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The Cay is a children's novel written by Theodore Taylor. The story is based on a real incident recounted to Taylor. The novel was published in 1969 and dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. Mainly, the book discusses the relationship between Phillip and Timothy, and Phillip’s efforts for survival on the forgotten cay.


Phillip Enright: A 11-year-old white boy living on the Dutchmarker island of Curaçaomarker with his family during World War II in 1942 After a shipwreck, he is separated from his mother and floats ashore a cay on a raft with an old black man, Timothy, who pulled Phillip onboard when he was hit in the head. This injury eventually leads toblindness for Phillip. The story is about how Timothy and Phillip live together on the island and develop an unbreakable bond as the two get to know each other. After being rescued from the cay and returning to Curaçaomarker, Phillip gets his sight restored by surgery. Afterwards, he spends a lot of time talking to the black people of the island, for he feels close to them. Some of them had even known old Timothy of Charlotte Amaliemarker.

Timothy: The black man is around 70 years old. Raised in the town of Charlotte Amaliemarker, he worked aboard the S.S. Hato, which was to ferry dogs from the Dutch island of Curaçaomarker to the Central American country of Panamamarker before it sank. Timothy saved Phillip by pulling him aboard the raft. He is smart but does not know how to spell. Timothy is eventually killed by a hurricane, which sweeps across the cay.

Mrs. Enright (Grace): The mother of Phillip Enright. She is prejudiced against the blacks she lives with on the Dutchmarker island of Curaçaomarker. She wanted to take the S.S. Hato instead of an airplane to get away from the invading Germansmarker because of her fear of flying. She is separated from Phillip when the S.S. Hato sank.

Mr. Enright (Phillip): The father of Phillip Enright. He moved from Virginiamarker to the Dutchmarker island of Curaçaomarker because of his job at the Royal Dutch Shell company. He did not travel on the Hato with his son and wife because of work and war issues.

Stew Cat: The cat that belonged to the cook on the Hato. Stew Cat jumped on the raft with Timothy, who didn't have the heart to throw him off. While Timothy and Phillip were on the cay, Timothy believed Stew Cat was a jumbi. Phillip is often comforted by the cat and tends to hold him when he is upset.

Henrik van Boven: A young friend of Phillip's on the island of Curaçaomarker. They both liked to play make-believe war games until the Germansmarker invaded in 1942. After Phillip returned from the cay, their friendship continued; however, it was not the same because Phillip had matured beyond his years when he was stranded and fighting for survival.

Hato: A ship that Mrs. Enright and Phillip were on when it was torpedoed by the Germans.

Awards and nominations

  • New York Times Best Book of the Year
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year b
  • Boston Globe—Horn Book Honor Book
  • ALA Notable Book
  • Publishers Weekly Children’s Book to Remember

Taylor spoke at the 1996 ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) Workshop in Chicago regarding one of his awards:
"In 1970, long before political correctness found itself to the American scene, I received the Jane Addams Peace and Freedom Foundation award for The Cay.
Soon after, it was accused of being a racist book.
In 1975, finally submitting to great pressure from the Inter-Racial Council on Children's Books and forcing The Cay's removal from many bookshelves for four years, the Jane Addams chair lady requested that I return the award after it had hung on my office wall for five years.
I did so within the hour, not dusting it off.
I sent it collect."

Other media

  • In 1993, Taylor published Timothy of the Cay, a book which tells both of Phillip's life after and of Timothy's life before the ordeal.


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