HRW Library: Individual Leveled Reader The Cay


Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.

When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. ...
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The Cay

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Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curaçao. War has always been a game to him, and he’s eager to glimpse it firsthand–until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.

When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother’s warning about black people: “They are different, and they live differently.”

But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip’s head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy.

When the freighter on which they are traveling is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II, an adolescent white boy, blinded by a blow on the head, and an old black man are stranded on a tiny Caribbean island where the boy acquires a new kind of vision, courage, and love from his old companion.

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Editorial Reviews

Saturday Review
A totally absorbing story...starkly dramamtic, believable and compelling.
Children's Literature - Beth Shotwell-Valeo
Taylor's first novel for young readers, The Cay, is the story of a boy's life-threatening adventure at sea in 1942 after his freighter, the Hato, is torpedoed by a German submarine. In his quest for survival, the boy must overcome his racial and cultural prejudices, as well as a serious physical disability in this Robinson Crusoe setting. More than twenty years passed before Taylor produced the prequel-sequel, Timothy of the Cay. The two stories make for compelling reading, and the events, characters and setting are still very much of relevance today. After reading the first, the second expands on the adventure. There is also a study guide for teachers and homeschoolers and a workbook edition. 1987 (orig.
From the Publisher
“A tense and moving experience in reading.” - Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780030546044
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/29/1998
  • Series: HRW Library Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 11 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

\Theodore Taylor has written several award-winning books. The Cay won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was also made into a movie.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Like silent hungry sharks that swim in the darkness of the sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

I was asleep on the second floor of our narrow, gabled green house in Willemstad, on the island of Curacao, the largest of the Dutch islands just off the coast of Venezuela. I remember that on that moonless night in February 1942, they attacked the big Lago oil refinery on Aruba, the sister island west of us. Then they blew up six of our small lake tankers, the tubby ones that still bring crude oil from Lake Maracaibo to the refinery, Curacaosche Petroleum Maatschappij, to be made into gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil. One German sub was even sighted off Willemstad at dawn.

So when I woke up there was much excitement in the city, which looks like a part of old Holland, except that all the houses are painted in soft colors, pinks and greens and blues, and there are no dikes.

It was very hard to finish my breakfast because I wanted to go to Punda, the business district, the oldest part of town, and then to Fort Amsterdam where I could look out to sea. If there was an enemy U-boat out there, I' -wanted to see it and join the people in shaking a fist at it.

I was not frightened, just terribly excited. War was something I'd heard a lot about, but bad never seen. The whole world was at war, and now it had come to us in the warm, blue Caribbean.

The first thing that my mother said was, "Phillip, the enemy has finally attacked the island, and there will be no school today. But you must stay near home. Do you understand?"

I nodded, but I couldn't imagine that a shell from an enemy submarine would pickme out from all the buildings, or bit me if I was standing on the famous pontoon bridge or among the ships way back in the Schottegat or along St. Anna Bay.

So later in the morning, when she was busy making sure that all our blackout curtains were in place, and filling extra pots with fresh water, and checking our food supply, I stole away down to the old fort with Henrik van Boven, my Dutch friend who was also eleven.

I had played there many times with Henrik and other boys when we were a few years younger, imagining we were defending Willemstad against pirates or even the British. They once stormed the island, I knew, long ago. Or sometimes we'd pretend we were the Dutch going out on raids against Spanish galleons. That had happened too. It was all so real that sometimes we could see the tall masted ships coming over thehorizon.

Of course, they were only the tattered-sailed native schooners from Venezuela, Aruba, or Bonaire coming in with bananas, oranges, papayas, melons, and vegetables. But to us, they were always pirates, and we'd shout to the noisy black men aboard them. They'd laugh back and go, "Pow, pow, pow!"

The fort looks as though it came out of a storybook, with gun ports along the high wall that faces the sea. For years, it guarded Willemstad. But this one morning, it did not look like a storybook fort at all. There were real soldiers with rifles and we saw machine guns. Men with binoculars bad them trained toward the whitecaps, and everyone was tense. They chased us away, telling us to go home.

Instead, we went down to the Koningin Emma Brug, the famous Queen Emma pontoon bridge, which spans the channel that leads to the huge harbor, the Schottegat. The bridge is built on floats so that it can swing open as ships pass in or out, and it connects Punda, with Otrabanda, which mean's "other side,," the other part of the city.

The view from there wasn't as good as from the fort, but curious people were there, too, just looking. Strangely, no ships were moving in the channel. The veerboots, the ferry boats that shuttled cars and people back and forth when the bridge was swung open, were tied up and empty. Even the native schooners were quiet against the, docks inside the channel. And the black men were not laughing and shouting the -way they usually did.

Henrik said, "My father told me there is nothing left of Aruba. They hit Sint Nicolaas, you know."

"Every lake tanker was sunk," I said.

I didn't know if that were true or not, but Henrik had an irritating way of sounding official since his father was connected with the government.

His face was round and he was chubby. His hair was straw-colored and his cheeks were always red. Henrik was very serious about everything he said or did. He looked toward Fort Amsterdam.

He said, "I bet they put big guns up there now."

That was a safe bet.

And I said, "It won't be long until the Navy is here."'

Henrik looked at me. "Our Navy?" He meant the Netherlands Navy.

"No," I said. "Ours." Meaning the American Navy, of course. His little Navy was scattered all over after the Germans took Holland.

Henrik said quietly, "Our Navy will come too," and I didn't want to argue with him. Everyone felt bad that Holland had been conquered by the Nazis.

Then an army officer climbed out of a truck and told us all to leave the Queen Emma bridge. He was very stem. He growled, "Don't you know they could shoot a torpedo up here and kill you all?"

I looked out toward the sea again. It was blue and peaceful, and a good breeze churned it up, making lines of whitecaps. White clouds drifted slowly over it. But I couldn't see the usual parade of ships coming toward the harbor; the stubby ones or the massive ones with flags of many nations that steamed slowly up the bay to the Schottegat to load gas and oil.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    Possibilities of Problems

    The book called The Cay is about a boy named Philip and his family that moved to the West Indies. He and his mother left his father at the island. His mother thought it would be okay to escape the islands and go back to Virginia. On their way back to Virginia, their submarine that left the island was attacked by British war ships. Philip and his mother jumped overboard and the next thing he knew was that he was sharing a raft with a black Jamaican man and a cat called Stew Cat. The man's name was Timothy. He was an old man that has lived a tough life out on his own. He never knew who his parents were. He has always faced challenges in life on his own and new survival skills. And the fact that Philip's mother disliked black people, didn't help either. Philip and Timothy faced a life on their own and tough challenges. I rate this book 4 stars because I liked the book but at times it got boring. It mostly takes place during the WWII times. It's interesting if you like history stories and adventure stories. Who knows? Maybe Timothy won't make it out alive or Philip. Want to find out? Read it.

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