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by Theodore Taylor
The Book Club Novel Guide outlines a complete theme-based unit with Book Club lesson plans focusing on The Cay.
Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of The Cay.
During World War II, Phillip Enright and his parents, Americans from Virginia, relocate to Curaçao, where Phillip’s father helps in the war effort. When German submarines attack ships in nearby waters, Phillip’s mother decides to take him back to Virginia until the war is over.
Two days into the voyage, their ship is struck by a torpedo. Phillip is injured and falls into the sea. When he awakens, he is on a raft with an old West Indian ship worker named Timothy and a cat. Phillip, whose mother taught him that black people are “different,” feels uncomfortable around Timothy, although Timothy is friendly and caring toward him. When Phillip’s head injury causes him to lose his vision, he must rely on Timothy.
The two soon land on a deserted island. There Timothy sets up a camp, locates food, and keeps a fire going in the hope of rescue. He also trains Phillip in basic survival skills. At first Phillip resists, but gradually he becomes more independent and grows to trust and admire Timothy.
Several months have passed when their survival skills are tested by a hurricane. When it is all over, Timothy dies. As Phillip buries his companion, he feels both sad and grateful for all Timothy has taught him. He is able to survive on his own for about two months, when he is finally rescued.
Phillip is reunited with his parents. He undergoes surgery to have his sight mostly restored. As life returns to normal, he finds himself drawn to the company of the black people on Curaçao. In the final pages, an older Phillip speaks of revisiting the lonely island where his friend Timothy is buried.
Further Reading and Links
The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for The Cay by Theodore Taylor.
About the Author and Book Reviews
Learn about the Setting of the Novel
Find Out about the Culture of Curaçao
Explore the Events of the Novel
Big Theme Questions
How does a person learn to become self-reliant in a new and challenging environment?
What are the most important components of friendship?
What are some positive and negative aspects of depending on someone else to survive?
How does a person overcome prejudice? How can personal experience help people to overcome their prejudices?
Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts
The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the Lesson Plan within the Book Club Novel Guide for The Cay. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.
Chapter 1 | Literary Elements: Point of View and Setting
Chapter 2 | Comprehension: Foreshadowing and Predicting
Chapter 3 | Language Conventions: Dialect
Chapters 4–5 | Comprehension: Analyzing and Evaluating
Chapters 6–7 | Language Conventions: Setting Goals
Chapters 8–9 | Literary Elements: Characterization
Chapters 10–11 | Comprehension: Building Vocabulary
Chapters 12–13 | Response to Literature: Personal Letter
Chapters 14–15 | Comprehension: Content Connections
Chapters 16–17 | Comprehension: Making Intertextual Connections
Chapter 18 | Literary Elements: Descriptive Language
Chapter 19 | Literary Elements: Theme and Mood