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The Cay

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The Cay by Theodore Taylor

First published 1969

Plot Description: Set during World War II, this is a story about survival and acceptance.  As the war wages on, Phillip and his mother leave the German invaded Netherlands enroute for the United States.  Along the way their freighter is torpedoed.  Phillip is rescued by a West Indian man named Timothy.  Phillip holds prejudices against Timothy due to the color of his skin, something he was taught growing up, but he learns to rely on the old sailor now that he has become blind and cannot fend for himself. The theme of color and discrimination is beautifully illustrated in this work.  We get to see through Phillip’s blindness that race and color are really only skin deep and it is what’s on the inside of a person that matters.

Quantitative Reading Level: 5.3

Qualitative Reading Analysis: Moderately to Very Complex. We are faced with a wide variety of vocabulary and cultural knowledge of the time period that makes this piece a bit more complex than simply Moderate.  However, the temporal flow of the book is pretty straightforward and is relatively easy to follow.

Content Area: History/Social Science, English-Language Arts/General

CC Content Area Standard: W 1, W 10, RL 1, L 4, SL 3, RLHSS 6-8.7

Curriculum Lesson Plans: http://www.bookunitsteacher.com/reading_cay/cay.htm

Other Fun Resources:

  • Characters – Phillip Enright, Timothy
  • Awards
    • An ALA Notable Children’s Book
    • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
    • Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
    • Commonwealth Club of California: Literature Award
    • Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People Award
    • A Child Study Children’s Book Committee: Children’s Book of the Year
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