A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Theodore Taylor's adventure novel The Cay is an exciting survival story that also addresses racist beliefs. Young Phillip Enright lives on the island of Cucacao with his parents. When World War II begins, the island is under threat of attack from the air and the sea. Phillip's mother decides to take him back to the United States for safety, but their ship is torpedoed and Phillip ends up stranded with an older Black man named Timothy. Fortunately for Phillip, Timothy is kind and resourceful. Their interdependence and friendship challenge the racist views Timothy had learned from his mother. Taking place during wartime, the novel includes real and threatened violence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
THE CAY takes place on the Dutch island of Curacao during World War II. A young American boy, Phillip Enright, lives on the island with his parents, and he at first seems to imagine the war like a game. However, his mother is afraid for their safety and decides to take Phillip back to the United States, though Phillip's father believes the journey will not be safe. The ship that takes Phillip and his mother from the island is, in fact, torpedoed, and Phillip is separated from his mother. He finds himself stranded with a Black man named Timothy, who cares for Phillip and teaches him lessons in survival and resilience. The pair end up on a small cay (or key) on an unpopulated island, where they erect a shelter and catch fish to eat. As the two come to depend on each other to survive, racist ideas that Phillip inherited from his mother are challenged, and the two castaways -- now friends -- divide their efforts between sustaining themselves and trying to signal to any overhead aircraft that they need to be rescued.
Is it any good?
The emotional impact of this story comes from the carefully developed relationship between Timothy and Phillip, and the experiences that prompt Phillip to unlearn the racism he was taught. Timothy patiently teaches Philip, and the reader, by example, and Phillip is transformed physically and intellectually. The Cay is the best kind of survival novel, with a protagonist who triumphs over seemingly impossible and thrilling challenges, and emerges changed for the better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Phillip's friendship with Timothy in The Cay. How does Phillip view Timothy at first? How does their relationship change?
How do Phillip's ideas about war change from the beginning of the story?
Have you read other stories about sea adventures or shipwrecks, such as Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island? How does The Cay compare to those stories?
- Author: Theodore Taylor
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Puffin
- Publication date: November 17, 1987
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 137
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: January 27, 2021
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