school and public libraries. It's worth noting that Whale Rider was made into an award-winning film a few years ago.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An ancient whale and an eight-year-old Maori girl named Kahu are archetypal figures in this luminous joining of myth and contemporary culture. In an opening Eden-like scene, a man riding a whale gives the East Coast of New Zealand gifts that will make it flourish. The last gift, however, refuses to be given, flinging itself across a thousand years to wait for the time when it will be needed. That gift becomes Kahu, a contemporary child both regular and special. Kahu is cherished by everyone in the family except her grandfather, whom she reveres but who has no time for females. But when that ancestral relationship between human and whale reaches from the past and challenges the safety of her people, Kahu alone has the gift to confront the threat. The story is narrated by her uncle Rawiri and by the whales; dazzling ocean descriptions from the whales’ perspective highlight the poetic writing. (glossary) (Sundance and Toronto film festivals winner, national release June 2003) (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
Whale Rider, the movie—winner of the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Audience Award, the Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival Canal Plus Audience Award
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152050160
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1-Simul
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 6.64 (w) x 8.05 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

WITI IHIMAERA, a prolific writer and editor in New Zealand, is the author of numerous short-story collections, novels, anthologies, and nonfiction titles. He teaches English and creative writing at the University of Auckland.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning. The mountains were like a stairway to heaven, and the lush green rainforest was a rippling cloak of many colors. The sky was iridescent, swirling with the patterns of wind and clouds; sometimes it reflected the prisms of rainbow or southern aurora. The sea was ever-changing, shimmering and seamless to the sky. This was the well at the bottom of the world, and when you looked into it you felt you could see to the end of forever.

This is not to say that the land and sea were without life, without vivacity. The tuatara, the ancient lizard with its third eye, was sentinel here, unblinking in the hot sun, watching and waiting to the east. The moa browsed in giant wingless herds across the southern island. Within the warm stomach of the rainforests, kiwi, weka, and the other birds foraged for huhu and similar succulent insects. The forests were loud with the clatter of tree bark, chatter of cicada, and murmur of fish-laden streams. Sometimes the forest grew suddenly quiet, and in wet bush could be heard the filigree of fairy laughter like a sparkling glissando.

The sea, too, teemed with fish, but they also seemed to be waiting. They swam in brilliant shoals, like rains of glittering dust, throughout the greenstone depths-hapuku, manga, kahawai, tamure, moki, and warehou-herded by shark or mango ururoa. Sometimes from far off a white shape would be seen flying through the sea, but it would only be the serene flight of the tarawhai, the stingray with the spike on its tail.

Waiting. Waiting for the seeding. Waiting for the gifting. Waiting for the blessing to come.

Suddenly, looking up at the surface, the fish began to see the dark bellies of the canoes from the east. The first of the Ancients were coming, journeying from their island kingdom beyond the horizon. Then, after a period, canoes were seen to be returning to the east, making long cracks on the surface sheen. The land and the sea sighed with gladness:

We have been found.
The news is being taken back to the place of the Ancients.
Our blessing will come soon.

In that waiting time, earth and sea began to feel the sharp pangs of need, for an end to the yearning. The forests sent sweet perfumes upon the eastern winds and garlands of pohutukawa upon the eastern tides. The sea flashed continuously with flying fish, leaping high to look beyond the horizon and to be the first to announce the coming; in the shallows, the chameleon sea horses pranced at attention. The only reluctant ones were the fairy people, who retreated with their silver laughter to caves in glistening waterfalls.

The sun rose and set, rose and set. Then one day, at its noon apex, the first sighting was made. A spume on the horizon. A dark shape rising from the greenstone depths of the ocean, awesome, leviathan, breaching through the surface and hurling itself skyward before falling seaward again. Underwater the muted thunder boomed like a great door opening far away, and both sea and land trembled from the impact of that downward plunging.

Suddenly the sea was filled with awesome singing, a song with eternity in it, a song to the land:

You have called and I have come,
bearing the gift of the Gods.

The dark shape rising, rising again. A whale, gigantic. A sea monster. Just as it burst through the sea, a flying fish leaping high in its ecstasy saw water and air streaming like thunderous foam from that noble beast and knew, ah yes, that the time had come. For the sacred sign was on the monster, a swirling tattoo imprinted on the forehead.

Then the flying fish saw that astride the head, as it broke skyward, was a man. He was wondrous to look upon, the whale rider. The water streamed away from him and he opened his mouth to gasp in the cold air. His eyes were shining with splendor. His body dazzled with diamond spray. Upon that beast he looked like a small tattooed figurine, dark brown, glistening, and erect. He seemed, with all his strength, to be pulling the whale into the sky.

Rising, rising. And the man felt the power of the whale as it propelled itself from the sea. He saw far off the land long sought and now found, and he began to fling small spears seaward and landward on his magnificent journey toward the land.

Some of the spears in midflight turned into pigeons, which flew into the forests. Others, on landing in the sea, changed into eels. And the song in the sea drenched the air with ageless music, and land and sea opened themselves to him, the gift long waited for: tangata, man. With great gladness and thanksgiving, the man cried out to the land,

Karanga mai, karanga mai, karanga mai.

Call me. But there was one spear, so it is told, the last, that, when the whale rider tried to throw it, refused to leave his hand. Try as he might, the spear would not fly.

So the whale rider uttered a prayer over the wooden spear, saying, "Let this spear be planted in the years to come, for there are sufficient spear already implanted. Let this be the one to flower when the people are troubled and it is most needed."

And the spear then leaped from his hands with gladness and soared through the sky. It flew across a thousand years. When it hit the earth, it did not change but waited for another hundred and fifty years to pass until it was needed.

The flukes of the whale stroked majestically at the sky.

Hui e, haumi e, taiki e.

Let it be done.

© 1987 Witi Ihimaera

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

First published in New Zealand in 1987 by Reed Books, a division of Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 39 Rawene Rd, Birkenhead, Auckland
First U.S. edition 2003

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 21, 2012

    A beautiful story of hope and promise

    Written in 1987, THE WHALE RIDER is a deceptively short book. Only 120 pages long, it’s a richly layered story dealing with several major social issues: family relationships, gender discrimination, generational differences, racial prejudice, loss of the cultural identity of indigenous tribes, ecological conservationism and modern man’s disconnection from his spiritual self.

    Kahu is a young Maori girl who, from the moment of her birth, had a deep connection with her great-grandfather Koro Apirana, a powerful Maori Chieftan. Custodian of his people’s indigenous culture, Koro searches desperately for his successor: a boy who, for the good of all his people, will value and understand the ancient Maori traditions as much as Koro does. Kahu’s uncle Rawiri, who narrates most of the story, and her great-grandmother Nanni Flowers, see in Kahu’s spirit that which Koro seeks: the soul of the future Chieftan who will lead the Maoris of Whangara into the 21st century. But Kahu is a girl and, in Maori tradition, only men can perform the sacred traditions that keep the Maori people blessed of their gods and their ancestors.

    From the delightfully subversive feminist Nanni Flowers to good guy Rawiri who, along with a diverse group of people tried desperately to save 200 beached whales (one of the several scenes in the book which had me sobbing out loud), to the serene, compassionate and otherworldly Kahu, the story is filled with remarkable characters. These include the Old Whale, an ancient sea-creature that has survived for centuries to ensure that Kahu meets her destiny of ensuring that the sacred Maori traditions shall live on into the new century.

    The lyrical, almost magical, descriptions of the herd of whales’ journeys through the depths of the great oceans contrast beautifully with Rawiri’s simple, down-to-earth narrative. The boneless, weightless feel of the writing in the whale scenes recreate both a transcendent spiritual state and the sensation of swimming underwater. From the comical rendition of the constant bickering of Koro Apirana and his wife Nanni Flowers, to the well of emotion that has him spontaneously performing the haka to support Kahu at her school prize-giving, Rawiri’s gentle perceptions of his extended Maori family reveal the deep bonds of love and culture holding them together. “Family,” he says to his white friend Jeff, “is Family.”

    Some of the Maori terms were, at times, confusing and the edition I read did not have a glossary of Maori terms, which would have been useful.

    This lack, however, did not detract from the lush splendour of THE WHALE RIDER, a beautiful story of hope and promise.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2008

    High Marks for The Whale Rider

    Witi Ihimaera¿s book, The Whale Rider takes the reader on an inspirational journey while addressing such issues as sexism, racism, love, and bitterness as well as unity with nature. The Maori chief Koro Apirana in Whangara, New Zealand wants a male heir to take on the traditions of his ancestors as well as his leadership responsibilities. Unfortunately for his great-granddaughter Kahu, she is born a girl and endures much scorn from her old fashioned great-grandfather. She loves him deeply and aches for his love. As Kahu taps in to her inherited gift of speaking to whales, she may be able to save the culture and future of her people. The Whale Rider is told from the perspective of Kahu¿s uncle and includes a small, yet charming cast of characters. Ihimaera¿s talented characterizations allow the reader to feel a part of the family. The emotional conflict between Kahu and Koro captures the empathy of the reader compelling him or her to resolve the disharmony. He could have made the characters a bit more complex, but, admittedly, the simplicity is kind of refreshing. The plot takes the reader on a journey as Kahu grows up and touches the lives of her family members. She softens hearts and puts life in perspective. The vulnerability of her age mixed with glimpses of her maturity allows the reader to identify with her but also realize her heroic destiny. Ihimaera¿s imagery lets the reader feel the wonders of the ocean and New Zealand life. I wish he had further described the setting in some places, but for the most part this book was descriptive and clear. The tone is almost mystical as some parts are told from the whales¿ perspective as well. In my opinion, The Whale Rider would appeal to ages 14-adult because it is easy to read and explores simple themes, yet includes some cultural insights and symbolism that may be better appreciated by an older audience. The content is hardly offensive but does touch on some issues of sexism and racism to teach the blindness of such attitudes. Overall, I would recommend The Whale Rider to others. It¿s a quick, enjoyable read and makes the reader feel edified and empowered at its conclusion. Out of ten I would give it a 7.5 because it was well-written and inspired goodness, but was not as profound or complex as I had hoped. I have not yet seen the movie, but now I am anxious to do so. I hope you read this book and enjoy it like I did.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2008

    Insight into culture

    Whale Rider is a moving story giving insight into the Maori culture both in the past and as it works to fit into the present. It is designed for young readers, but is of interest to anyone wishing to learn about the Maori traditions. For avid 'tween and young teen readers, do the book before the film. For the less eager reader, the movie could come first, providing the visual images which might make the reading easier. The use of Maori terminology is easily handled, with a glossary in the back. Although some boys may first balk at reading a story with a female protagonist, this story has plenty of adventure, imagination, and family drama to hold interest.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2004

    Amazing and Moving

    I cry every time I read this book. Even when I'm in school. Amazing, sweet, and moving. A must read for everyone, especially for those who are for women's lib.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2004

    Place Of Wonder and Anticipation

    this book has now been added to my favorite lists. 8yrold Kahu is amazing. she has such passion and such fearless way to think of the world. this book is told through the eyes of one that loves her most and through his eyes (her uncles) you will learn that the world...isnt always such a bad place...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    moving and touching

    A very sweet story (a little short but nice) best recommended to be read to children of any age.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)