A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about the island of Curacao, including colonization, flora and fauna, and involvement in World War II. Also ever-present in the novel are racial attitudes of the time.
The more you get to know someone, the less their appearance matters.
Positive Role Models
When Philip meets Timothy, the boy's ideas about Black people are racist and immature. However, as the story unfolds, their friendship develops. Philip gradually becomes respectful, open-minded, and resourceful. Timothy is kind and resourceful and teaches Philip resilience and survival skills.
Violence & Scariness
The Cay takes place during World War II, and the island of Curacao -- where Phillip lives with his parents -- is under threat of attack. Phillip hears explosions. A ship carrying Phillip and his mother is torpedoed, and Phillip suffers a head injury. Phillip lashes out and hits Timothy. Timothy slaps Phillip after Phillip calls him "stupid" and an "ugly black man."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Timothy says "Damn fool" once. Phillip calls Timothy "stupid" and an "ugly black man."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Phillip's father smokes a pipe. Timothy talks about drinking "plenty rhum" during Carnival.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.