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Kotuku Hardcover – April 29, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Savage's (Summer Hawk) ambitious coming-of-age novel combines historical facts with contemporary mystery, supernatural occurrences, romance and tragedy. The result, unfortunately, is a rather disjointed saga revolving around 17-year-old Wim Thorpe's heritage. Professor David Te Makara, a stranger from New Zealand, provides the key in unlocking ancient secrets about Wim's ancestors. The academic arrives at the Thorpes' door in Provincetown, Mass., with his niece and ends up lodging in their family cottage to do "research." The professor slowly uncovers evidence that he and Wim are distantly related. Meanwhile, plenty of other distractions further unsettle the heroine's muddled emotions: her memory of a friend who died of anorexia; Kia, Wim's visionary great-aunt; a rare white heron, or kotuku, Wim spots intermittently; a wild horse she is trying to tame; and "the man with the tattooed face," a ghostly figure, who periodically haunts both Wim and Aunt Kia and who bears a striking resemblance to the professor. While the book offers insight into the exploitation of native New Zealanders, its clutter of subplots disrupts the flow of the story, and the romance may stretch readers' credibility. Ages 12-up.

From School Library Journal

Grades 7-10--Readers immediately understand that this book will be different when they read about the main character's recurring vision of a Maori tribesman in the first sentence. Lyrical descriptions of emotions and the Cape Cod setting further lift the novel above many in the problem-novel genre. Wim is trying to overcome her feelings of grief engendered by her best friend's death. In an effort to avoid her pain, the 17-year-old becomes intensely involved with her work at the riding stable and her interest in nature study, almost to the exclusion of everything else. When required to care for her elderly great-aunt, the teen feels typically resentful and overwhelmed. As she begins to welcome Aunt Kia's fiery spirit, a charismatic young man and his niece arrive from New Zealand to do research, and Wim learns about her Maori heritage. This interesting plot twist winds in and out among intricate family relationships, first romance, a quest for self-understanding, mystery, and adventure to create a first-rate novel. Sophisticated readers will understand the symbolism of the great white heron and the Maori man with the tattooed face who keeps appearing to Wim and her aunt. Readers interested in independent heroines searching for an elusive dream will immerse themselves in this complex but rewarding novel. It will find a wider audience than Savage's A Rumour of Otters (Houghton, 1986; o.p.).
Susan Cooley, Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (April 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618047565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618047567
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,799,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This wonderful book may have a hard time finding its audience, but I hope it finds you. Readers who bring to it their curiosity and imagination, and a romantic fascination for the world will find their own worlds all the richer for it. And find enough to whet their appetites for further adventures, as it contains a splendid spread of tantalizing elements: horses, history, adventures of the heart and on land/seafaring, exotic cultures (Maori/New Zealand), and the powerful ways myths make a people connected, no matter how scattered across the globe, no matter what families we find ourselves in. These things are all enlivened by characters you grow to love, which after all is the thing that draws us into any book's world, isn't it? Some of the characters you'll wish you got to know better... But I found I knew their counterparts in my own circle of friends, over the years. I thought the author brought them to life with few strokes. I liked that the author put a glossary of Maori terms at the back; her love and respect for these people shows in the details, knowing touches. The main character's life is shown both gentle and harsh, and I think you'll like that. She reacts to its complexity with a confusion natural regardless of her age, finding mysteries hidden within mysteries, like Chines boxes. Life is like that, and there's a nice wisdom here for the reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Charlotte has no desire to leave her Cape Cod roots or home since her best friend Wim died: she just wants to be left alone with her job grooming horses. When an elderly aunt with mental problems and a last wish for her life comes to live with them, and a visitor from New Zealand stays on their property and evokes romantic feelings, Charlotte finds her life changing despite all she can do to resist. An evocative, gentle story of loss and survival.
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A Kid's Review on January 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When i read books i only go up to the first three pages but when I was reading Kotuku it was different because i kept reading. This book was so interesting and it tought me new things about other cultures and that it was different view on other things. This book was just very interesting and fun to read because it was a mystery book.
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By A Customer on October 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have read some of Ms. Savage's previous work, and it's been on my mind lately. I finished this book today, after checking it out yesterday reading the bulk of it in a few hours. I could not put it down.
The story is perhaps farfetched, but I found myself identifying in so many ways to Wim that it didn't matter. There are little words of wisdom in here everywhere, and it addresses a lot of real life issues. I found the ending somewhat less than satisfactory, but as a whole, I'm rather in awe of the book. Worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was interesting. It is a story of an old New England family with some Maori ancestors. Wim has seen visions of a tatooed man guiding her all her life. Visitors from New Zealand and her great aunt will bring the past on a collision course with the present. Past mysteries and wrongs will be unearthed and the identity of her tatooed spirit guide wil finally be discovered. Mostly I enjoyed this well written book. Except I had little patience for the 17 year old girl in love with a 32 year old man who kept complaining that he treated her like a child. Well duh girl you ARE a child and you are acting like one. Legally he can't get romantically involved with you. (Or morally.) She was also a total space cadet who nearly drowned because she was not paying attention.
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