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About the book
  • Published: 5 September 2014
  • ISBN: 9781775536574
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children's
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

Singing Home the Whale




An award-winning and extraordinary story of a boy who protects a baby orca that locals believe is threatening their livelihood.

An award-winning and extraordinary story of a boy who protects a baby whale that locals believe is threatening their livelihood.


Winner of the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year
New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2015

Young Adult Category Winner
New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2015


Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award 2015


Will Jackson is hiding out, a city boy reluctantly staying with his uncle in small town New Zealand while he struggles to recover from a brutal attack and the aftermath of a humiliating YouTube clip gone viral.

After he discovers a young abandoned orca whale his life is further thrown into chaos, when he rallies to help protect it against hostile, threatening interests. This threatens to tear apart the small fishing community and forever changes Will’s life.

The boy and the whale develop a special bond, linked by Will's love of singing. With echoes of classic book and film The whalerider this powerful connection is utterly convincing on the page.

An exciting plot-driven story full of drama, tension and romance, this magical book captures both heart and mind to hold the reader enthralled from start to finish. These qualities, along with its lyrical use of language and its compelling and persuasive exploration of many global concerns, makes this a beautifully touching, rich and multi-layered story by an award-winning writer for young adults. Singing Home the Whale will appeal to all readers of high-quality New Zealand fiction.

  • Pub date: 5 September 2014
  • ISBN: 9781775536574
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children's
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager has been awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton fellowship for 2014, and she was the 2012 recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors Beatson Fellowship. She won the Esther Glen Award for Fiction for her YA novel Smashed and Best Young Adult Book in the NZ Post Book Awards 2010 for The Crossing. The Nature of Ash won the LIANZA YA Fiction Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the 2013 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. In 2015 her novel Singing Home the Whale was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award; was a finalist for the LIANZA YA Fiction award; it won the YA category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; and was named the 2015 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year. Singing Home the Whale was described by the judges as a novel that "should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales." Her adult novel, Heloise, was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2018.

Hager has a MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and an Advanced Diploma in Applied Arts (Writing) from Whitireia Community Polytechnic, where she now works as a tutor and mentor. She lives with her partner on the Kapiti Coast.

She has written novels for adults and young adults, short stories, scripts, and non-fiction resources for young people.

See more at www.mandyhager.com, and on her Facebook pages for the Blood of the Lamb trilogy and for The Nature of Ash.

Internationally acclaimed writer Margaret Mahy proclaimed The Crossing as being like ‘1984 for teenagers — direct, passionate and powerful’, while in the Otago Daily Times children’s writer and reviewer Tania Roxborogh similarly drew comparisons between this ‘important book’ and other literary classics, declaring it ‘utterly compelling . . . very much in the vein of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Lowry’s The Giver’. The New Zealand Listener identified The Crossing as ‘classic young adult fiction’, describing it as ‘fast-paced, moving and the personal is always political . . . . tracking the journey from childhood to adulthood . . . [with] an authentic, fully realised sense of place’. The second title in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy, Into the Wilderness, was described by the Listener as a ‘sustained, gripping piece of writing, a visceral battle against the elements’. The trilogy concluded with the ‘gripping, futuristic’Resurrection.

Stand-alone thriller The Nature of Ash received a glowing review from Zac Harding of Christchurch City Library: ‘Mandy Hager has set a new standard in thrilling, action-packed stories for NZ teens with her new book, The Nature of Ash, and I’ll say it can proudly stand alongside these international, best-selling dystopian thrillers . . . The Nature of Ash is an exciting, explosive, action-packed thriller that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish . . . Ash is one of the most authentic male teen characters in New Zealand fiction. ’

Graham Beattie on Beattie’s Blog, concurred: ‘It is not often you would describe a YA novel as a blockbuster but in this case it is totally appropriate . . . This 364-page totally gripping Wellington-set thriller has been getting rave reviews around the country and now having read the story myself I am not at all surprised. Action-packed, fast-paced stuff . . . Watch out for it in next year’s book awards. ’

Pip Cole in Tearaway declared herself ‘enthralled’, while Diane McCarthy commended the real, contemporary settings of this ‘political . . . futuristic’ novel, saying they gave ‘some real grit and realism’. She praised Hager for being ‘very brave’ — ‘I don’t know of many authors who write political thrillers for teens. ’

The Saturday Express saw The Nature of Ash as having wider appeal than the average teen novel, ‘part coming-of-age novel, part future warning of where we could end up, politically and socially’. The reviewer noted the ‘strong underlying themes of accepting those who are different, standing up for what you believe is important, and self-acceptance’, concluding ‘Hager could well be New Zealand’s answer to Aussie writer John Marsden’.

Also by Mandy Hager

See all

Praise for Singing Home the Whale

“We think this novel would have won in any year it was entered: the decision was unanimous. Mandy Hager is writing out of her skin at present and her understanding of the human condition and human attitudes towards each other and other inhabitants of Planet Earth are beautifully presented. This novel should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales.”

Judges' Report, New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

“WHAT AN incredible book. It is a beautifully written, moving and thought-provoking story of a teenager and a whale.”

Linda Hall, Hawkes Bay Weekend

“Great writing, environmental and ecological issues, contemporary social pressures, unexpected friendships as well as a love interest all point to this story having the power to connect with many readers. Highly recommended.”

Bill Nagelkerke, Magpies

“The lyrical language was stunning and I immediately found myself in the ocean with the water gliding across my skin . . . A great read!”

Judges' Report, LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards


Awards & Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

    Winner • 2015 • Book of the Year

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

    Winner • 2015 • Winner of the Young Adult Category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

  • Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award

    Awarded • 2015 • Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award for Singing Home the Whale

  • LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards

    Finalist • 2015 • Shortlisted for the Young Adult Category of the LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards

  • IBBY Honour Award

    Nominated • 2016 • IBBY Honour Award


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