My seven-year-old pulled the audiobook version of The Cay by Theodore Taylor off the library shelf and wanted to listen to it. The picture on the cover made me hesitate – it’s of a black man and boy clinging to a palm tree in the midst of a storm. I wondered if it would be too intense for him. He insisted he would be OK. So we checked it out and listened to it.
All of us enjoyed it so much that when my children begged me to drive around the block so we could listen to some more, I gladly complied.
Phillip is an American boy who lives on an island in the Caribbean during World War II. The island comes under attack from German submarines, so Phillip’s mother insists that she and Phillip return to America.
As you can probably predict, German submarines torpedo the boat, and Phillip is separated from his mother. He’s knocked unconscious, and wakes to find himself on a raft with Stew Cat and Timothy, an old West Indian. Phillip isn’t sure he likes Timothy, but quickly becomes dependent upon him because his head injury blinds him.
Most of the book relates their time on a deserted island, trying to survive. Timothy teaches Phillip to become independent, despite his blindness, and the two become quite close.
The publisher recommends this book for ages 10-17, and I tend to agree with them – especially if your children are emotionally sensitive. Timothy does die. The author prepares you for it, so while it’s extremely sad, it’s not shocking. His death initiated some great discussions between my children and I, as well as a few tears. But the book has a very happy ending, and it’s heartening to see how Phillip matures during his time on the island.
Michael Boatman reads the audiobook – his calypso accent is superb. And at the end is an interview with the author, in which he explains where he got his inspiration for the story.