Friday, September 9, 2011

Hooray for New Zealand!

Happy New Zealand Appreciation Day on the UMS Tigers Read Blog!!! Why do I have all of this about New Zealand? Well the Rugby World Cup is starting up and this year it is in New Zealand. AND the New Zealand All Blacks are awesome. AND when I was in college I spent a semester (5 months) studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchuch so I really do love that country and the people in it.

So in honor of the beautiful country that is New Zealand and the start of the Rugby World Cup (if you don’t know much about rugby check out the rules) I am reviewing 2 books that remind me of New Zealand.

The Whale Rider
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987
152 pages (hardcover)

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 up to Kahu to save the tribe. (from

Oh My Goodness. I LOVE this book. I lucked out that I read this book and saw the movie while in New Zealand (and studying New Zealand history and culture) so I really felt connected to the story. This is a great book that incorporates modern-day family situations with ancient folklore. It was like reading a folktale that is taking place right now. In the book there are references to Maori (the native people to New Zealand) traditions and language, but you can still understand the events in the book without knowing about the Maori and their culture.

Kahu had a spunky, but determined spirit and the descriptions about her frustrations & sadness about her great-grandfather’s annoyance that she not what he wants her to be will touch home with a lot of readers. When I read this book (or even watch the movie) I am transported back to the rolling hills and quiet beauty of New Zealand and all of the wonderful Maori people who welcomed me.

The Hobbit: Or There and Back Again
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1938
256 pages (hardcover)

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. (from

Ok, so The Hobbit wasn’t written in New Zealand and definitely doesn’t take place in New Zealand. BUT the movie is being filmed there (just like the three Lord of the Rings movies were) and I am definitely excited about seeing New Zealand on the big screen again.

Now, about The Hobbit. I don’t normally read fantasy books and I definitely don’t normally read books where pretty much every character is a guy. However, I really liked this book. It was different from most books I have read and engaging. The beginning got my attention quickly as a horde of dwarves invade Bilbo’s space and take him on this journey with all sorts of creatures. Just when I thought things were going to be ok for Bilbo & company, something else unexpected would happen and I would vigorously read through the pages to see what was going to happen next.

The Hobbit was written decades ago so sometimes the descriptions and language can be tough to get through. But there is a reason people have loved this book for decades- it stands the test of time. It’s an imaginative and adventurous book that takes your mind on a vacation to a wondrous place of mountains, elves, dwarves, raging rivers, and quiet hobbit houses.

So Happy New Zealand Appreciation Day and check out recaps from the Rugby World Cup over the next month or so!

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