The Cay | Theodore Taylor
The Cay #1 | 156 pages | 1969
Historical Fiction, Young Adult Literature
⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Shelf Worthy
From the Back of the Book
All his life Phillip had looked down upon black-skinned people. Now, suddenly, he was a refugee from a fatal shipwreck, and dependent on an extraordinary West Indian named Timothy. There were just the two of them cast up on the barren little Caribbean Island … three to them if you counted Stew Cat … and a crack on the head had left Phillip blind.
An exciting, moving adventure story, THE CAY, tells of their struggly for survival … and of Phillip’s efforts to adjust to his blindness, and to understand the dignified, wise, and loving man who was his companion.”
The Cay was a quick read that provided my students and I with an opportunity to analyze struggles. Timothy and Phillip’s journey was full of internal and external struggles.
Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger. Whenever I would stop reading or stop the audiobook, students would look at me and beg for more of the story that way the struggle, problem, or issue between Phillip and Timothy could be resolved in the next few pages.
The Cay brings up racial differences between the main characters. At times, my students would shift in their chairs during these sections because of the unsettling language being used.
Whenever these situations occured, we would pause and discuss the “what” and the “why” of the language and feelings towards characters. I wanted to make sure students understood the historical implications of this language and ensure that this type of language is unacceptable in today’s world. I was very impressed with the students’ maturity and analysis of the internal struggles of Timothy and Phillip.
Students or teachers looking for an easy-to-read novel with tons of internal and external struggles between and of characters should consider reading this book. I would recommend viewing a map of the Caribbean and the island of Curacao throughout the book to understand where Phillip is traveling and living.
I would also recommend this book to students and teachers with an interest in World War II. The plot is fueled by the what-if situation concerning the threat of German submarines in the Caribbean and near the United States. As a WWII buff, I thought the tie in was great. This book is a great add to a historical fiction shelf.
Why Did I Read This Book?
During the last four months of the 2017-2018 school year, I was assigned an intervention class made up of middle and high school students who had scored at the 3rd to 4th grade reading level on a standardized test. I was provided with a scripted curriculum and held to a strict weekly calendar.
Wednesdays were designated as “homework days.” The majority of my students rarely brought homework to work on. Rather than having the day go to waste, students and I began reading The Cay together in class.
When I taught English 7 during the 2015-2016 school year, The Cay was an assigned text, and I remember how much students enjoyed Phillip’s experiences. On both occasions, we either listened to the audiobook or I read aloud. I would check for understanding and comprehension along the way, as well.
Overall, students and I enjoyed the suspense, adventure, and uncertainty that Phillip, Timothy, and Stew Cat encountered as we read the book together.