The Whale Rider

Written by Witi Ihimaera

Illustrated by Bruce Potter

Published by Reed

ISBN: 978-0-14-350327-9

NZC activities for this picture book here.

This story is set in Whangara, East Coast New Zealand, where a young girl called Kahu is born as a descendent of Paikea who according to legend, rode a whale from Hawaiiki to New Zealand. As the first born to the eldest son of the whanau, Kahu has broken the male line of descent – the first since before Paikea lived many years ago. The story tells of her struggle with her grandfather, Koro Apirana to be recognised as the new leader of the people of Whangara. Koro Apirana cannot accept that a female could be leader. As things start to go wrong for the villagers, Koro Apirana blames the problems on Kahu and sets out to find a suitable male to take over leadership of the whanau. It is almost too late when after the stranding of whales on their home beach, he finally realises that Kahu is indeed the rightful heir to lead the people. The detailed text is divided into four chapters, making it best suited to older children. The life-like illustrations show huge emotion and support the story beautifully. Central to the story is the idea that whilst it is important to remember and respect our heritage, it is also important to keep progressing forwards and not be afraid of change.

Summary written by Marion McKoy

Book cover used with permission of publisher