The Cay

The Cay

Writer: Theodore Taylor

Stage 3  |  137 pages

Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books London  |  ISBN 0-435-121790 (New: 978-0435121792)

(Taylor, 1973)

Buy the book.

What to expect: Novel, cross-culture, friendship, war, survival.

Philip and his parents moved to Willemstad, Curacao, because of his father`s job. The story happens around World War II. His mother feels unsafe on the island and wants to leave with a ship to Miami. That night the ship is torpedoed, and Philip finds himself on the raft next to a huge old man of colour and a cat. Because of society, Timothy called Philip “young boss”, and Philip has been influenced by his mother`s worldview regarding people of colour. Philip is 11 years old, and he is in the middle of nowhere with a stranger. Before they arrive on the Cay, Philip loses his sight. Timothy teaches him all the survival skills on the cay. They have been on the island for more than a year. Philip knows the island through touch and sound. They become excellent friends but together on a small island is difficult. Often, they fight because of Philip, the young white with his racial prejudice against the elderly black Timothy. Philip learns to overcome his disdain for Timothy, and it changes into a good friendship. Timothy dies in a storm and Philip is left with the cat. Later, Philip got rescued by a navy vessel and was reunited with the family. He receives his eyesight back. Ultimately, Philips becomes a sea explorer and hopes to discover the island where Timothy is buried. That he will find, when he goes ashore, close his eyes, knowing that this was their cay.

An excellent book for grade 6. Especially for South Africa with its differences between white people and people of colour. When white and black people do not know each other and do not spend time with each other, they will never understand their differences and similarities. In the story, Philips finds similarities between Timothy and himself. When Philip returns to Curacao, he spends time with the people who knew Timothy to remember him without any prejudice.

The book can be used as a reading book for learners or as reading out loud. It can be also used for the discussion after students read the book. Different comprehension tests can be designed for the students. Students in the Intermediate Phase need to read novels, this book can be included (South Africa & Department of Basic Education, 2011b, p. 15).

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